August 2nd-September 26th, 2013



BURLINGTON – Downtown art space New City Galerie, 132 Church St., is honored to host a group show through regional arts organization G.R.A.C.E. Titled “This Was Me: Self-Taught Art from the G.R.A.C.E. Gallery Collection,” the show features some thirty works by nearly a dozen artists who have worked at some point with the G.R.A.C.E. program. 

Begun in 1975 at the St. Johnsbury Convalescent Center, G.R.A.C.E. – the Grass Roots Arts and Community Effort – is a non-profit that serves the disabled and elderly communities of Vermont through the creative lens of the visual arts. Since 2000, its gallery has been housed in Hardwick’s Old Firehouse, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. G.R.A.C.E. also oversees the collection of famed self-taught Vermont artist Gayleen Aiken.

The exhibit features several pieces by Gayleen Aikin (1934-2005), whose show earlier this year at Luise Ross Gallery earned praise in the New York Times. But the collective weight of “This Was Me” is given to the many other artists associated with gallery and its community programs. It’s a remarkable legacy seen in representative pieces by Larry Bissonnette, Dot Kibbee, Sydney Bemis, Merrill Densmore, Ritchie Delisle, Robert Gove, David Matthews, Elaine Baldwin, Berta Dillar, and Marion Nelsen.

“Everyone knows G.R.A.C.E. Gallery for the amazing work it has done preserving and championing the work of Gayleen Aikin,” says the show’s curator, Saint Michael’s College professor William L. Ellis. “What the New City show aims to do is spotlight many of the other artists that have come through G.R.A.C.E., artists whose sense of self and place can be just as visually arresting.”

The show will run August 2-September 26 and feature several guest appearances by G.R.A.C.E.-affiliated artists. An opening reception during Burlington’s First Friday Art Walk on Aug. 2 will include a 7 p.m. talk by Milton resident Larry Bissonnette and a screening of the 2005 awarding-winning documentary about him, My Classic Life as an Artist

The selected works in “This Was Me” are visually diverse, from the delicate, naturalist-imbued brush strokes of Dot Kibbee to the intense, visceral assemblages of Bissonnette, yet all capture the beautiful and rarified moment – colorful, spontaneous, often intimate bursts of self-awareness, memory, and identity that combine to create an iconography of the soul.

Though such art can go by a number of names – outsider, visionary, intuitive, grassroots – “self-taught” is an increasingly preferred term in that it emphasizes a certain untrained element in an artist’s approach without necessarily denying his or her ties to culture, craft, and community.

What: “This Was Me: Self -Taught Art from the G.R.A.C.E. Gallery Collection”

Where: New City Galerie, 132 Church St., Burlington, VT 05401

When: August 2-September 26; 7 p.m. opening night will include a talk by Larry Bissonnette and a screening of the film, My Classic Life as an Artist.

--William Ellis, co-curator


Exhibiting Artists 

Larry Bissonnette

Dot Kibbee

Sydney Bemis

Merrill Densmore

Ritchie Delisle

Robert Gove

David Matthews

Elaine Baldwin

Berta Dillar

Marion Nelsen