Throughout The Valley in well-traveled local places, groupings of hand-painted canvases with varying subject matter and mediums, bearing a silver star, are showing up.

They are the result of a local effort to connect community members through art and a celebration of community resilience and the theme of Mad River Strong.

Art work from the Mad River Strong Resilience project.
Art work from the Mad River Strong Resilience project.

Shortly after COVID-19 hit Vermont, resulting in school closures and stay-at-home orders, a trio of local people came up with the idea of a community art project as a way to demonstrate community resilience.

“It’s a celebration of Mad River Strong and our resilience and a way for us to stay connected,” said Waitsfield resident Charlie Hosford, who, along with Joni Zweig, Warren, and Jess Tompkins, Waitsfield, conceived of the project.


Here’s how it worked: Hosford cut 200 canvases that are 12 by 16 inches. With the help of Free Wheelin’ volunteers and others, the canvases were distributed throughout The Valley to kids and adults alike.

“The original idea came from Joni and Jess who put out on social media the question of whether there was something we could do that was emotionally uplifting, plus something that school kids could do to unleash their creativity in such a way that they could connect visually with each other,” Hosford said.

Each person got a canvas and a silver star. The results are eclectic!

Art work from the Mad River Strong Resilience project.
Art work from the Mad River Strong Resilience project.

“If you look at the hangings, some are done by 3-year-olds and some by grown-ups. The only instruction people were given is that they need to, in some way, express their thoughts about community resilience and working together through a stay-at-home pandemic,” Hosford said.

Waitsfield Elementary School Principal Kaiya Korb and the children’s librarians from the Warren and Joslin Memorial Libraries, Amanda Gates and Hannah Church, helped with promotion and logistics of the project.

“Amanda was designated as the contact person and Jess delivered canvases to any family that wanted them. There was also a box on the front porch of the Masonic Temple. I’ve been putting them together four and five at a time and hanging them in public places like the Waitsfield post office, Bisbee’s, Mehuron’s and Village Grocery,” Hosford said.

“I’m grouping them randomly, not by age or artist or school. I just wire them together and hang them up,” he added.

Watch for a slideshow of the community artwork on Mad River Valley Television in the coming weeks. Here is the link for anyone to view them prior to that slideshow: