BRATTLEBORO -- The work of 13 different local artists currently graces the walls of the Works Bakery Cafe on Main Street, creating an eclectic show that highlights each artist’s unique style.
Each painting represents a Windham County location or event, from a watercolor cow to a colorful collage of jazz musicians, and now anyone can take the art home in a calendar.
Kay Curtis, of Brattleboro, took on the project as a part of the self-expression and leadership program she is enrolled in at Landmark Education in Quincy, Mass.
The artists all chose a favorite local attraction as the inspiration for their work. The Vermont Jazz Center, Harris Hill Ski Jump, Women’s Film Festival and many more were represented in the calendar.
Curtis said she began "collecting artists" to portray these local events and organizations after she came to the realization that her project would have more of an impact on the community as a group effort, rather than a solo effort.
"The idea was to empower others to see their greatness," she said.
Several of the featured artists had never shown their work in a public setting, she said.
"There was no process where I asked to see the artists’ work to determine if it was good enough, and I have no regrets," Curtis said. "I think it’s the perfect show."
Local businesses stepped in to make the project possible. C & S Wholesale Grocers gave a grant to
Curtis said she commissioned Minutemen Press to publish the 500 calendars, and Zephyr Designs to frame all of the artwork.
"I wanted to keep all of the money in the community," she explained.
The group of artists is still looking for businesses willing to sell their calendars. Already The Works, The Book Cellar and Vermont Artisan Designs has agreed to carry them.
The calendars sell for $15 apiece. All of the proceeds, after expenses are recouped, will be donated to Windham County Reads, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing families and books together and inspiring people of all ages to become lifetime readers.
One of the artists, Elizabeth Johnson, of Brattleboro, said she enjoyed the experience of putting the project together.
"It was incredible," she said. "It showed me how we can all come together as individuals and really get stuff done."
Finding willing artists was all done through social networking, she said.
For example, Curtis, an early education provider who runs Happy Hands Day Care in Brattleboro, said she discovered Johnson after she wrote a check for the care of her young son.
"I saw her handwriting and I said, ‘you have to be an artist," Curtis said.
Most of the other 11 members of the group came together through similar fortunate occurrences, though a few of them knew each other before the project began.
Artist Maia Bissette heard about it from Johnson, who she knows through the Brattleboro Union High School art classes they took together.
"I work at Mocha Joe’s, so we see each other every day," Bissette said with a laugh.
As an art student, she’s happy that she got to be part of the project.
"The experience of being involved in a community-based project is a great thing to have on a resume," she said. "To take part in a project that retains the artists’ rights to their work but also supports a non-profit is a really great opportunity."
Now that the 13 artists know each other, Curtis said the hope is to start an artist-run cooperative gallery in town with a yearly calendar serving as the gallery’s main fundraiser. They are currently looking for a proper space.
"We might have more news about that in the spring," Curtis said.
The art show at The Works will be displayed until Nov. 4. The art is available for purchase, Curtis said, adding that she encourages the various organizations that are highlighted in the show to purchase the piece they inspired.
Those who wish to purchase a calendar can do so at the local retailers mentioned above or at www.celebratebrattleboro.com. Anyone who would like more information is asked to call Kay Curtis at 802-257-7235.
Jaime Cone can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.