Art Notes: Hood Museum reopening a step toward a rejuvenated art scene

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    The Hood Museum of Art’s installation "Drawing Lines," located in Lathrop Gallery in Hanover, N.H. The museum is reopening to the public on August 4, 2021. (Alison Palizzolo photograph) Alison Palizzolo photograph

  • Giorgio Alberti, of West Lebanon, N.H., shows a friend on his smartphone the Hopkins Center and the Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. Alberti is a lecturer in French and Italian at Dartmouth College. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News File photograph — Jennifer Hauck

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    Bess O'Brien's play "Listen Up," a musical based on interviews with, and written and composed by Vermont youth, is to be performed at the Dresden athletic fields off Route 5 in Norwich, Vt., on Aug. 7-8, 2021. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/28/2021 9:17:15 PM
Modified: 7/28/2021 9:17:17 PM

When it opened in January 2020, the Hood Museum of Art’s exhibition of Colleen Randall’s abstract paintings was supposed to run for five months, through the end of that May.

Instead, the museum closed to visitors halfway through on March 14, initially for two weeks, then indefinitely, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Randall’s show, titled “In the midst of something splendid,” was effectively entombed as the museum remained closed, even to her, a member of Dartmouth College’s studio art faculty since 1989.

“I think we were all in a little bit of shock,” Randall said Tuesday. “It slowly dawned on us that, you know, this is going to be a little longer.”

While the museum reopened last fall to small groups of Dartmouth students, it has remained closed to the public, even as other Upper Valley venues have reopened.

The Hood is a uniquely potent institution. It is free to enter, unlike, say, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And it is a place out of time: An hour there among whatever might be on view — European paintings, Assyrian reliefs, contemporary African art — expands the spirit for days.

So the museum’s reopening to the public on Aug. 4 is one of the most heartening events of the late pandemic. Certainly the Hood’s staff feels that way.

“We pride ourselves on being the Upper Valley’s community museum,” Hood Director John Stomberg said this week. “We just couldn’t do that.”

The Hood reopens in a state of transition. Gone are longtime curators Bonnie MacAdam and Kathy Hart, as well as preparator Patrick Dunfey, who took an early retirement deal the college offered, Stomberg said. Another veteran curator, deputy director Juliette Bianco, became director of the Weatherspoon Museum of Art at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in April 2020.

Bianco’s work has been spread among seven other people, Stomberg said. The museum is still operating under budget constraints that curtail hiring, he added.

Even so, 15 of the museum’s 16 galleries will have art in them next week. New exhibitions include “Drawing Lines,” which examines the line as a generative form, and “Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Trade Canoe: Forty Days and Forty Nights,” part of Quick-to-See Smith’s “Trade Canoe” series, her response to the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to what became the Americas.

The only shows held over from March 2020 are two long-running exhibitions of European and American art and “Form and Relation: Contemporary Native Ceramics.” A Valley News writer was planning a story about the show for the March 19, 2020, paper.

“At long last, people will be able to see it,” Stomberg said of the ceramics show.

If the museum is a place out of time, then that was especially the case during the pandemic. When students were allowed back in, they could visit only in groups of seven or fewer, and there had to be three hours between tours, Stomberg said. That left time for only two tours a day; some consisted of only two or three people, walking among the museum’s treasures.

Like other arts organizations, the Hood pivoted to digital programs. Stomberg and others had to break through a mental barrier. The Hood’s ethos holds that there is no substitute for direct interaction with an object. Classes that would have come to the museum’s classrooms instead looked on as a museum worker turned an object for examination on a screen.

Lectures and other programs also moved online, where they often reached audiences far larger than the number of seats in the museum’s auditorium.

“During the pandemic, we were all talking about issues of equity and inclusion,” Stomberg said, and the digital programs provide that. There will continue to be a digital component to the museum’s programs.

Randall titled many of her paintings with lines poems by her husband, Jeff Friedman. They gave a gallery talk online in April 2020 that was well-received and is still available for viewing.

“Everybody just had a lot of energy and was enthusiastic about finding ways to carry on and continue and develop a sense of community,” Randall said.

But standing in front of a work of art, in direct communication with the artist’s intentions, is hard to beat.

Without visitors, Stomberg said, “you begin to realize how much it takes people to complete that relationship, to close the circuit.”

The Hood Museum of Art reopens on Aug. 4. An ice cream social is planned for 4 to 6 p.m. Aug. 6, until supplies last, and the galleries will be open until 8.

A Vermont teen musical

Fifteen years ago, Bess O’Brien, a documentary filmmaker from the Northeast Kingdom, organized and toured around Vermont The Voices Project, a play informed by input from around 1,000 Vermont teens.

After working throughout the pandemic, she is back with a second chapter, Listen Up, a musical based on interviews with, and written and composed by Vermont youths. It’s coming to the Dresden Athletic Fields off Route 5 in Norwich for two open-air performances on Aug. 7 and 8.

The show focuses on mental health, in part because of the isolation many teens have experienced during the pandemic. But it also encompasses all the issues teens are facing, O’Brien said this week, from friendship, love, sex and identity to the cost of living and higher education.

“It’s about the state of the world right now, which young people, like many people, feel is unstable,” she said. Her hope is that both the public and people in power pay attention and that young people see that they’re not alone.

Tickets for the 90-minute show, which O’Brien said is suitable for ages 13 and up, are $15 in advance and $20 in person and are available at

This weekend

The items above are a little way off, but there are arts opportunities this weekend that deserve attention. Two examples stand out:

■Vermont’s own Myra Flynn performs with Paul Boffa at 6:30 Friday evening at Pentangle Council on the Arts’ Music by the River series in Woodstock’s new-ish East End Park. The concerts are free, but donations for the nonprofit Pentangle are always welcome. The park is open at 5:30 for pre-concert picnicking.

■AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon opens exhibitions by artists who should be Upper Valley household names. “Conversation” features paintings and mixed media works by Bunny Harvey and Laurie Sverdlove, longtime friends from the White River Valley. “Playing with Choice” combines woodblock prints and sculpture by Elizabeth Mayor. “Looking Up,” a group show, also is on view. A reception is planned for 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, and Harvey and Sverdlove will hold a “public conversation” from 5 to 6 p.m.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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