Sculpture shows aims to make art accessible

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NORTH BENNINGTON — Outdoor art breaks down barriers — or at least, cuts them down to size.

That's how those involved with the 21st annual North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show's describe the show's accessibility for members of the community who don't usually get to experience art.

"It's super accessible," said Amy Anselmo, who is involved with the event."It's not like you have to go into a museum or a gallery where you may either have to pay or don't feel like it's for you, per se."

The free sculpture show will formally open July 7 with an opening party, featuring food and music, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Vermont Arts Exchange Campus at 48 Main St. in North Bennington. The Train Depot Gallery will also be opened at that time, featuring works by Rhonda Ratray influenced by boardwalk, carnival and mini-golf aesthetics, according to a press release from the Arts Exchange.

The sculpture show will remain open continuously until Nov. 3. It is sponsored in part by the Fund for North Bennington, Sage City Cyndicate, Paran Recreations, Bennington College, Kevin's Restaurant and the Vermont Arts Exchange.

The show is a Vermont Arts 2018 event, a project of the Vermont Arts Council highlighting arts events that take place across the state, according to the release.

"It's on view 24/7," said Joe Chirchirillo, curator of the event. "Self-guided tour anytime you want. That's one of the great assets of outdoor sculpture."

The event has grown over the years from about six to eight sculptures to around 40, Anselmo said.

The show's display areas, all accessible, are clustered in an easily walkable area on five different properties.

Because it's outdoors, people can come and go as they please, and there's a free audio tour of the sculptures through an app, Otocast, Anselmo said.

In the audio tour, the artists explain the thinking behind their work.

"It's just so nice to hear in their words what the sculpture is about," Anselmo said. "Not just spend the predictable two-and-a-half seconds [on the works]."

The sculpture materials vary, from metals to stone, fibers to wood.

Artists are mainly from the region, not just Bennington.

"In terms of the vibe, I try to keep it very relaxed," Chirchirillo said. "I'm a sculptor myself, so I try to be very artist-friendly about the paperwork."

Living in New York when he was younger, Chirchirillo said he saw outdoor sculpture shows in non-gentrified areas that were very relaxed and artist-friendly.

"That's the [atmosphere] I'm going for," he said.

Chirchirillo invites artists to showcase their work at the show, with new people every year.

Many places have stipends for shows like this; the North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show does not.

But the show is a good one, and artists want to show with people who have nice work, Chirchirillo said.

"We all need an audience," he said. "And it's valuable to communicate with other artists who are in the same vein as you."

One piece Anselmo particularly loves is "Stall," a steel-framed screen with netting filled with reclaimed cello bowstrings.

It was made by environmental artist Nancy Winship Milliken, who is showing at the event for the first time.

The piece is a conversation between nature and culture, man and nature — man takes horse hair and uses it for the cello bowstrings, and then it is tied onto the netting in Milliken's piece, Milliken said.

Elizabeth Keithline, an East Greenwich, Rhode Island-based artist, will also be showing at the sculpture show for the first time this year.

She will be showing "Two Boats: One for You, One for Me."

"It's really great to be showing in Vermont," she said. "I love the community."

The show represents a way to meet other sculptors and give back to the community, she said.

Showing art outside provides a way to connect with a different segment of the public, Keithline said.

"And I love that," she added. "We love our galleries and museums, but the truth is — not everyone's going to cross that threshold."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BEN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.

If You Go

What: 21st Annual North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show

Where: 48-66 Main St., North Bennington

When: Opening party 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 7; Show open continuously July 7 to November 3

Cost: Free


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