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New York Minutes 

State of the Arts

Temperatures were Vermontish in New York City last weekend, but that didn't stop intrepid Saturday night gallery-goers. Most of them seemed to be squeezed into Taxter & Spengemann, the new Chelsea gallery of former Firehouse Gallery curator Pascal Spengemann. The space is so tiny -- think small apartment -- that there was hardly room for art aficionados and the art installation, a motorized trash pile by Charlotte Becket that was, in Spengemann's words, "subtly respirating."

Fortunately, Spengemann is still breathing life into Burlington's art scene, too. He's guest-curating two shows at the Firehouse this year, including the just-opened solo exhibition by New York-based and Vermont-bred Max Schumann. His politically charged re-use of National Geographic covers and old CDs recalls the homemade agitprop of his father, Bread and Puppet maestro Peter Schumann.

Other recent Vermont/NYC connections spotted over the weekend: Willie Mullins, whose credits include the role of Emcee in the Essex Players' Cabaret, showed up in the cast of House of No More, a painfully hip multi-media extravaganza by Caden Manson/Big Art Group at P.S. 122. Kathryn Blume (Lysistrata Project, Vermont Stage Company) was scheduled to talk up her experience as activist/artist for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference at the Hilton; discussion moderator was Marty Pottenger, whose Abundance played the FlynnSpace before its NYC debut on Jan. 8.

The Sunday New York Times gave big coverage to one local and one formerly local phenom: the Farmers Diner in Barre (also the subject of a major story in Harper's last month by Ripton author Bill McKibben), and photographer-to-the-literary-stars Marion Ettlinger, once a Burlington-based contributor to the Vanguard Press. And finally, Central Park insured that its Winter Festival would be fully winterized by importing snow-makers from Killington and Mount Snow. David Dillon, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, made a TV appearance Saturday morning to help spread the news -- and the white stuff.

*****

MORE SNOW BUSINESS You may have heard about John Basile's Vintage Alpine skiwear collection. Following a write-up in The New York Times last November, the fledgling company sold thousands of dollars' worth of clothes at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show and attracted press attention from as far as London. But none of it would have happened if Basile's father didn't sing in the Mad River Chorale.

It all began last summer in the attic of an old ski lodge in Waitsfield. Basile, a 2000 University of Vermont grad who lives in Portland, Maine, was visiting his parents when a local contractor informed the chorale that they could keep the contents of the lodge in exchange for clearing the place out; the contractor had purchased it and was about to renovate.

Basile tagged along and discovered a treasure trove. The building's former owner had run a Mad River ski shop, and the attic contained approximately 1500 pieces of designer-label "dead stock": paisley turtlenecks and suede boots, striped stretch pants and knit hats, ski sweaters and daisy-patterned parkas, all from the early '70s and never worn. After some negotiations, the chorale agreed to let Basile sell the clothes and give them a percentage of the profit.

Who buys '70s skiwear? Designers from retro-obsessed companies such as Ralph Lauren, The Gap and J. Crew, says Basile. And "old-schoolers who actually remember this stuff from back in the day," as well as "hipsters who just see this as some really wacky, funny-looking shit which they gotta have."

If you gotta have it, too (prices range from $15 for a T-neck to $400 for a pair of Jean-Claude Killy lamb-fur boots), check out the website, www.vintagealpine.com.

*****

VAT'S UP WITH VATTA? It seemed for a while that the Vermont Association of Theatres and Theatre Artists' 16th annual auditions might be without a stage. Due to scheduling conflicts, the McCarthy Arts Center at St. Mike's was not able to accommodate the auditions this year. UVM drama department head Jeff Modereger came to the rescue; the auditions will be held the first weekend of March at UVM's Royall Tyler Theatre. Auditions are open by appointment to Equity and non-Equity actors, and will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 6, followed by a "town meeting" to discuss the state of Vermont theater. Interviews for technical and management positions can be arranged for various times during the day. For info, call VATTA coordinator Veronica Lopez at 862-2287.

*****

I'LL BE SEEING YUL The Lyric Theatre Company held an informational meeting last week at the Tuttle Middle School for its spring 2004 production of The King and I. Among the many questions asked by eager would-be actors -- and would-be actors' parents -- this was my favorite: "Do bald people have an advantage?" Oh, if only.

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