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Upper Valley arts community reflects on 2019’s most meaningful moments

  • Actors Virginia Ogden, left, Katie Kitchel and Geany Masai read from the play "Deployed" at Northern Stage on Monday, March 25, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Davis McGraw, of Windsor, left, and Kiel Alarcon, of Windsor, right, work on the audio mix in preparation for the live-streaming concert of the band Faux In Love at Hanover Strings in Hanover, N.H., Friday, April 26, 2019. The concert is the first of nine in the Upstream Live concert series. The band's bassist Rio Mueller, of Springfield, Vt., back left, tries one of the store's guitars while Duncan Carroll, of Norwich, adjusts the lighting. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Artist Alison Palizzolo facilitates a discussion of her paintings during a session of Perspectives: Looking at Artworks at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in September 2017. (Chizuko Horiuchi photograph)

  • Monique Priestley, founder of The Space on Main, stands in front of 174 Main Street, the future site of the shared co-working space, on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, in Bradford, Vt. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Published: 12/27/2019 6:04:22 PM
Modified: 12/27/2019 10:24:34 PM

In years past, I have asked people in the Upper Valley’s growing arts community to write something about their most potent experience in the arts in the past year. The results are always illuminating.

This fall, I asked only a handful of people, and got responses from a few of them. I used to specify that the writers should consider only things they saw or heard, rather than events they took part in. I didn’t so specify this time around, and each of the respondents wrote about events they’d participated in. This is a sign to all of us that making art might carry a greater weight than viewing it. (It could also mean that people who are busy making art seldom have time to join the audience, but let’s not go too far down that road.)

Looking back also gives us a chance to look ahead, to hope for more of the same, or better, in 2020. For now, read about the experiences of, in order, Katie Kitchel, Kiel Alarcón, Alison Palizzolo and Monique Priestley.

— Alex Hanson

‘Deployed’

In early November, a woman approached me on the street saying, “I know you, you were in the reading of Deployed that Northern Stage workshopped at the VA last spring. I remember you so clearly standing up on that stage, wearing your uniform. The words were so powerful. I still think about that show.”

I was honored to receive her praise in no small part because I too felt the power of that show, and still do. Jane, the role that I portrayed onstage, was based on a real person. The words that I spoke were her words. The story that I told was her story. And it was a story whose truth resonated with so many others in the audience at the VA.

Jane took great pride in her military service; she sacrificed time with her family to make our world safer through the work she did eradicating drugs in Afghanistan. She carried her pride balanced with the challenge of witnessing events that no one should need to experience. She described her love of service despite being subjected to gender discrimination that no women should have to experience.

Being given the opportunity to share her words, in front of that particular audience, was one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had on stage because I was speaking for her and with her, and helping others to hear, to be heard and to understand. For me, that is theater at its best.

But here’s one funny thing about what the woman said to me on the street -- she remembered me dressed in uniform, but I wasn’t wearing a uniform during that performance — none of the actors were. I stood tall and strong, with my head raised high and my gaze direct, but I had on casual pants and a sweater, and was standing behind a music stand.

The magic of the performing arts is that Jane’s words, as captured by playwrights Nicola Smith and Sam Lazar, and as delivered onstage transported audience members to a place that was so certain in their mind’s eye that they created a memory that captured the truth of the story, even if not the actual facts of reality.

Katie Kitchel, of Norwich, is director of outreach at Northern Stage.

From the basement to the hilltop

By all accounts I don’t have the best of luck, so those fleeting moments good luck crosses my path I do two things: 1. take a moment to appreciate it and 2. see it as an opportunity to make the most of it.

One of those moments occurred last fall when I was approached by Dave Snyder, owner and operator of Guilford Sound and general rad dude, to help record a local band, Chodus. The band hails from Claremont, and its members are some of the nicest, most genuine and slightly unhinged humans I’ve met in the local music scene.

Guilford Sound is located atop the hills of Guilford, Vt., outside Brattleboro. The studio is a state-of-the-art facility filled with the latest digital-recording equipment as well as tried-and-true vintage analog equipment. It’s about as far as you can get from the basement recordings Chodus and I are accustomed to.

The challenge was to cut a few tracks there that would combine the raw sound Chodus excels at while simultaneously taking advantage of the top-notch recording facility. If we succeeded, listeners would be able to experience the truest representation of the music. It’s easy to over-produce in a professional facility and end up with a very slick-sounding recording, but it would be just as easy to miss that raw, rock ’n’ roll aesthetic.

Over the course of a weekend in late winter, I was able to watch Chodus work with both Dave Snyder and Engineer Matt Hall to bring the music to life. The result was something truly special — a recording that honored the band’s raw DIY sound while not sacrificing fidelity.

Kiel Alarcón, of Windsor, is a member of The Pilgrims.

When art connects

All artists appreciate hearing that their work resonates with someone and I am certainly no different. When the feedback is from another art world professional, it is high praise indeed, but there is something even more gratifying when the same evaluation comes from someone who doesn’t consider themselves an art insider.

This past fall some of my paintings were on view in Dartmouth’s Black Family Visual Arts Center. The morning of my artist talk I arrived early to gather my thoughts. While I was anxiously preparing and practicing, a gentleman who works for Dartmouth’s Facilities Operations and Management team approached me and asked if the paintings were mine. Once I confirmed that they were, he began excitedly telling me that he wasn’t sure exactly why but that he loved my paintings. He communicated to me that he was not usually an art enthusiast but that the works spoke to him. We ended up having a fantastic 20-minute conversation, which helped to calm my nerves and prepare for my public talk.

His reaction and our conversation also exemplified what I love most about art. Art has the ability to spark conversations between strangers and unite people who otherwise might never have met, let alone carry on a lively discussion. That chance meeting was by far my most memorable and transformative art experience of 2019.

Alison Palizzolo is the public relations coordinator at the Hood Museum of Art.

Storytelling and dreaming

One of my personal goals for The Space On Main was to foster community connection to the arts. With the help of a local artist, we started a Storytelling in Community class. We had a small, but deeply engaged group. The real, raw, vulnerable discussions we had consistently blew me away.

During our last session, we ended with a story circle. The idea was to create a piece of art based on what transpired. We each took turns adding pieces, we had a good laugh, everyone left.

The circle left me with an intense desire to dream. I put in my earphones and wandered outside atop the flooded Bradford golf course. The air was wet, foggy and ethereal. Trees grew out of the water and cast otherworldly reflections upon its surface.

As I roamed, I played back our shared story and let my mind drift. I imagined the characters from our story and the world we created as if I were walking through the replay of a dream. I took photos of puddles, exposed grass and drowned branches as I went.

When I got home, I found myself disappointed with what I had captured. I had been so engrossed by the world I saw through the reflections. I rediscovered the reflected world when I rotated the images and applied a dreamlike filter upon them. It was the most bizarrely beautiful day I think I experienced all year.

Monique Priestley is the founder of The Space on Main, a co-working space in Bradford, Vt.




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