Community through creativity

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BENNINGTON — A new creative gathering space, The Green Table Pop-up Co-op, has opened up in downtown Bennington, promising to promote positivity through interactive art, music, and healthy food.

The space opened about a week and a half ago, according to organizer Krista Speroni. It's housed in the former home of the Cake Gallery in the Putnam Block, and is open on Fridays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to sundown.

On Saturday, The Green Table hosted one of its first official events, a bookmaking workshop held in collaboration with Bennington College's Skill-Sharing Program.

As the snow fell outside, community members and college students sat side by side, each crafting a handmade book. Pieces of paper from newspapers and magazines embellished each piece.

"[The Green Table's] goal is to create an alternative platform for a downtown gathering space where's there's no pressure to buy anything," Speroni said. "We have free workshops and workshops that cost money. We have art that appeals to, ideally, people from all kinds of different backgrounds, abilities, and ages."

Speroni hopes that The Green Table will help bring more people together and to minimize the distance between one another and to help bring back the human element into modern society — whether it comes from people making something with their own hands or through conversations with other individuals, or from the food that was made with care.

The initiative for the creative space began in the late summer. Speroni and other organizers worked closely with Zirwat Chowdhury, Bennington's community development director, and The Bennington Downtown Alliance to bring the project to fruition. The gathering space will stay open, contingent upon the community's support.

The Green Table's name was inspired by the Mesa Verde area at the Four Corners point in the Western United States. Although Speroni has never visited that area, the name stuck.

The Green Table is also home to Humble Bee Juices. The juices are made from locally grown products and it's organic. It comes in three flavors: earthy, spicy, and sweet. Each juice can be made up of a combination of those flavors.

Humble Bee Juices offers a juice club that entitles members to 20 percent off the sale price of items at The Green Table with every five juices they buy.

"Humble Bee Juice is a health and wellness company that I co-founded last year, that's on a food justice mission to bring healthy food to the community in an affordable accessible way," Speroni said. "It's quick, it's extremely and highly packed with nutrients, and it directly combats a lot of chronic health issues."

The Green Table sells jewelry, clothing, cards, succulent arrangements, and some homemade healthy snacks. Speroni hopes to expand the gathering space to have more food rather than mostly boutique or novelty items.

"I think a lot of the stuff we have right now is beautiful, but when you talk about something that unifies all people, I think food is the ultimate denominator," she said. "Right now, we have a lot of little healthy baked goods, that are sort of nice alternatives to processed sugar and high fat food. My dream is to expand and do soups, sandwiches, lentils, curries; spicy food, food with flavor and soul."

While The Green Table is still new, Speroni reported that things have been going well so far and that people are enjoying the new creative spot. Last weekend, there was live music played at the space. The Banulis & Miller jazz duo played vibes and the bass. The group was joined by trombone and flute player Charles Dong, and Ed Green on the cello.

Bennington College's Skill Share program helped spearhead Saturday's event. According to Nam Phaong Doan, one of the group's organizers, the group is a female operated group that puts on different events and workshops to help share different skills with people. The group also hopes to bridge a relationship between the town and the college with their events.

"It's really nice we have this space," Doan said. "I like the fact that it's open to the community and art based. It creates an open space."

Cara DeAgelo and her four-year-old daughter, Lanna, were among the community members who stopped at The Green Table for the bookmaking workshop. Each of the DeAgelos made a book, and Lanna decided to practice her writing inside of the book.

"She could do this for hours," Cara DeAgelo said.

Next Friday, The Green Table will be hosting a chai making workshop from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with a suggested donation of $5. Next Saturday, there will be a kids play day with a suggested donation of $12, and a mosaic holiday making workshop. Speroni is also hoping to get some Bob's Blocks for the event as well.

To learn more about The Green Table or Humble Bee Juice, visit www.facebook.com/HumbleBeeJuice/

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