David Garten's photos of Cuba on display all month as part of the VFA. Photo: Rebecca Silbernagel/VAF

The Mad River Valley was buzzing with arts activities this past weekend to kick off the Vermont Festival of the Arts. People made their way into town to meet artists, eat fabulous food, listen to music, watch great theater and see beautiful artwork (Teeny Tiny and otherwise!). Children made pizza, built fairy houses and painted. The weekend ended with a fabulous fireworks display at Lareau Farm. What fun!

David Garten got everyone started with the opening reception of his photo exhibit My Personal Cuba. Presenting photographs from his trips to Cuba over 21 years, this is a show that is thought-provoking, engaging, timely and very personal. It should not be missed.

There seemed to be more openings than days of the week: Waitsfield United Church opened their show of two Vermont artists, Karla Van Vliet and Kathleen McGuffin, on Saturday; the Big Red Barn Art Show opening was on Sunday and the Photography Show opening was Tuesday evening. Art work is everywhere – in cafes (Milton Artist Guild at Three Mountain Café), theaters (Art Therapy Association at Big Picture), store windows (Traditional Rosemaling at Festival Gallery), libraries (Art by Architects at Warren Library) and distilleries (watercolors and pastels at Mad River Distillers Tasting Room).

Festivities at the opening of the Big Red Barn Art Show. Photo: Rebecca Silbernagel/VAF
Festivities at the opening of the Big Red Barn Art Show. Photo: Rebecca Silbernagel/VAF

On Sunday morning, families arrived at Lareau Farm pavilion to create fairie houses. Using bark, branches, acorn caps, leaves, flowers and other found objects, these special structures became magical homes with a final sprinkling of fairie dust. Playing with food was the theme at The Warren Store when kids got to make their own pizzas. Participants got to shape the dough into a "perfect" circle, covered it with toppings and bake it. Of course, the workshop ended with a yummy, homemade pizza!

The weekend concluded at Lareau Farm where music, art and fun collided for a great evening. The Meet the Artist Reception at the Big Red Barn Art Show is always a favorite. Nearly 40 artists from the Mad River Valley have their work on exhibit. Over on the Lareau Farm lawn, families gathered for a picnic. Whether they brought their own picnic or purchased flatbread and salad, the picnic was hopping. "Our volunteers really helped make the Festival Frolic happen," said Karen Nevin, executive director of the festival. "Running games, selling s'mores and helping kids paint, something was happening in every corner of the lawn."

New this year was the first unveiling of the Teeny Tiny Art Show. Sixty-five original works of art created by 36 artists from all over Vermont were on display and great deals were snapped up fast. Additional pieces are arriving and the remaining artwork will be on display and for sale at the Taste of The Valley this Sunday.

"We are entering the second week of the festival and there is a lot to do. Make sure you catch the production of Pete 'n' Keely at the Skinner Barn or The Hazards of Childhood at Phantom Theater. Moosewalk Studios will be busy this week with their Salon Series on Thursday evenings and Gallery Saturday with a variety of artists on hand showing their work. Make sure you head back o Lareau Farm for the sixth annual Vermont Music Fest on Saturday. This event has become a staple of the summer and the Vermont Festival of the Arts," Nevin said.

Children's activities are in full swing with Paint Your Pet on Thursday with the Crafty Kids Workshops, Clay Play at Waitsfield Pottery as well as Kids Arts & Crafts at Peanut & Mouse on Saturday and Kids Under the Canopy at The Collection on Sunday.

Taste of the Valley

There is still time to buy tickets to the Taste of the Valley. There will be tastes from many favorite restaurants, Big Basin Band playing in the courtyard and the Iron Chef Competition. Fabulous items can be found at the silent auction and come see what everyone is talking about – at the Teeny Tiny Art Show!

For more information on the Vermont Festival of the Arts and the Taste of the Valley contact Karen at 496-6682 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The festival program can be found around town and online at www.vermontartfest.com.