Second EXPOsion! 2016 reconnects art and history


BENNINGTON >> Brochures, jewelry, dolls, glass, and other items were featured at Wednesday's EXPOsion! 2016 to announce the upcoming arts, entertainment and performance season for Bennington County and surrounding areas.

This is the first event the Cultural Bennington Arts Council hosted under the new organization name.

"When art meets history" was the theme for this year citing the Bennington Monument 150th anniversary and when the Mohicans and Abenaki started making jewelry.

Roger Longtoe Sheehan, Chief of the Elno Tribe, kicked the day off with a calling in and greeting song ceremony. Sheehan is Abenaki and is well versed in the history of the area and his people.

"Native Americans from here still live here," he said. "We were the first people here and that history is extremely important to me. It's important to talk about the culture old and new. Every piece of jewelry has history."

He went on to make the connection between art and history by pointing to a table of Native American jewelry consisting of various colored stones of all sizes making up earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

"Art goes hand-in-hand with culture. They're hard to separate," he said. "Art connects spirituality with materials and powers. The native people know it's hard to separate."

It's similar to going to a museum and viewing a painting from 500 years ago, Sheehan said. The clothing people wore in the painting is a part of history portrayed via art.

The Vermont Historical Society Director Stephen Perkins, gave a talk at 1 p.m. about what it means to "be Vermont." He started by describing the state as a "loose confederation of villages" with their own identities and then personalized the talk by sharing his own history of being the fifth generation to live on his family farm.

"Our place informs us and the people tell the stories and give meaning to that place and that builds the idea of community," Perkins said. "Everybody has a different personal story and that's what makes these communities strong. I think that is the perfect intersection of history, heritage, culture and arts, is that ability to tell a story."

Perkins was born in northern Vermont and reflected on what engaged him with the area crediting the people and places. He also went into how artists are storytellers and that the authenticity of Vermont is what drives people to visit and live there.

"We have real communities, real people and real institutions that tell stories that people want to hear," he said. "I love living here. I moved away and came back. I couldn't imagine raising my children anywhere else but the state of Vermont."

Along with over 20 other exhibitors, the Catamount Glass Factory Store and Tap House presented a new glass with a Vermont state outline stamped on the inside so that lettering could still be printed on the flat surface on the outside.

Customer Service Representative Bridget Gallant and Tap House Manager Whitney Packer said they're the only company with this unique design. Gallant exhibited last year before the Tap House was added, but said people don't realize the factory exists and it's been running for 38 years.

"They don't realize what we do and have been here forever," Gallant said.

"I like supporting local businesses and storing their products. Keeping it local and Vermont strong," Packer said. "And glass is very sustainable."

They also showed other products such as a popcorn maker, a pot to boil water, and other measuring cup items with prints on the front.

The president of the Bennington Arts Guild, Kelly Kimball said the exhibition really brings the community together, especially when life gets too busy.

"It helps businesses, good for networking and you get to enjoy people you haven't seen because you've been so busy," she said. "We help bring art to the community and allow artists to express themselves in the gallery."

The guild has been running since 2002 and just became part of the Bennington Artisan Market.

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