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A New Gallery Ups the Arts Ante in St. Albans 

State of the Arts

Some college students spend their leisure hours stumbling through bars. Not Stina Plant: While attending Syracuse University in the late 1990s, she and her friends hit art shows and gallery openings.

"It was a heady experience, and it never got old," says Plant, 29, now living in East Fairfield, Vermont. "When I landed back in St. Albans, I wished I could bring back some of that experience."

And so she has. Last weekend, during a day-long open house that attracted dozens of artists and well-wishers, Plant opened the first downtown art gallery St. Albans has seen in years. Its name: STAART.

This northern Vermont town has seen an artistic surge in the past two years, with the formation of local consortiums such as the St. Albans Artists Guild and the Bishop Street Artists, and shows at the historical museum. Yet the city has lacked a permanent arts spot. Plant spent many a late night - after her day job as a photographer for the St. Albans Messenger - scheming and hoping for a space that would enable her to organize the local arts community.

Suddenly, The Flying Disc record store moved to Enosburg Falls, vacating its previous premises at 42 South Main Street. Plant sprang into action, capitalizing on the opportunity with a two-pronged business plan for an art gallery - with free wi-fi access - and her own photography studio.

"I want STAART to be just that - a start for some artists," Plant says. "I want it to have work of such variety that there are new artists next to established ones. It's hard to be an artist if you're trying to make money," she continues. "I think that if you work hard and are willing to make that effort, then you should have a chance to make it." Plant notes that it's also difficult for emerging artists to find acceptance at more established galleries.

For now, STAART's focus is two-dimensional art, but its proprietor is quickly configuring the space for other mediums. Plant says she'll hold weekly receptions on Friday nights, offer classes - first up: figure drawing - and organize musical performances. In the gallery's parallel life online, www.staartgallery.com will soon host a blog, a calendar of events and a store for artwork.

Plant is eager but modest about her accomplishments so far. "I wouldn't say the dream has come true yet," she demurs. "There's a long way to go. But I'm so thrilled and excited. It feels like an out-of-body experience."

The STAART Gallery is open 4-7 p.m. on Wednesdays & Thursdays, 4-9 p.m. on Fridays, and 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. on weekends.

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