All aboard: New Hampshire campers visit Brattleboro

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BRATTLEBORO >> Student campers from New Hampshire were shown different exhibits before making art projects of their own.

Impressed by the steel rail and sunset backdrop featured in artist Charlie Hunt's "August Bridge" during a visit to Brattleboro Museum & Art Center on Feb. 17, fifth-grader Kaime Sandoe noted this "kind of loneliness" in the piece but also the "old rusty rails, beams and the bridge."

While it didn't remind him too much of the train his camp took to get to Brattleboro that day, it did remind him of riding the rail back in Japan where he had lived during the summer. He had moved from New Hampshire to Japan and then back again.

"It's really different," Sandoe said. "I was living in an apartment building and I couldn't be loud. I couldn't run around. I wanted to bounce a lot. I couldn't have pets. There's not much space, no forest nearby, no big fields to run around. It was really hot and no snow in the winter. Here, there's warm summers, fields, forests, big houses."

However, he does enjoy metropolitan areas where things can be more convenient. He can easily walk to school, shops and trains.

Linda Whelihan, local arts educator who's employed part-time at the museum, told campers that BMAC used to be Union Station.

"Beginning in 1915, the building was a place where people and goods came to Brattleboro from all over the country," she said. "Now as a contemporary art museum, the building is a place where artists can take you to amazing places through their art."

The camp was referred to as "vacation camp" ... "because our schools are on break this week," explained Eleanor Elbers from The Orchard School and Community Center, an East Alstead, N.H.-based early education center. "We have after-school programs and summer camp programs."

She helped organize the week-long camp, which was run by the school in previous years. Students in first through fifth grades attended. The next program will be available in April and a summer camp will follow.

"We talk a lot at our center about transportation and green energy solutions," Elbers said. "These are all rural kids so we want them to know about museums and ways that you can travel that aren't driving in a car."

A train from Bellows Falls was taken to Brattleboro with Amtrak providing a discount to her group. Elbers said she heard kids saying things like, "This is totally rad!" and "I could ride this train all day!"

Fourth-grader Greta Fenn said the ride was kind of bumpy. She travels via train usually once a year.

"But my grandfather used to drive trains in Minnesota," she said.

What struck Fenn at the museum were drawings of birds from the ornithological collection at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History done by artist Monique Luchetti in "Energy Continues." According to the placard, Luchetti made the "bird-skin" drawings "realistically and in great detail, but in monumental scale with added bursts of color in swirling patterns."

After strolling through the museum, Whelihan said campers were asked to make an "accordion-style artist book" using colors and patterns to convey a sense of "place." They cut photographs out of National Geographic magazines and discussed with one another their projects.

Third-grader Iris Kilton said she was pretending to look through grass and down hills while working on the book. She was planning to add flowers to the matte board, saying she loves flowers.

Sitting at another table was second-grader Amos MacDougal-Jones, who said he was taking "bits and pieces of maps" and putting them on the matte board using glue. His theme was the deep sea.

"All the animals down there and the places people haven't explored," he said, referring to what he found interesting about the topic.

In the museum, he said he enjoyed seeing how similar and different all the art was.

After the museum, Elbers said campers headed to the Brattleboro Food Co-op to learn about systematic local agriculture. Camp programming is meant to look at sustainability, promoting access and sharing.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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