BENNINGTON >> This weekend offers a diverse lineup of activities covering all sectors of the visual arts. To some, it may mark the end of the summer—but for others—it's the start of the festival season.
This is the fourth year that the Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival has been held in Bennington after more than 30 years of being held in Manchester. To further promote art culture, the craft festival has come together with the downtown arts weekend so folks can attend the Homebrew Festival at 4 Corners North, First Friday festivities, art gallery openings, various performances and restaurant specials. Bennington Arts Weekend has grown in activities since 2008 and marketing the town as the place to be for the weekend.
About 125 exhibitors will flood three acres of Camelot Village to sell handmade jewelry, fine art, photography, sculptures, leather, textile, glass, ceramic and woodcrafted furniture. There will also be live music, a food market, a welcome tent and the Vermont Arts Exchange bus, that will be painted.
The craft festival was previously held at Hildene Estates where more vendors were allowed, said Tim Cianciola, event organizer.
"We've had a couple real good years. It's been tough starting a new show," he said. "We've made good progress especially this year with the arts weekend concept and had really good feedback [last year]. It's been a rebuilding process, but gone well so far."
A welcome tent will be set up near the Better Bennington Corporation on South Street, operated by volunteers, Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Matt Harrington said. He said that between the Home Brew Fest and the craft festival, the weekend has something to offer for everyone.
Harrington said he's most excited to volunteer at the home brew station for a few hours because that's what he did last year before accepting his current position at the chamber.
"I work the front line and take tickets, that's something very fun. There's a connection to that, to see people excited. Last year I worked the gate and it was fun to see people from Connecticut, New Jersey and Brooklyn," he said. "I love Bennington and fell in love with it. It's what energizes me to do the rest of my job. This year I was the first to volunteer. I met a lot of people and to see them connect with Bennington is what energizes me."
Free transportation will be provided by Green Mountain Express for those who want to navigate up and down Route 9.
The Bennington Museum will bring back its live tattoo exhibit for Aug. 5 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. as part of First Friday's. Fourteen people with tattoos will be present to share their artwork stories with visitors. Each model suggested five songs to Deana Mallory, director of the museum's public programs for a show playlist. Admission is pay-what-you-wish after 5 p.m. There will also be a cash bar and live music outside. Visitors can vote for their favorite individual tattoo and favorite model. The two with the most votes will win a $50 gift certificate to the tattoo artist of their choice, Mallory said.
"This is the second time we're doing it, did it last year as well. Last year we did it in conjunction with an exhibit that we had going on," Mallory said. "It was well received so we decided to do it again."
Marketing that went into the weekend included billboards, visiting vacation resorts in surrounding states, providing flyers to businesses and community boards, posting on social media, advertising sandwich boards and banners throughout towns as well as running advertisements in regional magazines and newspapers, according to Better Bennington Corporation executive director John Shannahan.
"We have this incredible program that's six pages long. There's something going on all over downtown," he said. "It's great seeing the business and cultural community come together to put on so much activity. Nobody can do it all. We believe we can own this weekend in a few more years."
The Bennington Arts Weekend is made possible by the Bennington Area Art Council, Bennington Arts Weekend Committee, Better Bennington Corporation, Bennington Chamber of Commerce, Bennington County Regional Commission, Bennington Potters, Catamount Glass and the businesses participating.
Not all events are free of admission. First Friday activities run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 5. The craft festival at Camelot Village on Route 9 West runs from Augt. 5 and 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other special events noted in the weekend program includes a children's story hour on Saturday and Sunday morning at the Bennington Bookshop, a family movie night of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Merchants Park, the Bennington Farmers Market on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a chocolate bowl sculpture event at the Village Chocolate Shoppe on Friday.
Other participating agencies include Allegro Ristorante, Bringing You Vermont, The Brown Cow Cafe, Kevin's Sports Pub & Restaurant, Madison Brewing Company & Restaurant, Mount Anthony Country Club, South Street Cafe, and various other downtown retailers.
For a complete list of events, visit www.bennington.org.
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.