Burlington is also the home of the best and liveliest artists’ community Vermont has to offer. Burlington has five excellent art galleries ranging from the more traditional Fleming Museum on the UVM campus to the Firehouse Gallery on the Church Street Marketplace to the artist studios and galleries of the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery and 266 Pine Street Gallery in the thriving artist colony now know as the South End Art District and Mark Boedges Fine Art Gallery on Battery Street.
Each year on the second weekend in September the South End Art District hosts the Art Hop, which draws a throng of thousands for the best City wide artists celebration and party Burlington has ever experienced. The electricity of this event on Friday night is a unique experience that simply can’t be missed by any Burlington artist or arts lover. The entire Pine Street corridor is converted to an art gallery where patrons of the arts can purchase artistic creations by a host of starving Burlington artists for very reasonable prices. This is an event not to be missed where everything and everyone goes.
And probably the most interesting thing about the Art Hop is its organic origins almost 30 years ago now as yet another grass roots effort by local artists to promote their artistic creations. The Pine Street corridor was a dilapidated old industrial wasteland well into the 1980s when local artists started renting cheap old industrial buildings and converting them into studios. Steven Conant deserves much of the credit for this development due to his altruistic decision to forego higher rents in the old soda plant building on Pine Street and instead rent this space for less to starving artists. These artists soon realized they needed a way to market their creations. What they came up with was the Art Hop, a weekend of art displays spread throughout the studio spaces of the artists concentrated in the dilapidated old industrial buildings along the Pine Street corridor in Burlington’s south end.
But the Burlington arts community is so much more than the Art Hop. Burlington is also host to the UVM Lane Series, a set of performances spread out over most of the fall at various venues throughout the city including the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, an old movie theater renovated with private donations in 1981 that now features world class performances year round. A small performing arts space was opened next door to the Flynn on Main Street in 2005. The Pine Street Art District, the Firehouse Gallery and the Flynn and Flynn Space are all within easy walking distance of downtown hotels. Main Street Landing on Lake Street facing Waterfront Park hosts a series of vintage movies for free. It is also within easy walking distance of downtown hotels.
Royal Tyler Theater on the UVM campus is still another intimate performance space created in 1975 by converting an old gymnasium, into an outstanding small performance arena. It is the venue for a series of Shakespeare plays each summer. Royall Tyler Theater and the Fleming Museum are a bit more of a walk uphill from downtown hotels or you can catch the free College Street Shuttle from the waterfront up to the UVM Green.
Burlington also hosts the Discover Jazz Festival for jazz music lovers for a whole week in early June each year. Most of these venues are on the Church Street Marketplace but some of them are also performed in the event space at Waterfront Park, all within easy walking distance from downtown hotels. Each year since 1982 Burlington has also hosted the non-alcoholic New Year’s Eve alternative celebration of the arts known as First Night with over 40 venues for performances spread throughout downtown but mostly concentrated on the Church Street Marketplace. Contemporary music is available throughout the summer at outdoor concerts at Snow Farm Vineyard in South Hero and at Higher Ground’s indoor venue in South Burlington year round. Live performances are also available at Nectars on Main Street in downtown Burlington, the birthplace of Burlington’s most famous band perhaps best known as the successor to the Grateful Dead: Phish.
And of course no discussion of the arts in Burlington would be complete without mentioning the contribution of Doreen Craft and her excellent work to encourage a thriving arts community in Burlington through Burlington City Arts started by the Sanders Administration in 1983. Doreen and Burlington City Arts have been a stalwart of public advocacy for the arts in Burlington for over 30 years now.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the brand new venue for the arts about to open at the Old Moran Electric Generating Station on the waterfront. Two local UVM students of urban industrial redesign from Charlotte named Tad Cooke and Erick Crockenberg joined with Charlie Tipper in Mayor Miro Weinberger’s Moran reuse contest in 2012 and came up with a redesign plan for the old derelict and decaying Moran Electric Generating Station which sat vacant as a rusting hulk on the waterfront since its retirement generating electricity for Burlington in 1986. Tad and Erick came up with a $33 million plan to reuse the plant as another public venue for the arts, a restaurant, a micro-brewery and glass blowing facility and rallied public support for the plan for three years before receiving a commitment of $6.3 million in waterfront tax incremental financing funds on the Burlington city ballot in March 2015. The rest of the funds to build the project will be raised through tax credits and private donations. The City is looking forward to a New Moran rebirth opening sometime in 2016 or 2017 if all goes well. We wish Tad and Erick the best.
Finally the most famous local musician of recent times is Grace Potter and her band, the Nocturnals. Grace plays concerts all over the world and you may have heard some of her recordings as well. Every year in early September Grace is the headliner of the Grand Point North concert held in the event space at Waterfront Park in downtown Burlington. Buy your tickets early. Her concert often sells out.