NORTH BENNINGTON -- A historical mill in Bennington lends itself to a creative atmosphere for everyone in the area and beyond. The Vermont Arts Exchange sends out its statement true and clear in upcoming events, including a performance by local favorites Blues Sanctuary this weekend.
"Strengthening community through the arts by bringing art, exhibits, performances to people of fall ages, abilities and incomes," is included in the process Matthew Perry started in 1993.
Musicians of all types enjoy attending and playing at the Basement Series, established when the studio was transformed into a 130-seat cabaret venue that supports local and international music in 2004.
"I think musicians, and artists like the building because it is of a bohemian atmosphere, relaxed. There is a gallery, always filled with some kind of art display. The sound system and lighting is good, and we have some beautiful statues, one being of an angel that everyone seems to enjoy. I encourage them to get to know the crowd, and to have conversation, said Perry.
One artist, Howard Fishman, was performing at Skidmore College and had only good things to say about his experience at the VAE last fall.
"It was a great place to play," Fishman said. "The audience was bright and extremely smart and attentive. I also believe the way that Matthew presents the artists and is supportive of them is a key to the success of the venue. He is an artist himself, and reflects that. He makes you feel like you are at a friend’s place and can relax and play."
Perry said he is glad artists enjoy the VAE, but also that the community attends events and has become so supportive. Many outreach programs are thriving. He gives much credit to his volunteer crew and the supporters backing this not-for-profit. Grants help to keep it alive. But the folks that give of their time, they are the ones that make it work, he said.
"It just couldn’t be done," Perry added. "We reach out into the community and network and bring this out to all we can."
Blues Sanctuary is one of the bands playing this Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m. They are local and looking forward to playing for friends and family. They state it is a rare opportunity - a favorite of Rick Burgess, lead singer.
"We are always made to feel welcome, and it is so great to be able to play for our loved ones and people we only get to see once in awhile in the comunity," Burgess said. " It is a unique setting. It reminds me of a small pub in a New York City setting. We need venues like that, comfortable."
Joe Candel echoed the sentiment, saying that the best part of the event is playing for the crowd, and getting a reaction from them. A foot-tapping, hands-clapping group is what he looks for.
As keyboardist, he keeps an eye on the crowd.
Bruce Mariani, as bassist, is charged up about the event as he has a good impression from playing there twice before with Blues Sanctuary.
"It is a treat to play for local people as we are on the road so much," Mariani said. "The place has an intimate atmosphere and it feels like conversation."
Both Ken Pallman and John O’Rourke are looking at this venue as a great avenue to play for local friends and family, and yet folks they don’t see each day. The band will add to their much loved covers many originals.
O’Rourke has been writing some music.
"I don’t listen to blues music much," he said about his influences. "I listen to cello and violin music, sad Russian tunes with a celtic vibe. Combining these with traditional blues voices adds to a unique note selection. Moore Johnson and Clapton are two I listen two."
A new original is on the schedule to be played, added Pallman.
"It is a comfortable place, and we are looking so forward to it," he added. "The VAE is so supportive of the community, offering so many good programs out there, we want to support things like their summer programs for local kids and opportunity for everyone. We will play some of our favorites, and of course give our friends and neighbors a real treat. They give us one by being there."