Art Notes: Hartford High Honored for Public Art

  • Art teacher Andersen Thorp helps her student Justin Bettis fuse the end of a piece of rope that he will use to hang a his artwork during her class at Hartford High School in White River Junction Friday, January 8, 2015. In addition to her classes, Thorp is also involved in visual and sculptural projects to improve the physical environment of the school. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford High School art teacher Andersen Thorp talks with students, from left, Emily Ballou, Olivia DeFelice, and Karen Cross, during their art class Friday, January 8, 2016. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A mural designed by Hartford High School students and executed by students, faculty and staff at the school's main entrance.

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, March 09, 2017

We are all affected by public art and design, although we may not spend a lot of time thinking about, or even recognizing, them when we walk by. But they’re there, and they shape our response to an environment in myriad ways.

Think about going to a school where you see only dingy corridors, brick facades and walls painted white. Is it possible that such a dispiriting atmosphere will have an effect on how you learn, or at the least how you feel about the place where you spend the bulk of your time from ages 5 through 18?

Now imagine a school that, while it can’t completely disguise its institutional nature, displays art and color in corners and niches where you weren’t necessarily expecting to find them.

You may not be able to connect the presence of art in a school directly to its academic record, but you could certainly correlate its presence with the pride that a school takes in itself and its students, and vice versa.

So it’s worthwhile noting that Hartford High School is one of 15 organizations in Vermont to have received this winter a Public Place Award, which is co-sponsored by the Vermont Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Vermont Community and Urban Forestry Council, and the Vermont Planners Association.

The purpose of the awards is to recognize the design and aesthetic of public spaces that contribute to a harmonious relationship between humans and their surroundings.

Hartford High School was the only program in eastern Vermont to have been given an award; the other recipients of the award are located near Burlington, or in the northern part of the state.

Hartford High art teacher Andersen Thorp submitted Hartford’s application to the Public Places Award committee. Together with Hartford resident Steven Sass, Thorp began the Creative Improvement Council four years ago to improve the appearance of the school.

Thorp, who has taught art at Hartford High School for 28 years, was named the 2015 Art Teacher of the Year by the art education magazine Creative Outlook. In her work on the CIC, she has helped students to design and execute a range of art projects throughout the school, including painting trash cans with designs and pictures, creating mosaics and murals and installing stained glass in the stairways.

Thorp applied to the Public Place Award, not really expecting to get it, and submitted photos of the projects as well as descriptions. When she later saw the list of projects that also were given awards, she is glad that she didn’t know about them before she applied; it might have intimidated her, she said in a phone interview.

“What stuck out for us was that it’s very grassroots oriented, we didn’t hire a design team,” she said.

Thorp said that beside being honored, she hopes that it leads to other schools and businesses investing in art in public spaces.

“It’s a great idea to make public spaces more exciting. It just provides a better working space and ethos for everyone, wherever they are, whether that’s children or adults,” she said.


Aging Resource Center, Lebanon. The Senior Art program exhibition is on view through mid-March. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Arabella, Windsor. The gallery exhibits works by local artists and artisans in a variety of media, including jewelry, oils, acrylics, photography, watercolors, pastels and textiles.

Baker-Berry Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover. “Tibetan and Himalayan Lifeworlds” runs through March 31.

Chandler Gallery, Randolph. “Story Lines,” which features work by Ed Koren, Randolph cartoonist Phil Godenschwager, Burlington’s Alison Bechdel and other faculty and artists from the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, is on view through Saturday.

Center for the Arts, New London. The center shows work by Penny Koburger at the New London Inn, and pastels and oils by Gwen Nagel at the Lake Sunapee Bank on Main Street. In celebration of Youth Art Month, work by students from New London Elementary School is also view at the Whipple Gallery in New London. All three shows end April 29.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon. The winter exhibitions include stained glass by Kathleen Curwen; wildlife paintings by Bradley Jackson; watercolors by Kathleen Fiske; a selection of work from the Vermont Watercolor Society; photographs by Seth Goodwin; pen and ink drawings by David Cooper; and photographs by Ruth Connor, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine, who spent time in Western Kenya documenting the work done by I-Kodi, a grassroots non-governmental organization dedicated to improving education and healthcare in the region. Through March.

Hood Downtown, Hanover. “Let the Garden Eram Flourish,” a show of painting, video and drawings by Iranian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Bahar Behbahani, continues through Sunday.

Howe Library, Hanover. Boston artist Tatiana Yanovskaya-Sink, who also spends time in the summer in the Sunapee area, exhibits paintings in the library’s Ledyard gallery through May 3.

Kilton Library, West Lebanon. A selection of work from the Hanover Street School and the Mount Lebanon Elementary School will be exhibited at the library: Hanover Street students show their art through March 22; Mount Lebanon students’ work will be on view April 6 through May.

Library Arts Center, Newport. “Kent Stetson: The Art of Handbags,” through March 24.

Long River Gallery and Gifts. “As If — Weavings From Oz,” by Henniker, N.H., artist Doug Masury, continues at the Long River store in White River Junction. An exhibition of paintings by Stephanie Reininger continues at Long River Gallery and Gifts in Lyme through the end of the month.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. A show of work by South Royalton School students continues through April 14. There will be a public reception on March 30, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. The gallery has re-opened after a short hiatus.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The annual celebration of three-dimensional art generally ends when foliage season does, but 80 percent of the show is still on view. “Grounding,” a show of site-specific work curated by sculptors Jay Mead and Edythe Wright, is on view at the King Farm. For more information, go to sculpturefest.org.

Tunbridge Public Library. “Two Perspectives of Rural Vermont,” a show of multi-media collages by South Strafford artist Jeanne McMahan, and pen and ink drawings by Peter Neri, of Sharon, runs through March 26.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. An exhibition of prints by Sheri Tomek runs through March 31.

White River Gallery at BALE, South Royalton. “Expansions,” a show of acrylic paintings by artist and illustrator Jasper Tomkins, runs through April 30.

Zollikofer Gallery, Hotel Coolidge, White River Junction.”The Spirit of Odanaksis,” an exhibition of work by members of a group Upper Valley plein air painters, is on view through May 10.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.