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What’s new at the Vermont Festival of the Arts

The 17th Vermont Festival of the Arts will be here soon and it's time to plan for August. The festival program will be available the first week of June. Here's a sneak peek of the new and exciting events that are planned this year.

"We are dishing up something new at the Taste of the Valley," said festival director Karen Nevin. Formerly held the first Monday in August, the Taste this year has a new day and date: Sunday, August 10.

"This allows people outside of our region to come to The Valley to taste all the amazing culinary creations that can be found locally. Part of the new format will be chefs conducting demonstrations throughout the evening. This is an opportunity to watch and learn from local culinary masters as they prepare tasty treats from unique and local harvest ingredients. In addition, artists will be painting 'plein air' at their easels. See a blank canvas come alive with line and color. These culinary-themed paintings will come to life throughout the evening and be available to purchase. Music will be playing inside and out and our famous silent auction will give you a chance to bid on the perfect gift. Tickets to the Taste will be available to purchase in June," Nevin said.

As organizers planned the festival, a number of folks in the community created new events. Art exhibits are everywhere, including Elga Gemst's stained glass at the Festival Gallery, the photography of Bob Rush at The Collection, John Matusz' sculpture and drawings at Transformation Sculpture Studio and Vermont quilts at White Horse Inn. Of particular note is the exhibit at the Waitsfield United Church – Holiness & the Feminine Spirit. The art of Janet McKenzie is recognized nationally. Her painting Jesus of the People was chosen the winner of a 1999 competition for a new image of Christ in the new millennium. Her work is modeled on two groups, people of color and women that have been under-represented in traditional Christian imagery. McKenzie's paintings reflect her hope for greater love among all, for seeing with honest eyes, having an open heart and an open mind.

Children's activities are popular this year with a Make Your Own Pizza workshop at The Warren Store and two improvisation workshops being offered by the festival's summer intern, Amy Sheahan. Sheahan, a student at Kenyon College, has been studying theater for a number of years and is eager to share current advances in the field of improvisation. The wall at Village Country Creemees will be a large canvas for a new mural and the Crafty Kids Festival Series includes veggie printing and making wind chimes.

Theater has always been strong during the Vermont Festival of the Arts. Viewers can plan on great performances at The Skinner Barn's annual summer musical and the Vermont Playwrights Circle's TenFest, a festival of 10-minute plays. Returning for a repeat engagement from last fall is Leonard Nimoy's Vincent. This intimate one-man play received such positive reviews that Starry Night Theater company has decided to offer it again during the festival. Of course, the eclectic and creative folks at Phantom Theater have prepared a fun performance schedule for August.

David Garten will be showing his slide lecture Magic Realism Déjà vu chronicling his return to Havana, Cuba, after an eight-year absence. The new owners of The Inn at Round Barn Farm are holding a Twilight Garden Party and Tour of the Garden Sculpture and Moosewalk Studios is inviting everyone to visit on Thursday evenings for a stroll in their gardens with a chance to meet the artists and enjoy dessert.

There are three special concerts this summer. InoraBrass will be performing an exciting mix of music from diverse styles and time periods. Pianist-composer Deborrah Wyndham will present the history of ragtime and perform a variety of ragtime and early jazz styles. And nationally acclaimed piano duo Elaine Greenfield and Janice Meyer Thompson will perform a dynamic program from Beethoven to Bernstein.

Beer is a popular theme this year with the Mad River Valley Chamber hosting one of their Vermont Bed & Brew Craft Beer Tours and the Mad River Barn presenting Craft Beer 101. "This is an opportunity for you to get answers to all your beer questions while tasting Vermont craft beers and enjoying a selection of artisanal appetizers," Nevin said.

A favorite category during the festival is the Art of Living Well. Three local business owners are sharing their expertise during the festival. Mad River Massage will offer demos on safe and simple techniques of massage to use at home. Lora Hoopes of Kneading Companions is promoting animal wellness and relaxation through massage. Jungian psychoanalyst Chessie Stevenson is offering her free workshop "The Art of Dreaming" each Monday in August.

The festival program will be available the first week in June. Festival events can also be found on our website: www.vermontartfest.com. For questions or more information call (802) 496-6682 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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