Closing Time | Arts News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Closing Time 

State of the Arts

618-sota-door.jpg

For a long time in Vermont, saying someone was “going to Waterbury” either meant that person was literally being confined in the state mental hospital or it was a euphemistic way to call him or her nutso. But in the post-Irene era, the forced closure of the flooded institution, and its pending demolition, have inspired a bit of nostalgia in some locals — or, perhaps, a sense of history and the impulse to commemorate it.

Waterbury resident and Representative Tom Stevens (D-Washington-Chittenden 1), a crew of artists and a handful of mental-health-related nonprofits have collaborated on an art installation and closing ceremony at the former hospital. It will be held this weekend in the Vermont State Office Complex’s 4 South building, which was once a library and, before that, a ward, Stevens says. The doomed hospital building itself is off limits because of FEMA constraints. “The state is trying to make the argument that it is not safe,” Stevens says.

Inspired by an installation by artist Anna Schuleit at a mental hospital in Massachusetts, Stevens — a self-described “theater person” — took it on himself to direct what he likens to a play. “I’m trying to keep my artist hat on,” he says. “I’m not doing this as a state rep. I just thought it needed to be done.”

He’s hoping people will come, talk and share their thoughts, good and bad, about the former hospital. A speakerphone will be available for anonymous comments. “People will bring different concepts to the memory of the place,” Stevens says. “We did a lot of things here; not all are good, not all are bad.”

Attendees will be able to walk through creative displays of “historical material, a sound installation by [Burlington artist] Jenn Karson and preflood photographs of the hospital by Neil Dixon.” Some of those photos are inside the Brooks, or “B” Building, whose first floor “had the most difficult patients,” Stevens explains. Dixon’s photo “Door 101” (pictured) shows the entrance to that ward, its cold steel, locks and alarms conveying the harsh reality of maximum security. Dixon is the proprietor of Yankee Imaging in Montpelier, a business that creates architectural and archival images.

Stevens credits the state’s buildings and general services department and state curator David Schütz with supporting this project. The Vermont Association for Mental Health & Addiction Recovery is its fiscal agent. Stevens notes he expects “further input” from a group called Vermont Psychiatric Survivors. “Patients are not all on the same page” about the state mental hospital and the treatment they received there, he says. “Some of them want a truth commission.”

However the next chapter of mental health care in Vermont unfolds, some of its stark history will be aired this weekend, perhaps giving some participants a funereal sense of closure. And, chances are, the phrase “going to Waterbury” will take on new meaning for a town united by devastation and energized by rebirth.

‘Going to Waterbury:’ Art installation open Saturday, October 27, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with an ongoing public forum from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 4 South, Vermont State Office Complex. A moment of silence will be observed on Sunday, October 28, at 2 p.m. Closing ceremony with ME2/orchestra on Sunday, October 28, at 7 p.m. at St. Andrew Church, Waterbury. Info, 244-4164.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

About The Author

Pamela Polston

Pamela Polston

Bio:
Pamela Polston is the cofounder, coeditor and associate publisher of Seven Days. In 2015, she was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation