I am a Vermont Artist: Alexa Rivera

I am a Vermont Artist: Alexa Rivera

To hold something is harder than you might think. It takes preparation, motivation, ancient skill and technique. All through history, there have been people for whom holding is a calling: the weavers.

Alexa Rivera of Burlington has been weaving since she was 10. It started with needle and thread bead weaving in Poughkeepsie, NY, where she would help the older women in her classes thread their needles. After moving to Vermont in 2012, Alexa often found herself weaving with natural materials found in the woods. This habit grew into a vocation and a business, WOVN.COUNTRY, through which Alexa has been selling fine baskets and teaching the art and craft of basket weaving since 2016.

Like so many Vermonters, Alexa is down to earth about her work. There was a time when she hesitated to think of her baskets as art—she makes them because they are useful, because they hold things people need. But Alexa has found that her weaving is more than the sum of its parts. It is a way to engage the human spirit, and to strengthen our connections to the land and to our ancestors.

Alexa shared her thoughts on being a Vermont artist.

How has living as an artist in Vermont affected your creative process?

There is something about the smallness of Vermont that makes things possible. One summer I decided I wanted to be a beekeeper, and one Craigslist search and a few emails later and I was spending my days surrounded by swarms of bees, working for one of the largest commercial beekeeping operations in the state, swollen with venom and sticky with honey, driving all around the Champlain Islands and Northeast Kingdom to check on colonies and queens.

Coming from a much bigger place (I grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY, and had family all throughout New York City), it just didn’t seem as possible that you could want to do something or be something, and then go do it. Vermont is small, and the community is wildly and overwhelmingly supportive, and my creative process has expanded from the weightlessness of possibility. This place is beautiful, and people are all over the state looking at those mountains and streams and deciding that they can do interesting things and live good lives. It just makes you wanna do it too.

What is something about your art that has changed over time?

Something that has changed about my art over time is actually allowing myself to view what I do as “art” at all. For a while, I was very quick to make the distinction that what I was doing was a craft—done across the globe since forever, one that I had no claim to have invented, and that was about usefulness and practicality. “Art” to me was big and important, and the artists that I looked up to were making things that were about love and death and existence and trauma and joy and life’s great questions, and I just wanted to make things that held other things.

What has changed is that now I know just making things to hold other things is also about love and death and existence and trauma and joy and life’s great questions. And the days it’s not about that at all, the days it’s just about the rhythm of under over, under over, whew—those are the best days.

What is your vision for the next several years?

In the next few years, I’d like to explore place and identity through my basketry. For years I have woven other peoples’ baskets, such as Adirondack pack baskets and Appalachian egg baskets, and learned their histories. But now I want, and need, to weave the baskets of my own people. Puerto Rico, where my father’s side is from, has a palm weaving tradition, as well as the fascinating basketry tradition of the Taíno—the indigenous people of the islands.

One of my projects in dreaming phase right now is to explore those traditional Caribbean techniques, but to weave them with plants native to Vermont—and then to weave the classic styles of baskets of the Northeast, but substituting the materials for tropical grasses and vines. I see it as a nod to and a study of people and place, and our blood home and our choice home, and the idea of being “half of,” which I think many people, particularly mixed race people, struggle with. I also just wanna make pretty things and drink whiskey and try to fight for justice and have fun, you know?

Visit Alexa’s website.

Follow WOVN.COUNTRY on Instagram.

Read this recent interview with Alexa.

The “I am a Vermont Artist” series explores how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age. Covering all artistic disciplines, and a range of backgrounds—from New Americans to the state’s first residents—we hope to amplify voices that deepen our understanding of what it means to be a Vermont artist. This story by the Vermont Arts Council originally appeared at https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/blog/i-am-a-vermont-artist-alexa-rivera/

Greensea Expands to Creamery Building

Greensea Expands to Creamery Building

Vermont’s small-business-minded community makes for fertile ground for businesses to grow, even during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Greensea, a Richmond-based business that creates and maintains OPENSEA, the universal open architecture software for deep-sea robotics applications, recently expanded its operations into another nearby building, Richmond’s Creamery. 

The company marked its 15th year in business by leasing 4,200 square feet of the building for use as offices and laboratory space. 

Dawn D’Angelillo, marketing director at Greensea, says the new space will allow the company to add to its ranks and build a more tightly knit community of employees. Greensea, which had 49 employees in August 2021, will likely hire a dozen more people by the end of the year, she said.  

Greensea founder and owner Ben Kinnaman “is very about community,” D’Angelillo said, and the company grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We didn’t feel how much we had grown, because all of us were remote, but then Ben really wanted people to start getting back together and communicating and collaborating side by side. He wanted more people together and the Vermont office had gotten so big we couldn’t really be in the same building comfortably,” D’Angelillo said.  

Greensea is primarily Vermont-based, but an office in Plymouth, Mass. allows employees to meet with harbor-based clients and access the ocean to test systems, D’Angelillo said. About 70% of the company’s employees live and work in Vermont.

Kinnaman is determined to keep his business in Vermont and grow it here.

He started his career as a commercial diver and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) pilot in North Carolina, and that’s when D’Angelillo said he was inspired to create the open architecture software platform for the marine industry that would become OPENSEA.

His employer at the time wasn’t interested in helping develop it, so Kinnaman decided to go into business for himself.

He and his wife had vacationed in Vermont and decided it would be their new home and that of Kinnaman’s new business.

Kinnaman says he found support in Vermont’s lending institutions and from the state of Vermont when he first started Greensea.

“What Vermont offers that no other state can offer is a rich and vibrant community of like-minded entrepreneurs and a support network that is unequaled,” Kinnaman said.

“When we first started Greensea, no lender would look at us twice but Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) would. They’ve been just amazing. … Vermont also has a great and very approachable investor community.  This ranges from angels, to private equity, to institutional equity.  I have been very fortunate to find two amazing private equity investors that have been sources of both capital as well as mentorship.  This investor community also provides an accessible network of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and leaders.  This is a fun and productive network.”

Kinnaman highlighted Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies for its advice and assistance as Greensea grew.

D’Angelillo says Greensea also received several state grants during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic which helped them add new employees and expand into the new space at the Creamery building, including a Vermont Employment Grant Incentive, a State Trade Expansion Program grant and a Small Business Innovation Research grant.

The Vermont Department of Economic Development also led a years-long effort to redevelop and remediate the Creamery building where Greensea now leases space.

“People ask, ‘Why did you choose Vermont?’ Why not?” she said. “Robotics and autonomy is changing so much that there’s a future where there’s going to be a vehicle that is unmanned but has an ROV that is connected to the ship controlled by someone in an office,” and that office might be anywhere.

“What makes Vermont really special is the lifestyle we can offer our employees and their families,” Kinnaman said.

I am a Vermont Artist: A2VT

I am a Vermont Artist: A2VT

The idea for A2VT was sparked when Said Bulle “Jilib” and George Mnyonge “MG Man” met on a Burlington soccer field. It was there they discovered their shared love of music and shared refugee roots. A decade later, A2VT has just released a new single, Faas Waa, and has been touring throughout Vermont and New England.

We spoke with Jilib and MG Man about what it is like to be artists in Vermont.

How has living and making music in Vermont affected your creative process?

Living in Vermont, with its four unique seasons helps us to set time aside, especially in winter, to develop our songwriting and recording. If we lived in a place like Florida or California, our lifestyle would be completely different and we might not have enough time to do all the things important to us. Vermont is quiet and has less people living in it, allowing us more time to focus on our creativity. Our music has evolved to be more dance oriented, more Afropop and Dancehall (Jamaican) influenced. When we first started making music almost ten years ago, it was more a hybrid of African, World, and Western music. The tempos have become faster as well.

What is your vision for the next several years?

We want to get our new album out and start the next one. We’d like to tour the country and the world, sharing our story of where we come from with new friends from everywhere. Also, make more videos and become homeowners at some point. We wanna’ be the next Phish, but African style!

visit A2VT’s website
read an interview with PRI
watch a video of the new single Faas Waa

The “I am a Vermont Artist” series explores how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age. Covering all artistic disciplines, and a range of backgrounds—from New Americans to the state’s first residents—we hope to amplify voices that deepen our understanding of what it means to be a Vermont artist. This story by the Vermont Arts Council originally appeared at https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/blog/i-am-a-vermont-artist-a2vt/

I am a Vermont Artist: Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees

I am a Vermont Artist: Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees

“Making/creating is a link to a deep remembering of who we are,” writes Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees. Over more than five decades, TwoTrees has explored the connections between nature and self through a number of media. Her work has been exhibited and is in collections in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand, and she is a past recipient of the Lila Wallace International Artist Award.

TwoTrees shared her thoughts about being a Vermont artist.

How has living as an artist in Vermont affected your creative process?

Moving to Vermont from the New Mexico high desert affected my process in multiple ways. My relationship to landscape and nature had always been primary and intimate and here in Vermont the starkness of the seasons re-tuned me in a different way. I turned more inward during the winter and had creative bursts rather than the subtle long and slow unfolding of my process in the seasons of the desert. I also moved between mediums more frequently—from artist books to installations to sculpture and writing—trying to stay resonant with landscape and seasonal energy. As a conceptual artist this change has given me a chance to engage with different audiences and learn from that interaction.

What is something about your art that has changed over time?

I have been creating and exhibiting work for over fifty years and have been fascinated by large scale conceptual work–mostly installation/performance. As I have moved around the world and aged I have begun experimenting with smaller scale, both in presentation and in ideas. I find that change in landscape and in physical ability have given me new avenues and mediums to explore. I am also returning to more collaborative work, which offers greater range of expression when there is deep resonance between the artists. I am continually searching for new ways to make connections to people and to consciousness. In my work I am seeking ways to pose questions that invite/provoke the viewer to remember/dream a more hospitable world for all living beings.

What is your vision for the next several years?

At the moment I am working to shift my focus to video in order to engage multiple generations of viewers and a larger audience. It means using my studio work to create some of the material for video. I am currently working on a collaboration with musicians to create a visual narrative interpretation of my paintings as a video. I see video as a way for me to engage in collaborations with other artists and one that will stretch my creative vision and our ability to engage the viewer in ways I do not yet know.

View TwoTrees’ Gallery.
Explore TwoTrees’ writing.
Watch videos by TwoTrees.

The “I am a Vermont Artist” series explores how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age. Covering all artistic disciplines, and a range of backgrounds—from New Americans to the state’s first residents—we hope to amplify voices that deepen our understanding of what it means to be a Vermont artist. This story by the Vermont Arts Council originally appeared at https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/blog/i-am-a-vermont-artist-kaylynn-sullivan-twotrees/

Regional Spotlight: Get to Know the Real Rutland

Regional Spotlight: Get to Know the Real Rutland

Rutland County, Vermont is the perfect place to put down roots for young and seasoned professionals alike. Throughout the region, countless professional career opportunities are filling job boards, amazing year-round outdoor recreation activities are just steps from our backyards, and the ability to get involved in the community is seamless. With these opportunities present across the region, the Regional Marketing Initiative – known as Real Rutland – was born to attract and recruit both individuals and families to consider a move to the Green Mountains that we get to call home.

Real Rutland lives under Chamber & Economic Development of the Rutland Region (CEDRR). Funding for the initiative comes from a diverse population of municipalities, businesses, and individuals who feel increasing the Rutland County population is a priority. The staff at CEDRR, along with various partners, work diligently to highlight the amazing lifestyle available throughout Vermont.

As part of Real Rutland, our region offers a complimentary Concierge Program. The Concierge Program is comprised of over thirty very active volunteers who are passionate about Rutland County and always love meeting new people. These volunteers are young professionals, families, small business owners, life-long Vermonters, and new residents. They are available to provide insights and perspectives of what life in Rutland County looks like first-hand. In addition to these perspectives, our volunteers are more than willing to answer questions, make additional introductions both personally and professionally, and go out of their way to make Vermont feel like home. We have heard from many of our new residents who participated in the Concierge Program that one of the most beneficial parts of the program was to build a network of friends before they even arrived.

Jenna from Chittenden, Vermont has been active in our community for many years, including volunteering with our Concierge Program.

“Even though Chittenden is the largest town in the state of Vermont by area, it still has a small-town feel. We love the town because of its small tight-knit community, the access to untouched National Forest, and the water of the Chittenden Reservoir. Barstow, located in town, is a great K – 8 school and the center of a lot of the town’s charm. Whether cross-country skiing in the winter or putting the kayaks on the pristine water in the summer, Chittenden is a gateway to living a vibrant outdoor lifestyle.”

-Jenna

One resident who has moved here in the last few years was eager to share his appreciation for how quickly he became part of our community.

“We found everything we wanted here: good jobs, spectacular scenery and recreation, affordable land and housing, and a sense of community we’d only dreamed about. We can’t wait to help welcome more people to this great region.”

– Tom

Most recently, Real Rutland launched a new Relocation Incentive Package to attract new potential residents to the area. The incentive program was made available for 30 families on a first-come-first-served basis and is valued at over $2,000 per package. The application process is currently available through December 1, 2021, or while prizes and incentives last. To be eligible, you must relocate to Rutland County, Vermont within 6-months of entering the program.

The Real Rutland Relocation Incentive Package consists of a variety of offerings that were generously donated by local businesses. These incentives will allow new residents to participate in some of the attractions favored by our locals. This is Vermont’s outdoor lifestyle at its finest.

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS WILL RECEIVE:

  • 2 lift tickets to Killington Resort ($330 value.)
  • 2 round trip tickets from Rutland to Boston via Cape Air ($179 value.)
  • 3 months free at the MINT Makerspace ($150 value.)
  • 3 months free rent if the person signs a year-long lease on a co-working/office space ($1,200 value.)
  • Gift certificate to a CEDRR member restaurant ($100 value.)
  • 2 tickets to the Paramount Theatre ($95 value.)
  • Waived initiation fee on membership and a free Personal Training Session or Tennis Lesson at Vermont Sport & Fitness ($100 value.)
  • One free month Membership with the purchase of One Month Membership, includes in-person classes and all online classes, at the Gymnasium ($58 value.)

Anyone looking to learn more or enter the Real Rutland Relocation Incentive Package should visit https://realrutland.com/relocate/.

Our Real Rutland website offers a wide variety of resources to individuals and families considering a move to our region and we encourage those interested to visit our website to learn more at https://realrutland.com.

LINKS & SOCIAL

Website: www.realrutland.com 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/therealrutland/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/therealrutland/

Hashtag: #REALRUTLAND

Kim Rupe is the Communications and Community Engagement Director for Chamber & Economic Development of the Rutland Region and lives in Poultney.