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

Brattleboro Art Installation Aims To Strengthen Town's Relationship With Connecticut River

A new art show in Brattleboro attempts to strengthen the town's relationship with the Connecticut River.

Brattleboro is built on the Connecticut River, but railroad tracks and tall buildings make it hard to connect with the water on a daily basis.

So three artists created "From the River, To the River," to raise awareness of the powerful, but overlooked, natural resource.

The project was funded by a $50,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant for public art. Local artist Evie Lovett says before applying for the NEA Our Town grant, she wandered around town with fellow artists Elizabeth Billings and Andrea Wasserman looking for inspiration.

"We spent a lot of time just walking around Brattleboro," she says. "We were looking at spaces that were well utilized and spaces that were less well-utilized, and the bottom line is we just kept coming back to the river."

Lovett says the artists asked themselves if they could use art to create a stronger connection between the town and the Connecticut River.

"We wanted to bring the river to the town and also bring folks in the town to the river," she says.

The river art project was chosen last year from among 30 or so proposals that were sent in by artists from across New England.

"We asked ourselves if there was a way through art that we can create a stronger connection between the town and the river. We wanted to bring the river to the town and also bring folks in the town to the river." - Evie Lovett, artist

The artwork is anchored by 12 new granite benches that sit along the banks of the Connecticut at the town's one public access point.

Nearby, a photographic collage of river images now hangs on a vacant building.

A few blocks over, on the town's parking garage, the artists hung a kinetic sculpture made up of 38,000 black, blue, white and silver disks that shimmer and move like river water.

Credit Lynne Weinstein
A kinetic sculpture on the Brattleboro Parking Garage was patterned from a photo of the Connecticut River.

Across the alley, a looping video plays each night on a brick wall with silhouette portraits moving over images of flowing water.

And the artists hung reflective plaques with poetry at three locations between the two sites.

"It's a really good example of what I think the NEA was trying to do with the Our Town project," says Brattleboro PLanning Director Rod Francis. "The project was supposed to help us bring forth a set of community considerations of what makes Brattleboro so unique and so special. And so this is a distinctive setting and it's a distinctive response."

Francis says the granite benches and photos invite people to the river, while the parking garage sculpture and video bring artwork to an otherwise drab and windy alley.

Credit Evie Lovett
"From the River, To the River" includes a looping video that plays every night on a brick wall near the parking garage.

The town has committed to keeping the art installations up for at least a year, according to Francis.

Lovett says she hopes the space by the river invites further contemplation and creativity.

The art installation is interactive, and each person who wanders by, she says, becomes a part of the project.

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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