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Friday, June 22, 2018

Historic Vermont Silhouette Travels to Washington, D.C.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 12:07 PM

Silhouettes of Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant, circa 1805–15 - COURTESY OF THE HENRY SHELDON MUSEUM OF VERMONT HISTORY
  • Courtesy of the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History
  • Silhouettes of Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant, circa 1805–15

Vermont’s pioneering fight to legalize civil unions in 2000 cemented the state’s place amidst the landscape of American queer and civil rights history. Within just the past several years, the Green Mountain State has emerged as home to another gay cultural landmark: a handmade silhouette considered to be the earliest image of a same-sex couple.

The small, intimate portrait of Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake, which dates to the early 1800s, is now on view in “Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now” at the Smithsonian Institute's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Out in the Mountains Now Out Online

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 12:36 PM

Covers of Out in the Mountains - UVM CENTER FOR DIGITAL INITIATIVES
  • UVM Center for Digital Initiatives
  • Covers of Out in the Mountains
In February 1986, the first issue of Out in the Mountains: Vermont's Newspaper for Lesbians and Gay Men hit mailboxes, corner stores, coffee shops and other rural newsstands. The free monthly newspaper would continue to serve Vermont communities for more than 20 years, folding in 2007 due to financial difficulties. Now, thanks to the University of Vermont's Center for Digital Initiatives, the entire Out in the Mountains archive can be accessed online.

"Not too many papers like [this] have been digitized," said Prudence Doherty, public service librarian for UVM's special collections. "Certainly it has Vermont significance," she said, "but it [also] has much wider significance and will be used by people who are tracking the history of LGBTQ movements."

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

U.S. Promotes LGBT Rights With Fun Home

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 4:56 PM

Alison Bechdel at Fun Home - EVA SOLLBERGER
  • Eva Sollberger
  • Alison Bechdel at Fun Home
Vermont cartoonist Alison Bechdel has had an exhilarating decade. Her 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was a bestseller. In 2014 she became a MacArthur fellow, and Fun Home was made into a musical that won five Tony Awards last year. Oh, and Bechdel got married last year, too.

Today, a Reuters story (as reported on heaps more accolades on Fun Home from an unexpected source:  U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. According to the story, Power  took 15 fellow ambassadors from countries around the world to see the Broadway show as part of an effort to promote LGBT rights. She told Reuters that the lesbian coming-of-age story "brings home the challenges that LGBTI  are facing every day around the world."

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bernie Sanders
So, Is a Thing

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 12:57 PM banner - COURTESY OF BERNIESINGLES.COM
  • Courtesy of
  • banner
Gloria Steinem recently opined that young women favor Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in Democratic presidential primaries not because they identify more with his progressive politics or find his grouchy fire inspiring, but because, well, they're looking for dudes.

"When you're young, you're thinking, Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie," she said on the HBO show "Real Time with Bill Maher."

The feminist icon's remarks were widely criticized as being patronizing to young liberal women. But is it possible she was onto something?

Nope, not at all. Steinem's comments were ill-advised and insulting — not to mention heteronormative — by any measure. But a new dating website,, does suggest that maybe Bernie-boosters are indeed looking for love in addition to social justice, income equality and political revolution.    

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Talking Lesbian Feminist Haunted Houses at VCFA

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 7:47 AM

Entrance to "Killjoy's Kastle," Toronto - COURTESY OF ALLYSON MITCHELL
  • Courtesy of Allyson Mitchell
  • Entrance to "Killjoy's Kastle," Toronto
On Saturday night, the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier kicked off its annual winter residency program with the talk "Killjoy's Konundrum: The Problematics of Queer Feminist Cultural Production," presented by artist Allyson Mitchell. Mitchell, who is on campus this week to meet with students and faculty, used the opportunity to introduce herself and her work, including her most recent project, the "lesbian feminist haunted house" Killjoy's Kastle. 

Vermont artist Mark Lorah introduced Mitchell, somewhat quizzical about her self-identification as a "maximalist" artist. Mitchell assured him that she doesn't occupy an anti-minimalist position in the art historical sense, but that she aims for her practice to be "extraordinarily inclusive." She went on to explain in her PowerPoint pre-show, slides filled with cat pictures. "Like all wannabe witches," she said, "I try to bring my familiars into spaces that feel new." 

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Hello, Ello: Seven Things to Know About the Burlington-based 'Anti-Facebook'

Posted By on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 12:24 PM

  • Screenshot courtesy
If you frequent Twitter or Facebook, chances are the catchy name of a new website — Ello — flitted across your screen recently. The social media website toggled from stealth mode to widespread sensation over the course of just a few days this week: For a time yesterday, the currently invite-only website shut down the ability for existing users to send out invitation codes. The explanation: "Ello has gone viral." 

But Ello has been brewing for months — in Vermont, of all places. The company is based in Burlington and funded by Vermont venture capital. 

If you're still scratching your head about what the hell-o is Ello, don't worry; we've got you covered. 

1. This is social media with a manifesto.

The site's motto is "Beautiful, Simple and Ad-Free" — and Ello, at first glance, delivers on the promise. The site is clean and spare, with plenty of white space — think a sort of Facebook/Tumblr hybrid, redesigned by (and populated with, if the user profile photos are any hint) hipsters. You can post messages, add photos, reply "@" ("at") your fellow-Ello-ers and invite friends to join — fueling the site's exponential growth. 

Ello promises to do more than look good. The site's manifesto declares, "Your social network" — read: Facebook — "is owned by advertisers ... You are the product that's bought and sold." Ello sets itself up as the alternative: 

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.
Given the site's explosion in popularity and hype in recent days, the message is striking a deep chord. 

2. Yes, you heard right: Ello is based in Vermont.

Cofounder Paul Budnitz, who teamed up with Colorado-based design firm Berger & Föhr and hacker collective Mode Set, lives in Shelburne, and splits his time between New York and the Green Mountain State. Budnitz is one of seven cofounders, who collectively own a majority share in the company. According to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Ello shares the same address — 47 Maple Street, the home of the Karma Bird House and a number of start-up companies — as Budnitz's high-end bicycle company, Budnitz Bicycles. 

3. Cofounder Budnitz is a serial entrepreneur — and a successful one at that.

As Sarah Tuff wrote last year for Seven Days, Budnitz is no stranger to good design. Before Budnitz Bicycles (the self-proclaimed maker of the "lightest, fastest, and most elegant city bikes in the world"), he started KidRobot, a creator of art toys, fashion apparel and accessories. Several of KidRobot's creations are in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

4. Vermont venture capital funding played a big part in launching the site. And that's provoking some consternation in the peanut gallery.

Shelburne-based FreshTracks Capital invested $435,000 in seed funding in Ello in January. When that news broke yesterday in a post on the new website itself, critics immediately alleged Ello had made a pact with the devil. How could the site, they wondered, maintain its ad-free promises with a venture capital firm looking for a return on its investment?

According to a story at, a site devoted to news about emerging technologies, FreshTracks partner Cairn Cross met Budnitz about a year ago in Vermont. "Budnitz pitched FreshTracks on his ad-free social network concept, monetized with a freemium plan where users would pay for added features, and Cross was intrigued," according to the tech site.

According to Gigaom, Cross wasn't concerned about allegations that big VC would push Ello to the dark side.

“We practice venture capital in a way that very few people practice it. We’re really small-town venture. We’re patient, we have long exit horizons, we’ve had some successes, we’ve been around for awhile,” Cross told the website.

FreshTracks partners declined to speak with Seven Days for this story, instead directing us to Budnitz himself, who was unavailable for an interview today. 

5. The site's timing is great.

Part of the buzz surrounding Ello has to do with the most recent backlash against Facebook, this one having to do with the so-called "real name" policy. Facebook insists that users set up profiles under their legal names — the one that appears on a passport or credit card. The site is cracking down on users who don't comply. It's riled members who use pseudonyms on the site for a variety of reasons; think drag performers, queer or trans individuals, musicians, roller derby competitors or professionals who want to keep their professional and private lives separate. 

Ello doesn't have the same requirement. 

6. In particular, the site is said to appeal to gay and lesbian users "fleeing" Facebook.

"Is Ello the Anti-Facebook ... We've All Been Waiting For?" asked the site in one headline. Over on the Daily Dot, a similar headline reads: "The Great Gay Facebook Exodus Begins." When Daily Dot writer Taylor Hatmaker asked Budnitz about the so-called exodus, Budnitz confirmed that Ello has seen an uptick in interest from LGBTQ users.

"Yes, we’ve been hearing about the Facebook drama too over the last few days," Budnitz said. "Ello welcomes the LGBTQ community and we’re very excited to see so many people moving over! "

After a group of Radical Faeries signed up a couple of days ago, Budnitz has been watching an uptick in queer users joining Ello—"which makes us very happy," he notes. "There does seem to be a bit of an avalanche since then."

7. That said, not everyone is convinced that Ello is a be-all, end-all solution to the perennial hand-wringing over Facebook. 

There are plenty of doubts already brewing about Ello — including the aforementioned uneasiness around the site's funding. The site's in beta mode, which means while Ello is promising more features as the site expands, there's still limited functionality right now. As Tech Crunch reported yesterday, the site lacks privacy controls, or the ability to block abusive users. 

And users and pundits alike say it's too soon to know if Ello can last. Ello isn't the first upstart to take on Facebook: "We’ve seen Facebook alternatives, like Diaspora, come and go. Or ones like Google+ come then fall flat," wrote Tech Crunch. "Ello might be onto something more organic. Diaspora was certainly too geeky and probably way too early. Perhaps it’s Ello’s time?"

Only time will tell. 

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