Fleming Museum teams up with Howard Center artists for exhibition 'Call and Response'
A new exhibit at the University of Vermont's Fleming Museum of Art features art created just down the street.
"Call and Response" is the Fleming's first-ever collaboration with the Howard Center, a Burlington-based organization that helps provide support for people who have struggled with mental illness or substance misuse.
Sixteen artists from the Howard Center Arts Collective, a group open to adult artists who have lived experience with these issues, created pieces in response to a chosen object from the Fleming's database.
Margaret Tamulonis, manager of collections and exhibitions at the Fleming, said that even watching the process of the artists choosing their pieces was thrilling.
“When they first shared that list, I still get chills thinking it was such an exciting list, because there are objects I hadn't thought about for years or wasn't so aware of,” she said. “So to have people sort of search through and find pieces that were new to me was wonderful.”
Kara Greenblott, coordinator and exhibiting artist with the Howard Center Arts Collective, said the artists were inspired in different ways.
"Some of it is very political, some of it is very personal, and it, for whatever reason, resonated with that artist," Greenblott said.
"Some of it is very political, some of it is very personal, and it, for whatever reason, resonated with that artist."Kara Greenblott, coordinator and exhibiting artist with the Howard Center Arts Collective
The pieces on display along the walls of the Fleming span a wide range of mediums.
“We have two sculptures in the exhibition... we have an oil painting, and many acrylics and watercolors,” Greenblott said. “They’re all just extremely unique pieces of work that, like I said, came out of this long period of discussion and collaboration with the team at the Fleming.”
Tamulonis, with the museum, said one goal the Fleming has is to put together collections that connect communities, rather than extract from them.
“We've been really working as a staff on really thoughtful reckoning and discussion about... how to kind of grapple with the fact that museums are inherently colonial," she said.
One artist's piece is a direct reference to Henry Perkins, the Fleming’s first curator, who was involved with the eugenics movement in Vermont.
In the piece, Perkins lies behind a shattered mirror that lets the viewer see a warped perspective of Perkins' face along with their own.
This subject, according to Greenblott, hits close to home with the collective.
“[The eugenics movement] was about sterilizing, hospitalizing, and persecuting people with both mental health [issues] and physical disabilities,” Greenblott said. “This is an opportunity for some of our artists to speak out on those issues.”
“Call and Response” will run at the Fleming until Dec. 9.
This story is a collaboration between Vermont Public and the Community News Service. The Community News Service is a student-powered partnership between the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program and community newspapers across Vermont.