2017 Art Hop Profiles – Looking back on 25 years

2017 South End Art Hop Profiles

Looking Back on 25 Years of the Art Hop

Each year, SEABA likes to profile a few of our amazing businesses, artists, or contributors to our pretty funky community here in the South End Arts District.  We thought it wise to focus on a some of the original participants of the Art Hop from way back in 1992 who are still producing amazing work to this day.  Enjoy!

Bruce MacDonald – Havoc Gallery

What was it like being at the first Art Hop?
It was completely different from today. The first Art Hop was a community of people who knew each other talking about art. There was no giant party going on, there was no beer tent, that didn’t exist. It was much more of an intimate thing.

How did you think to start using metal and textures to create your work?
That was a decision made in process. I’ve been working with metal for over thirty years and along the way started making pieces that required a special finish on stainless steel. As I spent time with that I became aware of all this dimensionality and the huge vocabulary available and It turned into instead of putting a finish on a thing the finish became the thing itself. I stopped making objects that had any sort of function and now I make things that hang on a wall and the function is it’s an object to look at, that’s all it does.

What are some positive changes you’ve seen in the art community in Burlington since the first Art Hop 25 years ago?
Well it’s just become so much bigger than it ever used to be. It was originally a small neighborhood kind of group. People in the South End who were artist doing what they do and it turned into something that is like Art Hops in other cities. It became something that has a life of its own. It’s something that people look forward to now for months during the year and it’s a giant event and it used to be just a small neighborhood thing.

What advice would you have for young artists just starting out?
That’s a tough one. The knee jerk response is, don’t do it unless you have to because it’s challenging, it’s a very tricky world. Trying to be appreciated doing what you love is the blessing, the joy but also the torturous path of, do people care about what I think is beautiful. So if you start on the path and discover that yes this is my life work then give it all you got. Work night and day with all the energy that you have and realize that you’re doing this for you and your passion and not for sales or not to prove yourself to somebody else. So if it’s what you want to do then go for it and keep going.


Rich Arentzen – AO Glass

What is the most rewarding part of creating your glass works?
I think the most rewarding part about creating our glass works is the opportunity to work with different people as a team to create whatever it is we decide to make at any one time. I also really enjoy being embedded in the local arts community and being able to offer an opportunity for students or interested people to come and experience what it is like to feel the heat of the glass blowing, to experience a small manufacturing company.

What are some positive changes you’ve seen in the art community in Burlington since the first Art Hop 25 years ago?
Well it seems like there is greater camaraderie within the art community and I’ve seen that broaden from sculpture and painting to other creative endeavors like manufacturing, operations, engineers and people following whatever dreams or visions they might have to create something interesting for the world.

What was is like being at the first Art Hop?
Being at the first Art Hop was exciting because it seemed like there was a movement being created, a sense of celebration around the arts and feeling like Burlington was maybe a little bigger than it actually was, creating the beginnings of what has become a large urban street fair.

What advice would you have for young artists just starting out?
I think the most important thing for young artists starting out in a community is to offer yourself up to interacting with the public. For example, we all make things and we think what we make is very important to the dialogue of art criticism moving forward. But really I feel like the most important thing about being an artist is allowing other people to experience whatever mission you happen to be on, whatever passion you bring to an activity in the world. So, opening yourself up to interaction with other people is the most important thing we can do as artists.

Larry Ribbecke & Emily Stoneking

What was it like being at the first Art Hop?
It was kind of fun cause I think we were looking at something getting born, sort of embryonic looking affair. Maybe other people knew what they were hoping to achieve I just thought it was interesting to mix and mingle with people. Most of us crafts people and artists spend way too much time alone in our studios. In my studio I’ve always had somebody else there, more than one person. I’ve always had helpers or apprentices and I thought it was a good thing socially, but I didn’t have any idea where it was going to go.

What are some positive changes you’ve seen in the art community in Burlington since the first Art Hop 25 years ago?
Well I think over the years it’s gotten bigger. More people have come to Art Hop particularly families with children and I think it’s an educational affair as much as it’s anything else for people to see that you can make a living as an artist, that you can do good work, that there’s nothing esoteric about it, you just really have to put your passion into it. You have to follow your talents and develop them. I particularly like when children come in here because you don’t really know whose ear you’re going to put a little bug in.

What advice would you have for young artists just starting out?
Emily- I hate to say this but I think my advice would be don’t go to college. If you have a real passion for making art, the best option is to just get your feet wet and start doing it. Find a mentor, make connections in the community and just start putting your art work out there in ways that you can to kind of get people to connect with you. Life experience is going to be so much more helpful in the long run than going to classes and having someone teach you fine art skills when your passion will drive you in that direction anyway. At the end of it hopefully you’ll end up with a small studio and a working career and not a crushing load of debt.

Larry- To add to that, people have come to my studio thinking I know something and some of them have become apprentices. Emily and another fellow named Chris Jeffry have been my most successful, my most productive, my most rewarding experiences with people in my studio because we just met casually in 2001 and within a little while she was working in my shop. Over the years I’ve taught her some things but I think she’s taught herself a lot and at some point I began seeing she’s teaching me things. When she stared on this business about making medieval reproductions I thought this is pretty interesting. I used to spend a lot of time on medieval art, never could sell any of it much. But, you know just watching her educate herself and realizing she knew more about it then I did.

What inspired you to create stained glass works and what would you say it the hardest part?
Emily- So I was always interested from a young age and had this rap passion for religious art, I don’t know why, I’m not religious I just find religious art to be very interesting. So I started out making mosaics because I really love byzantine mosaics. So that got me working in tile, stone and that medium was a natural extension of that. I started making mosaics out of glass and that’s how Larry and I met because I was doing mosaic and needed to figure out how to get glass involved in that. The hardest part about stained glass is probably the design work, just kind of coming up with a design that will be functional and also beautiful and unique. You don’t want to always necessarily be making the same thing that everyone has made over the years. I love making Frank Lloyd Wright for instance but there’s only so many ways you can make a Frank Lloyd Wright. Coming up with your own kind of style is difficult and interesting.

Larry- I think the most challenging part, I don’t know if it’s hardest or not, but the most challenging part is the fact that our clients are human beings and they all have different understandings of our craft, different expectations of what we can do. Listening well to clients is I think the key skill, listening to find out what somebody wants. One time I was working for a church group in Vermont and they were talking about a major commission, something that was going to take us three months to build. We met over and over again for months and we sat around talking about ideas, most of those ideas didn’t happen. But, at a certain point something really clicked and we had consensus. We had four or five people totally agreeing on what should be done. I was excited, my helpers we’re excited. At that point the chairman of that committee said to me Mr. Ribbecke, thank you very much for listening so well to us. I was walking around on air for a week, that was the nicest thing that had been said to me in a long time.

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