Friday, April 17, 2009

ESSAY: Northfield's Only Art Venue Closes

By Robin LaHue

April 24th will be a sad day for Northfield art and chocolate lovers. That’s the day the the Vermont Chocolatiers shop closes its doors. The owners, Jane and Wally Delia, are selling the chocolate making portion of the business, and the new owners are not going to have a retail space at the present location. Since October of 2006, the shop has been the Northfield area’s only showcase for local artists. In the two and a half years since it has opened, we have had a diverse group of artists on exhibit. Experienced local icons Kathy Ravenhorst Adams, Phyllis Higgins and Gene Parent have shown there; as well as new artists debuting for the first time, like mother and son, Caroline and David Demasi. I have had the pleasure of curating the space since the beginning, and it has been a joy to me to try to bring a variety of work to the area, from traditional to more unusual contemporary artists like Jack Sabon and Linda Maney. An abundance of local photographers, including Annie Tiberio-Cameron, have also been represented. Jane didn’t take a commission on any of the art sold there, which was an extra bonus for the artists.

Northfield area artists have gotten together with the Paine Mountain Arts Council to put together a three day show in January for the last four years that has been very successful. The openings are always standing room only, and the sales have been brisk. This January approximately $2,200 worth of art was sold in three days in our small town, in January, in the midst of a recession; which shows just how “art-hungry” this little section of Central Vermont is.

The new curator at Norwich University’s Sulllivan Museum and History Center, Marilyn Solvay, has made an overture to the area’s artists with the juried show “Inspired by Stories” that will open in May of this year. For this show, artists chosen by a panel of their peers got to choose a piece from the Museum’s vast collection and interpret it in any medium and style. Hopefully, someone else will step up to the plate to keep art alive in Northfield the rest of the year as well. Another gallery, business or artist cooperative is sorely needed. The gallery at the chocolate shop was booked up through February 2010 with monthly changing shows, which are now all cancelled.