French lawyer-turned-artist Edgar Degas said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Einstein said, “Creativity is contagious.” There are hundreds of other affirmations about the healing power of art. With a current show under way and another one opening next month, Rutland’s Chaffee Art Center is getting back in the swing of things as a creative conduit, both online and in person.

Last week Executive Director Sherri Birkheimer Rooker talked about the current exhibit, its first since the pandemic, and the upcoming exhibit scheduled for next month. Both will have a virtual opening on the Chaffee’s Facebook page, as well as an opening at the mansion, with COVID-19 precautions.

Current show

A hand-carved sculpture of a multi-colored bird on a branch, a life-like drawing of a golden shepherd with emotive eyes, and a series of bright pink flowers painted in oil are just a sample of the work hanging in the mansion right now.

“Expanding Your Senses through the Arts” is the theme of the current show, which features two artists, Colleen Wilcox and Robert Waldo Brunelle Jr., in addition to the Chaffee’s Juried Artist Members work.

Wilcox’s work is a variety of inspiring quotes blended together with a mix of Vermont colors, and her unique whimsical lettering to create eye-catching, soul-speaking art.

“I start with a quote or phrase that really resonates with me,” she said by email earlier this year. “Then I sketch it out on a piece of paper. Next, I will hand-letter it with ink, add detail, and digitize the artwork to add color and resize it to print on cards, prints, stickers and more.”

Brunelle’s work covers everything from old houses, to book covers, and satirical cartoons, and anything in between. The Rutland-born-and-raised artist churns out work like an art factory.

“I try to create a new acrylic painting every 10 days,” Brunelle said by email, “a new sculpture every two months, and at least one new cartoon for Seven Days every week. I generally keep two paintings in progress at a time, so I can work on one while the other is drying.”

“I draw my cartoon strip digitally,” he added, “using a graphic tablet and Photoshop. My strip ‘Mr. Brunelle Explains It All’ is a political cartoon, so every evening I watch the news, then go to my studio to create the cartoon of the day. On Sundays I choose which cartoon to send to the editors for the following week’s issue.”

Brunelle is currently working on a series called “The Old Neighborhood,” based on vintage photos of Rutland and other spots in Vermont.

The overall theme of the Chaffee exhibit is to draw attention to how the five senses of smell, hearing, taste, touch, and sight help us understand and perceive the world around us and relate to art. It runs through July 24.

Student show

The student exhibit is a great opportunity to see some original and creative interpretations from young artists. A few years ago a small, ceramic handmade, hand-painted, gray elephant caught my eye and instantly melted my heart. A fifth-grade student had made it. Its head was tilted a little and eyes painted in such a way that to me it looked like it was smiling. I thought, “I will come back after the exhibit and if it’s still here I will buy it.” I did and it was and it gives me a little lift every time I see it.

The Annual Student Exhibit runs from July 31 to Sept. 4 with the theme, “The Arts Light Up the World,” which will run in tandem with the Chaffee’s Annual Amateur Photo Contest, with the theme “Light Up the World.”

Both exhibits aim to reflect an expression of how art creates light in dark times, and both are accepting submissions. The student exhibit is open to preschool through grade 12, in any medium including fine art, clay, metal, wood, and more. Drop-off is 8 to 10 a.m. Thursday, July 16.

“We pushed the student exhibit out further this year so that they have time after their virtual school ended to be able to experiment (with) art,” Birkheimer Rooker said. “Teachers are telling me the kids are excited about it. We’re hoping we get a lot of work.”

The photo exhibit entry deadline is Thursday, July 23, with 8 to 10 a.m. curbside drop-off. Awards will be given in various categories including youth 12 and younger, teen 13-18, and adults 18 and older. CCV will have its student show displayed at the same time.

If you can’t make it in person, the online gallery of juried artist members and online gallery shop are in the works, with a tentative July launch, which will have work for sale by juried member artists.

Keep in mind when visiting for now, occupancy is limited, masks will be required, as well as hand sanitization before entering (there is a station set up).

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