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Montpelier Has a Hot Art Summer Ahead

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New signage names the work and artist on Mauricio Ramirez’ 150-foot-long mural on the bike path-side of Shaw’s supermarket. The Montpelier Public Art Commission has started gradually adding such signs — as funds allow — to identify the city’s public art. The sign gives the year the work was created and a quote about it and acknowledges the sponsors. Photo by Tom McKone.
For those who want more public art in Montpelier, this is going to be an exciting summer — and one that will keep the Montpelier Public Art Commission and Montpelier Alive busy.

M-shaped Benches

Three, large, colorfully painted M-shaped benches are about to be installed — two on State Street’s Rialto Bridge, an already popular hang out spot, and one in front of the TD Bank at the corner of Main and School streets. Katie Trautz, executive director of Montpelier Alive, said the new benches will replace traditional ones. Made of fiberglass and three feet deep and more than four feet wide, the flat benches were constructed by the Arcana Workshop in Barre. Becky Parker and Rob Hitzig, both of Montpelier, and Sabrina Fadial of Barre, each painted one.

High School Panels

Working in teams, more than 20 Montpelier High School students have painted ten “positive and joyful” surrealistic panels that will cover the expiring polyurethane panels in the open space next to the Drawing Board on Main Street. Those panels, which are scheduled to go up the same day this paper goes to print, will be featured in a future issue of The Bridge. Commissioner Bob Hannum said that from the start, the translucent polyurethane panels, which have faded and been damaged over the last two years, were planned as a limited-time installation. 

Clothespin Sculpture

An application to install the Clothespin sculpture — three large wooden clothespins that mark the city’s historic role in clothespin manufacturing — is close to going to the city’s Design Review Board for approval. Created by artists Ben Cheney, Jesse Cooper, and Chris Eaton of Flywheel Industrial Arts, the sculpture used to be sited at the Kent Museum in Calais. Montpelier Alive raised $12,000 to cover purchasing, moving, and installing the work. Commissioner Jesse Jacobs said the commission is working with a landowner along the bike path in downtown and hopes to reach a deal soon. He noted that because the sculpture will be placed in the floodplain, it has to be secured so in the event of a flood, it can’t float away.

Flags Under Repair

Some residents have noted, with dismay, that the hundreds of small blue flags attached to wires over the North Branch of the Winooski River between Langdon Street and the Rialto Bridge have been taken down; however, they are down only for repairs and a new paint job. Hitzig, who created the popular work, is repainting them and using more colors.

Signs of the Times

The commission has long wanted to create signage for the city’s public art, and that process has started. Mauricio Ramirez’ 150-foot-long mural on the bike path-side of Shaw’s supermarket has one of the first signs. Beside naming the work and artist and the year the work was created, the sign includes a quote about the work and acknowledges the sponsors.

More Murals Coming Soon

The commission has announced a request for proposals to paint two more murals on the concrete piers in Gateway Park, opposite Green Mount Cemetery and below Interstate 89. The commission plans to award two grants of $1,500 to Vermont-based artists. These spaces are about 15 by 20 feet, and designs “should have attributes of the area’s history, resources, character.”

Public Art on Private Buildings

The commission has also announced what Hannum called a “unique and exciting initiative” — a request for proposals for matching grants for art on private buildings. 

“The idea is to encourage downtown building owners to get more involved in revitalizing our city by improving their property with public art,” said Hannum. “I have not heard it done elsewhere. . . . If one building owner has a positive experience it will move others to join in.”

This program offers “matching grants of up to $10,000 per project to Montpelier City building owners to team up with artists for murals or other art installation on their building property. The commission is open to varying media and styles; however, successful submissions must be accessible to the public in the center of Montpelier or in a high traffic area and have a positive effect.”

Jacobs, whom other commissioners credit with suggesting the idea, said he sees art as a way of fostering both creativity and urban development. He said that with so many creative people in this area, the emphasis on art and the vitality it brings is a natural. He sees the matching grants as a team approach between the city and property owners.

Applications and details about the two requests for proposals are available on the city’s website, under “Board & Commissions, Public Art Commission,” or by emailing the commission at montpelierartsvt@gmail.com. While the deadline for Gateway mural applications is getting close — June 15 — the deadline for the matching grants is July 21.

Two major projects, a Montpelier Alive effort to “artistically light up our bridges,” and the other, “the first major work of permanent public art by the Abenaki community in our state capital,” are coming this summer and fall and will be featured in future issues of The Bridge.

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