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Little Dorset a hotbed of the arts

Posted by Paul Kandarian  August 19, 2011 07:45 AM

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Dorset is a tiny Vermont town of some 2,000 residents, where many of the houses are second homes of wealthy New Yorkers. The town, which this year celebrates its 250th anniversary, has long been an arts enclave, and two late-summer events there now are well worth taking in. "Dorset Artists: Then and Now," running now through Labor Day weekend at the Bickford Building on historic Dorset Green, is a wonderful showing of the work of 47 artists, more than 120 pieces of painting, sculpture and custom furniture. Downstairs is the work of current artists, all for sale. Upstairs is the work of long-gone artists, none for sale, which was donated to the gallery from private collections for the showing.

Barbara Melhado, one of the curators, said, "Dorset has long been a haven for the working artist. Particularly since the beginning of the 20th century, artists from all over the United States have come here not only for its natural beauty but because of its kindred spirits, both working in the arts and supporting them."

Current work here is from notables such as Nancy Howe, Brian Sweetland, Pam Marron and Arthur Jones. Historic art upstairs includes that Dean Fausett (presidential portrait artist who did Ronald Reagan), Beatrice Jackson and Lorenzo Hatch (who also did engraving. That $5 bill in your pocket bears the likeness of Lincoln that Hatch created). janearmstrong.jpg

At the opening of the showing, I chatted up one most delightful artist, Jane Armstrong, whose delicate animal sculptures were on display, a spry 90-year-old who no longer creates due to failing eyesight, but isn't shy about recalling her "naughty-girl days" of her youth when she was a freelance journalist for the New York Journal of Commerce before marrying one of her interview subjects, Dr. Robert Armstrong, and pursuing a successful art career.

"Dorset Artists: Then and Now," is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call Georgine MacGarvey, curator, at 802-867-5562, or email gmacg@sover.net

Over at the historic Dover Playhouse, a great, old barn-style theater in continuous operation since it was built in 1927, they hold the Dorset Theatre Festival every summer, world-class, professional stuff, and where in the off season, Dorset Community Players take over, starting with "Spider's Web" in October and ending with "Oliver" in May.

I saw "Noises Off" in early August, without question the funniest play I have ever seen. Running Aug. 18-27 is "Mauritius," by the festival's resident playwright, Teresa Rebeck, whose work has shown at Boston's Huntington Theatre and NYC's Manhattan Theatre Club. This fall, the group will host new-play readings and in spring, a writer's retreat.

Dorset may be a tiny town but it's huge on the arts, and not all that far away from Boston, less than a four-hour drive.

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