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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Artists Shed Light On Forest Industry In Vermont

Vermont's farmland, with its lush green fields,iconic red barns and black and white Holsteins have inspired many artists.

At a new exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, "Shedding Light on the Working Forest," painter Kathleen Kolb is urging viewers to consider the state's forest industry with the same appreciation.

"Many people who are landscape painters were looking at the farm landscape," she says. "And I thought let's look at the other three-quarters of the landscape and see what work is going on there."

The show, which grew from a unique collaboration between the museum, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Windham Regional Commission highlights Kolb's paintings and drawings of loggers, mills and machinery from around her home in the woods near Lincoln, Vermont.

Kolb's paintings bring all of the light and coarse beauty that other painters find when portraying  Vermont's agricultural scenery.

"Many people who are landscape painters were looking at the farm landscape... I thought let's look at the other three-quarters of the landscape and see what work is going on there." - Kathleen Kolb, painter

Her work, though, depicts skidders, grapples, and chainsaws and the people who work those machines.

"I think my agenda has more to do with a profound respect  for people who use their bodies for their work," she says.

"The people who combine both intellectual skill, and manual skill to create, make, do, things that we really need, that we really depend upon, that we often don't recognize or credit at the level we do other kinds of work."

The Windham Regional Commission wanted to schedule a public event to bring attention to the forest industry, even before planners there knew about Kolb's work.

After viewing the paintings it became clear that they could anchor a show, and a series of discussions on forestry.

Vermont has been bringing attention and support  to forestry through initiatives like The Working Lands Enterprise Fund.

Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder says the show is a creative way to remind people why the forest industry should be supported.

"Part of [this exhibit] is about new light on the importance of forests and forestry in a place like Vermont," Snyder said.

"The forested landscape of Vermont is fundamental and critical to the quality of life for Vermonters, our brand, if you will, it's the backdrop to our scenic and tourism economy it's the natural infrastructure for our recreation economy, and there's this significant forest products economy."

The painter, Kathleen Kolb, at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

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Snyder will give a keynote speech before a panel discussion on supporting the working forest at the museum on Oct. 22.

Guilford poet Verandah Porche collaborated with Kolb on the exhibit.

Porche wrote three poems to bring voice to Kolb's work and also interviewed loggers, and their family members.

Those words are included in the show.

She spoke with Joe Gilkerson, who logs with his father.

"He was up there with the different levers and devices at his disposal," Gilkerson told Porche. "I would watch him just flick his fingers around  to make  the grappling hook move and the boom do everything it did. He was visualizing  that being his body. "

Kolb and Porche will discuss their work on Thursday, Oct. 8 at the museum.

"Shedding Light on the Working Forest" will be in Brattleboro through Jan. 3, 2016 and then show at other sites around Vermont next year. Learn more here.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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