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ABC Mural of Local Distinctiveness | The Gift of a Sense of Place

ABC Mural of Local Distinctiveness | The Gift of a Sense of Place
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first panel detail of the Craftbury Alphabet Mural:

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
first panel detail of the Craftbury Alphabet Mural:

“Wow—look at all that blue sky! You didn’t put in any of our grey winter clouds,” June Pichel Cook, the local reporter noted as she assessed the new mural, its paint still wet.

“Yes, this is an idealized version,” Sarah Mutrux, the Art House’s executive director replied, “but we feel it celebrates the best aspects of this place, and what makes it special and unique.” Sarah was speaking on behalf of the more than 100 people–from age two to ninety something, and from “just moved here last week” to “lived here all my life” — who contributed to this ABC mural of local distinctiveness.

Just about the time Yankee’s ABCs of Autumn issue was hitting the stands, people in Craftsbury, Vermont, were just starting to bear down on the finer points of an alphabet that best describes not only a season, but a town, a six mile by six mile hunk of land that a thousand folks call home.  Should “B” stand for Bull’s Eye Granite—the rare geological “orbicule” formations found in the rocks out by the Town Garage? Or should “B” stand for Brown’s Beautiful Blueberries—a local pick-your-own operation so bountiful, I’ll wager half the town has gallon or more stocked away in their freezer. Maybe “B” should stand for our Black River, which swerves back and forth through the village like someone having drastic second thoughts. This conversation played out on fill-in-the- blank questionnaires left out at the town Library, the Historical Society and the Art House, until finally they were gathered up and selectively illustrated by children in Sarah’s art classes as well as two of the town’s fine artists, Kristin Urie and Viola Reil.

A is for the Academy-- Craftsbury's  K-12 public school (painted by Kristin Urie)

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
A is for the Academy– Craftsbury’s K-12 public school (painted by Kristin Urie)

B is for Brown's Beautiful Blueberries (pained by Viola Reil)

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
B is for Brown’s Beautiful Blueberries (pained by Viola Reil)

F is for Farmer's Market (painted by Kristin Urie)

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
F is for Farmer’s Market (painted by Kristin Urie)

T is for the Trouble with Harry-- a Hitchcock film made in Craftsbury (painted by Kristin Urie)

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
T is for the Trouble with Harry– a Hitchcock film made in Craftsbury (painted by Kristin Urie)

X is for X-country skiing (painted by Viola Reil)

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
X is for X-country skiing (painted by Viola Reil)

Last, muralist Tara Goreau sat down with Sarah Mutrux to sketch out a three panel tableau combining all the possibilities. The resulting mural features the changing seasons and illustrates some of Craftbury’s distinct cultural, historical and natural features with additional alphabet ideas framing the edges. Over the summer the Art House held three “Come and paint it!” days for the community to color in Tara’s outlined designs. Then Heather Stearns of Muddy Creek Pottery held a tile making workshop where participants formed and embellished each letter. Finally, all these elements—words, images and tiled letters coalesced in the handsome “selfie” of Craftsbury, Vermont, the result of a hundred hands. And it hangs on the back wall of the Art House, radiating plenty of color to cheer us though some of winter’s cloudy days.

second panel detail of Craftbury Alphabet Mural

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
second panel detail of Craftbury Alphabet Mural

third panel detail of Craftbury Alphabet Mural

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
third panel detail of Craftbury Alphabet Mural

middle panel detail of Craftbury Alphabet Mural

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
middle panel detail of Craftbury Alphabet Mural

The whole mural of Craftsbury's Alphabet of Distinctiveness (designed by muralist Tara Goreau)

The whole mural of Craftsbury’s Alphabet of Distinctiveness (designed by muralist Tara Goreau)

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Julia Shipley

Author:

Julia Shipley

Biography:

Julia Shipley is the author of three poetry chapbooks and most recently, a prose collection Adam's Mark: Writing from the Ox House, supported by a 2010-11 Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant and published by Plowboy Press. Her Vermont Rural Life blog showcases the people, land and community of her unique corner of Vermont-- a mix of mountains and fields, daisies and delphiniums, Holstein cows and eight point Bucks, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, newcomers and old-timers all making their way in one of the least populated places on the east coast
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