A local artist is back in Rutland County as the first of this year’s cohort for the 77ART visiting artists series.
Benjamin Aleshire, one of the rare writers hosted by the series, will be part of an event at the Opera House on Saturday, June 19.
Aleshire said he was excited to be part of the residency locally and added, “Right now, it’s happening in Rutland” while comparing the city to other areas that are larger and more traditionally known for arts.
But he also noted his local connection.
“Rutland County is my home. It’s where I grew up. All my ghosts are here, all of my memories are here, all of my first experiences happened here. This the place that formed me as a person and an artist, so I call it a homecoming, and it really is,” he said.
During the early days of his residency, Aleshire said he spends time walking around Rutland and retracing his steps and rediscovering things.
“For a poet, for an artist, it’s a pretty exciting opportunity,” he said.
Aleshire is from Cuttingsville but has traveled around the United States and the world as a poet and a photographer with a particular interest in cyanotypes.
Cyanotypes have been around for 175 years and use an iron salt solution to create an image printed entirely in blue tones.
Aleshire is using the process to create portraits in “vibrant blue tones.”
Aleshire is the second writer to be part of the 77ART visiting artists series. He said he is writing a book called “Poet for Hire” about his experiences traveling around the world and writing poems for people on his typewriter.
By email, Whitney Ramage, director of the 77ART residency program, said Aleshire was invited to join the visiting artists program because of his local roots.
“We’re very excited to have Ben as writer-in-residence to kick off our 2021 cycle. I love the fact that this a homecoming for him — it gives us all a chance to take stock of the talent that gets created right here at home and spreads throughout the world,” Ramage said.
The program was paused last year because of the pandemic, but is active again with more artists scheduled to come to Rutland later in the summer.
For June, Aleshire will be writing and creating at the Opera House on Merchants Row and living on Cottage Street.
He’s excited to be back in local environs after living in places like Burlington and New Orleans and has been part of residencies at Saranac Lake, New York; Paris; Hamburg, Germany; and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson.
“But I have to say, 77ART has so much more space. Their gallery is like five or 10 times as large as the Vermont Studio Center gallery. … The resources available here in Rutland, it’s so exciting. The studios are huge,” he said.
While Aleshire said there were excellent facilities at the studio center in Johnson, he said he was drawn to the connection available between the artists and the community provided by 77ART.
The Vermont Studio Center provides food created by a gifted and highly-trained chef but for 77ART, Rutland residents volunteer to bring artists lunch.
“Then you have a chat with someone from the community,” he said.
Aleshire noted that that he was in residency at 77ART and inclined to speak favorably, but promised he was sharing his true impressions.
“It is one of the coolest residencies I’ve ever been to — I think it’s the most exciting artistic thing happening in Vermont right now. I’ve been based in Burlington so long. There’s nothing like this happening in Burlington” he said.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, Aleshire will host a free poetry workshop for the community aimed at people of any age or skill level.
At 7 p.m. June 26, Aleshire will host an open studio party that will include a poetry reading. He has invited other poet friends to come to the event to read their work as well, including Clare Welch, a poet from Pittsburgh.