Bennington Museum honors three with awards

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BENNINGTON >> The Bennington Museum presented three awards, to two organizations and an individual, during its annual dinner and meeting on Friday night.

Typically the museum gives two awards every year, the Walloomsac Society Award, to a member of the community or an organization for "outstanding contributions to the community in the field of art, history, or education," and the General Stark Award, which is given in recognition of outstanding service to the Bennington Museum. However, for only the second time ever, this year the museum offered a third award, the Hiland Hall Award, to an individual "of extraordinary merit whose contributions have benefitted both Bennington Museum and the Bennington community."

The Walloomsac Society Award was presented to Rosamond and Polly van der Linde, founder and director, respectively, of Sonata, Intermezzo, and Summer Sonatina International Piano Camps. The organization was founded in 1969; the week-long camps include private and group lessons, master classes, concerts, and more. The program serves 150 children and 300 adults every year, which museum director Robert Wolterstorff said directly benefits the businesses of Bennington.

"The impact on the Bennington community is huge, and I don't think it's recognized," he said.

"As always, I feel so strongly about our community here in Bennington and only wish that I could do more than the hours I put in teaching pianists from all over the world," said Polly van der Linde. "These wonderful students, whom I also call friends, have given so much to our community, so I'm extending my thanks to them for trusting me with their generosity. This summer, 23 students from local public schools were able to attend Summer Sonatina on full scholarships, thanks to sponsorships from the Sonata Piano Camp participants who want to give back to Bennington. With that said, I accept this honor with humble thanks. I am lucky to run a business that keeps on playing on as we say in musical-speak!"

The General Stark award was accepted by Hildegard Bachert, who has worked at Galerie St. Etienne since 1939, when it was founded. It's founder, Otto Kallir, took an interest in American folk art, and the next year, he offered Grandma Moses, born Anna Mary Robertson, of Hoosick Falls, her first solo exhibition. In the years following, the gallery became her exclusive representative, and Bachert met with Moses in New York many times, even helping her name some of her paintings. The gallery lent over 80 of Moses' works to the Bennington Museum for its inaugural Grandma Moses gallery in the '60s, and was instrumental in helping the museum become the largest public collection of Moses' works in the world.

"Grandma Moses was as comfortable with Harry Truman as with the postman, or we, me, or with anyone," said Bachert. "She was always the grandmother... She wasn't schooled in the fancy language of art historians, but she knew what to do."

Looking back on 47 years of cooperation between the Galerie and the Museum, Bachert said, "It's never been as good and as fruitful as it has been this year. Looking into the future, we wish the museum all the success that they deserve."

Finally, there is the Hiland Hall Award, which is only given when the museum finds a candidate that is deserving of both the General Stark and Walloomsac Awards. Named for Hiland Hall, the governor of Vermont and North Bennington resident who was largely responsible for making the Bennington Battle Monument a reality, the award was given this year to Tyler Resch, research librarian at the museum and former editor of the Bennington Banner.

"He's surely the most prolific living historian of southern Vermont," said Wolterstoff.

Resch has written 15 books of history, heritage, or photography on the region, including "The Shires of Bennington, a county pictorial history"; "Dorset, a comprehensive 400-page town history"; "Berkshire: The First Three Hundred Years, a county pictorial"; and most recently "Glastenbury: The History of a Vermont Ghost Town."

Resch, who received a standing ovation upon taking the podium, said he was proud to receive the award with Hall's name, as "He is my favorite 19th century Vermont figure."

Since joining the museum in 1995, Resch has helped with countless genealogical studies, and currently writes a column for the Banner and Vermont Digger.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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