Museum's annual fundraiser a hit with artists and locals


BENNINGTON — With museums everywhere searching for ways to stay relevant to their audiences as well as solvent in a difficult economic climate, the Bennington Museum each year celebrates local contemporary art that manages to combine these two objectives.

This year, "The Festival — Time for the Holidays!" brings together one of the most treasured possessions in the museum's permanent collection, and a theme centered around it, with more than a dozen artists who created works specific to the theme — all to be auctioned by sealed bid as a fundraiser.

Curator of collections Jamie Franklin said this was the third year the museum has put on an end-of-year fundraising exhibition, and both of the previous editions were "win-win situations for both the museum and the artists."

"This year, we've asked local artists to respond to Nichols Goddard's Musical Tall Case Clock, which was built circa 1810," Franklin said while touring the galleries. "This is one of the most important pieces of our permanent collection, and a key part of our newest exhibition, `Early Vermont.'"

There are not many American clocks built in the early 19th century, Franklin continued, which are more refined, mechanically intricate, or as visually striking as the one owned by the Bennington Museum.

A set of ten bells and hammers plays seven tunes, which was a sophisticated feature during its era, Franklin noted. The clock's movement includes a day of the month wheel, and a moon dial with an illustration of a burning ship.

"There are so many interesting interpretations here that an artist can run with," Franklin said, referring to the call for works sent out to artists earlier this year. "Right here in the galleries you can see ingenious examples of textiles, sculptures, collages and other art forms."

One of the contributing artists, Marcy Hermansader of Putney, said that her piece, "time was in a circle," was inspired by the moon face and burning ship image on the clock.

"When I first looked at the clock face I thought of a phrase from Yukio Mishima, `time was in circles,' which became the title of my drawing," Hermansader said. "I began by drawing a circular format like a dial, but an organic one, with sections more like uneven slices of a pie. In my drawing, the clock-face and moons blended into an abstract format. The ship became a rowboat with a man in it. Symbolic flames moved out to the edges."

The auction is being conducted by sealed bid, according to marketing director and auction coordinator Susan Strano. At the time of this filing, about a dozen bids had been received.

"We must have all bids in by 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 28," Strano said. "The museum's share will benefit our educational programming. All monies received from sales of the art will be split evenly with the artists."

Curator Franklin also said that collectors and other members of the public who appreciate art could end up with a very good deal.

"The stated minimum bids for each piece were a collaborative efforts between the museum and the artists," Franklin said. "They are purposely much lower than what you would find in the same artist's work represented by a commercial venue. The intent was to help stimulate sales and the artists have been most generous to price their works at those levels."

Hermansader agreed with Franklin, saying that she was honored to be asked to create something for the Bennington Museum fundraiser, "because there are always so many good artists included."

"The fact that artists are invited to respond to an item in the collection makes it much more fun and interesting, and probably unique," Hermansader said. "It also ensures that there is work in a very wide price range. And of course, this event has become an important and creative way of providing income for the museum."

"The Festival .—- Time for The Holiday!" will run through Dec. 30 at Bennington Museum, located at 75 Main St. For more invormation, call 802-447-1571, or visit For more specifics on the sealed auction bidding, contact Susan Strano at

Reach award-winning freelance journalist at, or on Twitter: @Telly Halkias


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