Vermont Museums Explore Art, Social Issues and Everyday Items
May 11, 2023
Vermont museums are gearing up for the 2023 season with new art exhibits that include inflated outdoor sculptures, photos from Burlington’s 1983 Pride celebration, colorful paintings of Vermont’s landscape and more. Read on to learn about summer and fall exhibits at nine Vermont museums across the state.
-For the Love of Vermont will feature a collection of Vermont paintings created more than 50 years ago that are owned by Lyman Orton of the Vermont Country Store. The exhibit includes this painting of the Vermont Country Store by Palmer Hayden. Courtesy of For the Love of Vermont.
Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester
More than 200 works of art that capture Vermont’s unique character, people, traditions and landscape will be featured in the For the Love of Vermont exhibit July 22 to Nov. 5. The exhibit, a collection of paintings—mostly created before the 1970s—are owned by Lyman Orton of the Vermont Country Store. They will be unveiled to the public in an unprecedented collaboration by two of Vermont museums—Southern Vermont Arts Center and Bennington Museum.
Orton, who believes art is history, curated a living time capsule of life in Vermont and the painters who painted Vermont over decades. He is now sharing his collection with Vermonters and all who love Vermont. Opening receptions will be July 15 in Bennington Museum and July 22 and SVAC. For more details about the collection and an accompanying new book, visit fortheloveofvermont.com.
Southern Vermont Arts Center, 860 SVAC Dr. / West Road, Manchester; svac.org. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission $10 for adults; $5 for students and seniors; and free for kids 10 and under.
-The Museum of Everyday Life opens The Wheel and Coming Clean exhibitions in June.
Museum of Everyday Life in Glover
The Museum of Everyday Life opens two exhibitions in June—The Wheel on June 3 and Coming Clean on June 4. The Wheel is an exhibition curated by the community that will feature all sorts of wheels, including pinwheels, pottery wheels, training wheels, hamster wheels, car tires, bicycle wheels and tractor wheels.
The Coming Clean exhibition explores bathing practices throughout time and across cultures, including religious immersion and ritual purification, bathing as a health cure, and washing methods in extreme environments.
The Museum of Everyday Life, 3482 Dry Pond Rd., Glover; museumofeverydaylife.org; This is a self-service museum open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Turn on the lights when you enter and off when you leave. Donations are accepted at the door. The space is not heated, so wear a coat if it’s cold.
-The Wagon by Stephen Huneck. Courtesy of Shelburne Museum
Founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, the Shelburne Museum includes houses, barns, a meeting house, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge and the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga. The museum features a variety of exhibits in 2023, including The Art of Stephen Huneck and an outdoor sculpture display, Pop Up: Inflated Sculpture, both open May 13 to Oct. 22.
Pet-Friendly: The Art of Stephen Huneck highlights the prolific career and multimedia artwork of celebrated Vermont artist Stephen Huneck (1948-2010). Despite limited training, Huneck worked fluidly between artistic media, including sculptural woodcarvings, furniture, paintings, stained glass windows, prints, children’s books, and more.
For Pop Up: Inflated Sculpture, the museum’s property will be dotted with inflated, playful forms and bold pops of color that spark conversations related to sensory, socio-political and cultural topics. Every two months, a new large outdoor sculpture by one of the participating artists will be on view at different locations at the museum’s grounds.
Shelburne Museum, 6000 Shelburne Rd., Shelburne; shelburnemuseum.org. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission $8-$25, kids under 5 admitted free.
-The Haunted Bridge, or Red Bridge, was a covered bridge that crossed the Walloomsack River just north of the Bennington Battle Monument. It was torn down around 1944. Courtesy of Bennington Museum.
Vermont has a storied history of the strange and unexplained, ranging from vampires in Manchester and spirits in Chittenden to haunted covered bridges and the Bennington Triangle. Shirley Jackson, perhaps the greatest horror/gothic fiction writer in the 20th-century, lived and worked for most of her career in North Bennington.
The museum presents Haunted Vermont July 22 to Dec. 31. Drawing on this rich framework of historical tales of monsters, ghosts, missing persons and the occult, the museum’s exhibit will share unforgettable stories with visitors.
Bennington Museum, 75 Main St., Bennington; benningtonmuseum.org; Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday-Tuesday June-October (Thursday-Monday in April/May and November/December). Admission $12-15, kids 17 and under admitted for free.
-From 1793 to 1961, Rokeby was home to four generations of Robinsons, a family of Quakers, farmers, abolitionists, artists and authors. Courtesy of Rokeby Museum.
Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburg
The Rokeby Museum opens for the season May 13 with Lift Every Voice, a four-week exhibition showcasing 15 hooked rugs reproduced from the “I Am a Black Woman” series by Elizabeth Catlett (1947). The museum’s main exhibition, Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont, as well as its trails and historic buildings, are also open to the public. Tours of the historic house are offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Rokeby Museum presents a variety of events over the summer, including Music with the Museum May 25 at the Ferrisburgh Community Center; Sheep and Wool Day June 17; and free museum day on Juneteenth.
Rokeby Museum, 4334 Route 7, Ferrisburgh; rokeby.org. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May-October. Admission $8-$10, kids under 6 admitted free.
-A yarn creation for the Paint-by-Number Cow exhibit. Courtesy of Main Street Museum.
Main Street Museum in White River Junction
A Paint-by-Number Cow exhibit runs from June 2 to late August, featuring 265 paint-by-number cows created by people—between the ages 2 to 86—from five countries. The display includes Paint-by-Number beaded 3-D cows, finger-painted cows, pen and ink cows, and even yarn and felted cows.
The Main Street Museum’s eclectic collection includes taxidermy, the skeleton of the Connecticut River Monster, toenails that supposedly belonged to Elvis, a 1930s-era self-playing piano, 10,000 piano rolls, and more.
Founded in 1992 by David Fairbanks Ford, the volunteer-run museum is housed in an old fire station. It hosts special events throughout the year.
Main Street Museum, 58 Bridge St., White River Junction; mainstreetmuseum.org. Open by appointment Thursday-Sunday. Admission is free; donations appreciated.
-The Pride 1983 exhibit shows archival materials from the Pride Center of Vermont, UVM, Out in the Open and personal collections. Courtesy of the Pride Center of Vermont and Vermont Folklife.
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center
Pride 1983 explores the origins and legacy of Burlington’s first LGBTQ2+ Pride celebration, which took place on June 25, 1983. The exhibit draws on archival materials from the Pride Center of Vermont, UVM Special Collections, the Out in the Open Oral History Project and the personal collections of individuals featured in the exhibition.
The exhibition, June 24 to Oct. 9, also includes interviews with 12 activists and organizers crucial to the establishment of Pride in Burlington. The exhibition is presented by the Pride Center of Vermont and Vermont Folklife.
Panel Discussion: Remembering Andrews Inn & Pop-up Gay Bar – Sept. 23, 5 to 8 p.m.
The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro; brattleboromuseum.org. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the museum is on a “pay-as-you-wish” basis. The suggested donation is $5-10 per adult.
-The Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury opened in 1884. Courtesy of the Henry Sheldon Museum.
Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History in Middlebury
The Sheldon Museum, the oldest community-based museum in the country, has welcomed visitors and researchers since 1884. The museum opens for the season with Variety Sew: A Sampling of Textile Tools and Devices, which includes sewing machines, spinning wheels, and a myriad of sewing paraphernalia. On display from May 13 to Sept. 30, many of these items have not been exhibited for decades and have Middlebury and Addison County histories.
The museum’s Unseen Neighbors Community, History & Collage will also be on display from May 13 to Aug. 26. Artists from Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Ukraine and several states reflected on the idea of community in the 21st-century using the museum’s collection. The result is 24 collage prints incorporating commentary on social connections, race and gender, nature, food and industry.
Henry Sheldon Museum, One Park St. Middlebury; henrysheldonmuseum.org. Open Wednesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission $5-$10, youth 18 and under admitted free.
-The Old Stone House Museum tells the story of Alexander Twilight, the first African-American college graduate and U.S. state legislator.
Old Stone Museum and Historic Village in Brownington
Located in the scenic town of Brownington in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the Old Stone House Museum and Historic Village opens for the season on May 20. The museum tells the story of Alexander Twilight, the first African-American college graduate and state legislator in the United States. He built the museum’s Old Stone House, which he called Athenian Hall.
Inside the museum’s 30 rooms are more than 75,000 objects—including furniture, paintings, tools, textiles, and folk art—that tell the story of Orleans County. In addition to the Old Stone House, the museum includes a collection of historic buildings from the 19th century.
The Old Stone House Museum and Historic Village, 109 Old Stone House Road, Brownington; oldstonehousemuseum.org. Open Wednesday- Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission $5-$10, kids under 5 admitted free. To go inside the Old Stone House and other historic buildings, you must book a tour in-person on arrival or online before you visit.
Which Vermont museums do you plan on visiting this year?
-Main image courtesy of Shelburne Museum.