by Carla Occaso
CALAIS — What is better than viewing the inside of a historic tavern and general store a stone’s throw from magical Maple Corner? Viewing a historic old tavern chock full of eye-popping paintings and delightful, yet thought-provoking marionettes.
The art exhibit, “Parables,” is part of the town’s annual Art at the Kent presentation and features the work of Brattleboro-based artists Julia Zanes and her husband Donald Saaf. Members of the Kent Museum curatorial staff, Nel Emlen and Allyson Evans, were at the museum August 26 and allowed The Bridge to take an advance peek.
The paintings are lively, vivid and engaging. “Saaf attributes some of his thinking to Swedish folklore. Storytelling is the core of what they are doing,” Evans said. “I stumbled upon Saaf in Brattleboro. Saaf and Zanes work very closely together and they each paint. Normally their shows are group shows.”
In addition to the paintings, marionettes made by Zanes are also on display. Many of Zanes’s images — in the paintings and on the marionettes — involve angels and angel wings. Saaf built the theater for the marionettes and Michele Ratte did the gold detail on the marionettes.
“This is an exhibit for a younger audience. There is such a fancifulness about it,” Emlen said. Emlen went on to say there will be art workshops for children and teens. “A group of teens from Montpelier is doing puppet-making with Zanes.”
The art exhibit begins Friday, September 9. There will be an Opening Celebration on Saturday, September 10, from 3 to 5 p.m. that will feature food, drink and jazz by Lewis Franco and The Brown Eyed Girls, with special guest Dono Schabner. The exhibition will be open Fridays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., until the closing celebration on Sunday, October 9, from 3 to 5 p.m.
The marionettes will come to life on October 8 with Zanes operating them to the music of Saaf in a performance of excerpts from Goethe’s “Faust” entitled “The Green Gold Tree.”
The Kent museum is a 10-mile drive north of Montpelier on the County Road. “The month-long exhibition of contemporary art within the bones of these old buildings has proven to be an incredible draw to our quiet community during September and early October weekends for the past number of years,” said David Schutz, State Curator of the museum. “The opportunity to introduce the amazing works of Donald Saaf and Julia Zanes to northern Vermont audiences is an exciting privilege. This is art that can and will be appreciated by all ages.”
Art at the Kent strives to create exhibitions of contemporary works that engage and challenge visitors within the historic Kent Tavern by providing unusual exposure to mid-19th-century architecture enhanced by the art of our time. The museum is a state-owned historic site, administered by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.
Associated events at the Kent:
“The Green Gold Tree”: A marionette performance (for all ages) by Julia Zanes to the music of Donald Saaf will take place at dusk on Saturday, October 8, featuring the Bluebird Orchestra, in the ballroom of the Kent Museum.
WORDS OUT LOUD: Poetry & Parables, Fantasy and Fables
Sundays in September and October from 3 to 4 p.m. at the neighboring Old West Church – 758 Old West Church Road, Calais.
Emlen, Evans and David Schutz make up the curatorial team of the Kent Museum. Mary Elder Jacobsen and Jody Gladding are the Words Out Loud coordinators.
Visit kentscorner.org for additional information on all activities.