Rutland seems to have an endless capacity to reinvent itself. This post-industrial city is becoming a mecca for the arts with new galleries and public art sculptures throughout downtown. The latest experiment is an artist residency called 77 Art, the brainchild of curator and artist Whitney Ramage. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — daughter of two artists, Bill Ramage and Beth Miller, Whitney grew up in a crucible of art. She now divides her time between Rutland and New York City. When Bill Ramage first introduced Whitney to the 77 Gallery space at 77 Grove St., she was just returning from a residency at The Studio at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. She saw the expansive space and adjoining rooms of the 77 Gallery as a perfect location to host a similar program. In a residency setting, artists work in separate studios in close proximity to each other, with frequent interchange and cross-pollination. 77 Art, the first residency hosted by 77 Gallery, invited seven artists to work for the month of August. The gallery and studios are open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Visitors to the gallery can observe the artists’ working methods and finished works. Over 30 local artists and art enthusiasts are providing daily lunches and the artists are sharing a group apartment provided by Mark Foley Properties. The residency will culminate in a gala exhibit on Aug. 30. The artists, who were chosen by a residency committee, traveled from Milwaukee, Miami, New York and Boston to participate in this bold Rutland experiment. Debo Mouloudji, who was raised between Paris and Milwaukee, paints portraits of people, always with the person sitting in front of her. The energy of the long hours of interchange becomes a part of the painting. The finished works are powerful, passionate portrayals. Mouloudji comes from an artistic family with roots in Europe, many of whom were holocaust survivors. She believes that this history caused her to develop a deep empathy for the human condition. Continuing studies in comparative mythology and anthropology sustain her fundamental belief in our shared nature. She had several oil paintings in progress — one of well-known local artist Dick Weis that captures perfectly his often-quizzical gaze. On Debo’s studio easel, a portrait of Whitney Ramage is staring concertedly at her father Bill in his iconic blue, red and gray striped shirt. Several of the resident artists work in the medium of fabric. Amalya Meira Goldberg, of Brooklyn, describes herself as a “zero waste designer.” She creates wearable art from vintage textiles, often printing on them with cyanotype, a blue photographic chemical activated by the sun. The clothing is wonderfully pieced together with inventive pattern lines joined by layers of wide machine stitching in contrasting colors. Goldberg talks about her process being “slow fashion” like slow food but also describes each piece of clothing as intuitively finding itself, like jazz. The resulting pieces take a variety of forms — a multi-colored crochet top, a white leather skirt embroidered in rosette patterns of red, pink and gold. Her enthusiasm infuses every original sewn item that she creates. Juna Skenderi, originally from Albania, now also living in Brooklyn, works in fabric in a completely different manner. Her work involves careful, geometric stitchery in subtle colors on cream-colored, soft denim. The circle imprint of the large embroidery hoop provides an understated frame for the pieces hung on the wall of the gallery. The tiny, regular, meditative stitches evolved as a mode of self-nurturing to deal with the anxiety of having lived a majority of her life as an undocumented immigrant from the age of 9. She has a natural interest in textiles and folk art from her country of origin, where the women of her childhood sewed every article of clothing by hand. It is hard to believe that the stitches of the overlapping and intersecting parallelograms are actually hand sewn, given their measured precision. One wall of her studio has a recycled thrift-shop vest that she wore to a demonstration in Washington, D.C. with the word “dreamer” printed on it. Also present is a hand-embroidered vest from Albania, sent by her aunt. The wall is there to remind her of her true center, in the midst of the uncertain roller coaster of her existence. The lush greenery of Vermont, the wildflowers and the farmers’ market have all been life-giving elements for her. In an adjoining studio, Sofia Plater, a recent MFA graduate of the Boston Museum School, has filled her working space with all manner of grids — metal, plastic, square, round. Her approach is very experimental and process oriented. A series of “cones” were developing with plaster and cement extruded through the grid-like constructs. Each one has a cast clear resin top that contains a variety of materials — curled metal shavings, sand, a series of small plastic balls that catch the light. They are like quirky, tilted totems piled on each other. It is quite fascinating to see her sense of invention inspired by the kinds of materials that are readily available in any hardware store, and that she scavenges from recycle centers. Karen Chan, of Queens, is excited about working in a space that is hers alone, as opposed to her shared city studio. She has also made use of Rutland’s extraordinary Makerspace, called The Mint, which includes equipment as varied as a band saw, a CNC router and a 3-D printer. She is impressed with the available tools, and says she doesn’t know of any facility in New York that offers the breadth of resources available at The Mint. Chan has been creating an organic “net,” with asymmetrical and irregular openings, using a basic crochet stitch learned at the residency. This is suspended in a corner of her studio with an 8mm film of Ireland projected onto it.  By experimenting with colored layers of reflective Mylar, mixed media and found objects, Chan is continually exploring the interface between our inner consciousness and the ever-changing external world. As a natural introvert, the 77 Art residency was initially challenging for her, but she has appreciated the safe, supportive environment. Being part of an art community “where everyone talks about art instead of paying bills” has been a great plus. As an art duo, Annie Blazejack and Geddes Levenson, of Miami, have been collaborating since they met on a fourth grade softball team. They now have a shared art practice where the conceptual work, images, ideas and composition are all mingled. Sometimes they can remember who did what, but most often the interchange is spontaneous. Blazejack and Levenson call themselves “agents of action,” and the project they are working on during the residency certainly fits the description. The duo is planning “Furies Ride,” a bicycle performance, complete with a live video chat that will be projected at Locust Projects, a nonprofit space in Miami dedicated to experimental work in the arts. They have invited a friend, Alina Lopez-Trigo, an experienced cyclist, to ride with them. The three cyclists will travel from the suburbs into Miami wearing decorative, sculptural helmets on their heads that will hold their iPhones. The cameras will pick up many of the changing socio-economic environments they are passing through on the 8-mile ride into the inner city. Blazejack demonstrated the first alligator shaped helmet that is in process. It is intriguing, entertaining and menacing at the same time — definitely original. Who knows, maybe the Rutland community might get a preview before the residency ends. In addition to working together, residency artists are offering a series of talks and workshops covering such topics as hand-bound sketchbooks, painting and knitting circles. Local artists Oliver Schemm, Fran Bull and Erika Lawler Schmidt have facilitated evening discussions between the artists and community. The residency artists have been impressed with the vitality, interest and passion of the Rutland area artists who have welcomed them. Blazejack was moved by Nancy Weis’ impromptu lesson in twining — a hand weaving technique, which accompanied the delicious Indian lunch she provided as one of the “lunch angels.” Whitney Ramage has designed an energetic artist residency, which is generating even more interest in Rutland as an arts destination. Rutland has created a unique opportunity for many of these artists who come from larger urban environments with a shortage of affordable workspace. Mouloudji talks of feeling “comfortable secluded in this green valley,” and “appreciating the time to focus on renewing the energies of her true path.” 77 Art is giving these artists the chance to experience Vermont’s community and culture and to share their own cultures of origin with local Rutland artists.  What better way to encourage inspiration and understanding on a personal level in the increasingly complex world in which we live?   77 Gallery 77 Gallery presents “77 Art,” an art residency, through Aug. 31, at the CVPS Building, 77 Grove St., Rutland. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; call 802-299-7511, or go online to www.77art.org.

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