By Elisa Rodero
Vermont, the Green Mountain State, is best known for its breathtaking forest scenery and excellent ski slopes—but don’t overlook its vibrant arts scene. In a state where even the largest city feels like a town, you may be surprised to learn that one of the largest per-capita populations of artists in the nation exists as well. This supportive environment has created a thriving artistic community that places creative endeavors front and center of its culture.
Home to the University of Vermont’s venerable Fleming Museum of Art, more than 33 galleries, and the lively, dynamic maker-artist enclave in the South End District, Burlington has everything an art-lover could want, from the classical to the offbeat.
The Fleming Museum of Art features a diverse collection of more than 24,000 objects from around the world. Just a decade shy of 100 years old, the museum houses Vermont’s most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts, spanning continents and centuries.
Although the Fleming may be the city’s art centerpiece, Burlington City Arts (BCA) is undoubtedly its heartbeat. Its downtown BCA Center hosts year-round exhibitions and events, while BCA Studios is a spawning ground for artistic content in the form of classes and camps, as well as city-wide festivals, concerts, films, markets, and more. With the aim of promoting dialogue and fostering public participation in the arts, BCA aims to make art experiences accessible to all.
If you’re looking to purchase art while grabbing a bite to eat and sampling some local cocktails, the South End District is chockablock with galleries, breweries, distilleries, studios and performance centers. Still vibrating with the energy of its ongoing revitalization, the neighborhood offers gathering places such as ArtsRiot, a bar/distillery/concert venue, and S.P.A.C.E., a former warehouse turned creative space for showing, viewing and making art. But art isn’t limited to just one or two neighborhoods in Burlington. The city boasts more than 30 galleries, so arts tourists of every taste will find something appealing.
For those more interested in the performing arts, the gorgeously restored art deco Flynn Center for the Performing Arts hosts classes, camps and concerts. The highlight of the summer is the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival in June, a 10-day deep dive into local, national and international jazz music spanning a variety of styles.
Nestled at the foot of Mount Wantastiquet, Brattleboro packs some really fun surprises. Part of what makes this little town an extra special arts enclave is that visitors can participate in creating art around town just as much as they observe it.
For those looking just to visit museums and galleries, there’s no shortage of options. The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, a grand space occupying a former railroad depot, presents 15-20 exhibitions each year, as well as numerous events, both for serious arts afficionados and for families, including an annual LEGO contest and exhibit and a domino-toppling event.
Truthfully, the town itself functions as a gallery; art exhibits and performance spaces pop up like ivy everywhere you go, from coffee shops to churches. Of particular note is Vermont Artisan Designs, located right on Main Street. The gallery celebrates a wide variety of functional and decorative art arts including fiber, glass, sculpture and paintings, even furniture. And Gallery in the Woods has curated three floors of offerings, from fine art to folk art. The First Friday Gallery Walk features many other venues too numerous to name here.
But there’s also plenty to do for visitors of all ages who prefer to be part of the creative process. One particularly exciting possibility is the New England Center for Circus Arts, where anyone can learn (and/or watch) trapeze, trampoline and juggling, among many other circus skills. Check out the Vermont Center for Photography for workshops and classes in how to capture that perfect shot, the River Gallery School of Art for classes in variety of visual arts, First Proof Press to learn the art of printmaking using green products, and the Wheelhouse Clay Center to enjoy a little creative interaction with clay.