Saturday, July 9, 2016

St. Albans National Guardsman Chosen as 2016 Soldier of the Year, Plans WWI Exhibit

Posted By on Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 9:00 AM

  • FIle illustration by Andy Warner
It's not every day that Seven Days has reason to update a story from its annual Cartoon Issue. Then again,  Capt. Zachariah "Zac" Fike's story, which was featured in the 2014 Cartoon Issue, is not like many others.

Fike, 35, is a full-time, active-duty member of the Vermont National Guard and the founder of Purple Hearts Reunited. The St. Albans-based nonprofit is committed to returning those military medals, which are awarded to combat veterans wounded or killed in action, to their rightful owners or the owners' next of kin.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Revolutionary War Veteran to Receive Replacement Gravestone

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 1:00 PM

Johnson Cemetery - KEN PICARD
  • Ken Picard
  • Johnson Cemetery
A veteran of the American Revolutionary War buried in Waterbury will get a new headstone courtesy of the Veterans Administration. That's thanks in part to Seven Days readers who inquired about the long-abandoned cemetery for a recent "WTF" column.

The May 25 article, "What's the Story With the Hidden Cemetery in Waterbury?" explained the origins of the Johnson Cemetery visible from I-89, as well as the desecration of the grave of Zachariah Bassett, a Revolutionary War soldier, sailor and prisoner of war.

In May 2011, Mark Backus, an amateur genealogist living in Bristol, went to visit the grave of Bassett, his fifth grand-uncle, only to discover that his 19th-century marble headstone had been snapped off at its base and stolen. Backus reported the theft to the Vermont State Police but the headstone was never recovered.

Shortly after the publication of that story,  a member of the Vermont Society of the Sons of the American Revolution contacted Seven Days to get in touch with Backus. The "male lineage society" and historic/patriotic nonprofit is dedicated to keeping alive the spirit and memory of those who fought in the American war for independence — including the 174 veterans of that war who are known to be buried in Vermont. 

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Historian Thomas Crow Talks Pop Art and Counterculture

Posted By on Sat, Mar 26, 2016 at 4:24 PM

"LOVE," screenprint by Robert Indiana (multiplied by 6) - COURTESY OF FLEMING MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of Fleming Museum
  • "LOVE," screenprint by Robert Indiana (multiplied by 6)
In conjunction with current show "Pop Art Prints," renowned art historian, author and New York University professor Thomas Crow spoke at the Fleming Museum of Art on Wednesday, March 23. His talk was titled "Painting, Print, Poster, Album Cover: Pop Reproductions and the Counter-Culture" and focused on two images that have become ubiquitous since their creation in the 1960s. An incarnation of one of these is included in the exhibition: Robert Indiana's "Love" print. 

The second image was "Viva Che," a poster that Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick completed in 1968, following the Argentine revolutionary's death in October 1967. Crow asserted that the image has "never been out of view since." Fitzpatrick adapted his iconic emblem, which Crow asserted as "indebted to Warhol," from the "Guerrillero Heroico" photo taken of Che by Alberto Korda in 1960.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

A Nazi Film With an Unusual Perspective on the Holocaust

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 8:11 AM

Archival footage from What Our Fathers Did - WILDGAZE FILMS
  • Wildgaze Films
  • Archival footage from What Our Fathers Did
A college film professor of mine once remarked that if Nazis had never existed, Hollywood would have had to invent them. He was an eccentric guy and his lectures were pretty obtuse, but I understood his point: Nazis are so evil that they have filled the all-important Bad Guy role in countless films.

And it’s not just Hollywood that loves to hate Nazis. Films of the Holocaust subgenre have an excellent track record with critics and prize givers. Just this past year, the Hungarian film Son of Saul, an intense drama set in a concentration camp, won the Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and other awards.

This particular cinematic well is a deep one, as evidenced by the upcoming Middlebury screening of What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy. The new documentary will play for a single screening at the Town Hall Theater on Sunday, April 3, 7 p.m., as part of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival Winter Screening series.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

A 45-Foot 'Street Comic' Tells a Palestinian Story

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 2:12 PM

Michelle Sayles - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Michelle Sayles
Michelle Sayles and Jen Berger expected some backlash about their “street comic.” The 45-foot-long, black-and-white banner titled “Najawa: A Story of Palestine,” commissioned by Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel, tells the story of a fictional Palestinian refugee. It was first exhibited at the South End Art Hop last September and now hangs in Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library.

“I was nervous,” Sayles said. “But when we put it out at Art Hop, people were saying, ‘Wow, this is really powerful.’” Berger, who contributed to the research and installation of the piece, says, “Historically, pieces like this aren’t well received. But I haven’t felt any backlash at all.”

Their concerns weren’t unwarranted. Berger was referring not just to political art in general but to the work Bread and Puppet Theater founder Peter Schumann displayed at the Art Hop in 2007. “Independence Paintings: Inspired by Four Stories” compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis' treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. The exhibit was met with protestors at a VTJP event that weekend. *

As it happens, a donation from Bread and Puppet made “Najawa” possible. The funding enabled VTJP to cover the cost of Sayles’ paints, brushes and canvases. But, as VTJP member Marc Estrin makes clear, neither organization had creative control over the content of the comic. “VTJP said, we trust you as an artist, and whatever you come up with we’ll be happy to fund,” says Estrin.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Flight Records: Finding a Tuskegee Airman From Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Yearbook photo of Robert Cole, Northfield High School class of 1938 - COURTESY OF NORTHFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY
  • Courtesy of Northfield Historical Society
  • Yearbook photo of Robert Cole, Northfield High School class of 1938
This Friday, January 29, Black Angels Over Tuskegee comes to the Flynn MainStage in Burlington. The critically acclaimed off-Broadway play by Layon Gray is about the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black aviator corps that played a critical role in the U.S. air campaign during World War II.

When the curtain rises, many audience members will undoubtedly know something about the corps, and some may have seen the 1995 movie, The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Laurence Fishburne. Yet few audience members will be likely to know that the Tuskegee's ranks included an aviator from the Green Mountains.

Robert Cole, who was born and raised in Northfield, was the only Vermonter ever to serve in the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in history. At least one living Vermonter, Bill Lyon of Northfield, personally remembers Cole from his days in Northfield both before and after the war.

Robert Arthur Cole was born in Northfield on March 8,1920, to Alonzo and Martha Cole. According to the Northfield Historical Society, U.S. Census data from 1930 shows that Cole had two sisters and two brothers.

Cole attend Northfield High School where, according to his yearbook, he belonged to the drama club, played basketball, sang in the chorus and played guitar in a dance band called the Blue Jackets. According to Lyon, now 68, Cole's father was himself a musician who played in and around Northfield. Lyon remembers that Alonzo Cole died tragically while his children were still young, after he fell off a trestle bridge in Northfield and drowned.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

History of America in 101 Objects Author Speaks at Norwich University

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 3:03 PM

Abraham Lincoln's top hat, one of the Smithsonian's 101 historically important American objects - SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Abraham Lincoln's top hat, one of the Smithsonian's 101 historically important American objects
In his book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, cultural anthropologist Richard Kurin takes what could be a gimmicky concept and turns it into a compelling work of public history. This week at Norwich University in Northfield, he'll give a talk that touches on many of those iconic, historic objects.

Kurin, whose free lecture is at 1 p.m. on Friday, October 2, holds the most excellent title of Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, and therefore had unprecedented access to the items about which he wrote his book. It’s difficult to say if selecting 101 items from a collection of more than 138 million was an enviable task or a back-breaking one. Probably a little of both.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Lost Shul Mural Unveiled in Burlington

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 4:27 PM

  • Ethan de Seife
The mural that was recently unveiled to the public at Burlington’s Ohavi Zedek Synagogue has been celebrated, forgotten, rediscovered, restored and transported, but, despite its 100-plus years, has not lost its ability to impress.

Hanging in the synagogue’s foyer from a specially constructed steel frame, the mural commands attention even though it hangs at second-story level. Its blues and yellows are rich not just in hue but in symbolism, and its three-paneled, triangular form is so unusual as to inspire curiosity. It’s a one-of-a-kind work of art, and those who have been working for years on restoring it are keen to give the mural its due.

In a ceremony at the synagogue on Sunday, dignitaries, religious figures and project supervisors gave the public its first look at the mural’s new, permanent home. Among those who spoke at the ceremony were former Vermont governor Madeleine May Kunin, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who had mentioned the so-called Lost Shul Mural in the Congressional Record of July 7.

Using that article to refer to the Lost Shul Mural as ”one of our state’s most significant treasures,” Leahy also praised the hard work of its restoration committee: “This important piece of Burlington’s Jewish history will finally be on proper display for all to enjoy.”

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Burlington's Fletcher Free Library Scores Smithsonian Exhibit

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2015 at 3:33 PM

Handaxes from (L to R) Africa (1.6 million years old), Asia (1.1 million years old) and Europe (250,000 years old) - CHIP CLARK, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
  • Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution
  • Handaxes from (L to R) Africa (1.6 million years old), Asia (1.1 million years old) and Europe (250,000 years old)
They might not have called ahead about it, but you should know that your relatives are coming to town. So are mine, and your neighbor’s, and those of your bank teller and barista. You can meet them all in downtown Burlington.

The Fletcher Free Library has just been selected as one of just 19 sites to host “Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human?,” a traveling exhibit based on a permanent feature at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit — which features hands-on displays, videos and interactive kiosks — is cosponsored by the American Library Association, and will be at the Fletcher from February 18 through March 17, 2017. Talk about planning ahead.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fenian Historical Society Launches in Burlington

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 7:37 AM

A propaganda poster for the Fenian Brotherhood - COURTESY FENIAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
  • Courtesy Fenian Historical Society
  • A propaganda poster for the Fenian Brotherhood
From Burlington's Church Street, an alley extends a few hundred feet east, then turns north to meet College Street. Though Google Maps calls these tiny perpendicular streets "Mechanics Lane" and "Markhams Lane," respectively, Liam McKone has two reasons for referring to the unassuming thoroughfare as "Skinner's Alley."

For one, that's what it was called when it was the site of the cooper shop of John Lonergan. Lonergan, who would become a captain of the 13th Vermont Infantry in the Civil War, used his business as the headquarters for the Vermont chapter of the Fenian Brotherhood, a militia dedicated to the cause of Irish independence.

The second reason for the "Skinner's Alley" moniker is that it seems to have been named for the Dublin alley that was the site of that city's skinning and tanning trades.

For McKone, a historian who sits on the board of the Burlington Irish Heritage Festival, all roads — literal and figurative — lead back to Ireland. Which is why he's chosen Rí Rá, the Irish pub on Church Street that faces "Skinner's Alley," as the site of the inaugural meeting of the local chapter of the Fenian Historical Society. It'll take place in the pub's back-room "library" on Sunday, January 18, and is open to anyone with an interest in Irish and Irish American history. Irish heritage is not required.

The Fenian (pronounced FEE-nee-an) Brotherhood was originally founded in Ireland itself, where it was promptly outlawed; in Vermont and other states, the militant organization was widespread. Its current incarnation aims not to free Ireland from the yoke of British rule but to commemorate the history of Irish nationalism.

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