World Challenges & Wooden Wonders, two new exhibits
November 15, 2016 – January 14, 2017
World Challenges is an intimate look at the consequences of climate change, war, and violence. Planned well before the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, the exhibit highlights concerns of many American voters and some candidates, but more importantly the challenges facing all the world’s citizens. The exhibit features works by local artists Chuck Herrmann and Sarah Ashe along a selection of Syrian textiles from local collector Sansea Sparling.
Chuck Herrmann, Vermont timber historian and wood carver from Shoreham, Vermont, created an Arctic triptych backdrop of varying shades of blue and white with inventive interpretations of melting and jagged ice formations and an array of carved basswood Arctic animals. Herrmann was alerted to deteriorating conditions in the Arctic several years ago by his grandson Sam Herrmann who was studying climate change at Lake Forest College in Illinois. Herrmann’s Arctic Triptych will delight children and confirm climate change conclusions of environmentalists.
Middlebury artist Sarah Ashe has created a miniature artistic testament to her ongoing concerns about the refugee situation brought on by war, violence, and poverty. Central to her presentation are small-scale replicas of the overcrowded vessels traversing hazardous seas between Africa and Europe, which often capsize resulting in multiple drownings.
One such vessel is titled Desperate Crossing, with the notation “Boats and rafts, under repair and often ill-equipped for the journey, are loaded beyond capacity; life saver vests become the only hope of survival.” Closer to home, are Sarah Ashe’s depictions of immigrants going overland from Central America and Mexico to the United States. Even as small-scaled as these sculptures are, the hardships, challenges, and often tragic consequences of the journeys undertaken by the refugees and immigrants are powerful reminders of the populations in crisis beyond and within our borders.
New Haven, Vermont, textile collector Sansea Sparling, quickly fell in love with the vibrant Syrian textiles she saw during two tours of the country. Selections from Sparling’s collection constitute the third section of the World Challenges exhibit. Destruction in the war-torn country includes the Syrian textile industry and craft culture – factories have been decimated and the workforce has been depleted. Sparling’s offerings are vivid reminders of the once-thriving textile artists. A man’s cummerbund woven in a technique that no longer exists is included in the display of vibrant clothing and fabric. Domestic textiles include a tablecloth from recycled scraps of fabric, then embroidered, as well as an elegant pillow cover.
Wooden Wonders celebrates Vermont’s long tradition as a wood manufacturer, made possible by timber milled from our extensive forest lands. Since the 1870s wood products have been the single most important manufacturing industry in Vermont. Through the mid-1900s large numbers of mass-produced and individually crafted wood products, especially toys, were sold to customers all over the U.S. and abroad.
Toy companies represented in the exhibit include: Joel Ellis of Springfield, Vermont; Newton & Thompson Manufacturing Company of Forestdale, Vermont, represented by colorful toys and games;
H.C. White Co. of North Bennington, Vermont, manufacturer of the fabled wooden Kiddie Kars; celebrated East Middlebury toy manufacturer Brown Novelty Company, established in 1936, the company formed a lucrative and successful association with Louis Marx and Company, said by many to be the most well-known toy company through the 1950s. Miniature pianos were central to the success of the partnership and examples of two such pianos are in the exhibit; Maple Landmark Woodcraft of Middlebury, founded in the 1970s, is one of the largest manufacturers of wooden toys in the U.S. The exhibit features the Rockefeller Rocker and My First Train.
Also included in the exhibit is a replica trapping boat constructed by a Hannaford Career Center class that explored the historical study of economics, hunting and Lake Champlain while developing artistic excellence in drawing, carpentry, and team building. The Vermont lumber and materials used in the construction of the boat were from Tommie Lathrop of Lathrop’s Maple Supply of Bristol, Vermont and R.K. Miles, Inc. of Middlebury, Vermont. The trapping boat documented and replicated by the students was built by Gerald Hatch of Panton, Vermont in the 1960s.
Visitors of all ages will enjoy the exhibit, some entranced by childhood memories, others introduced to toys that captivated their parents and grandparents, but all reminded of Vermont’s timber, wood forest, and toy manufacturing histories, the still flourishing artistic and craft culture, and Vermont’s self-sufficient, entrepreneurial trapping and nautical specialists.