Art Hop celebrates artistic diversity in Burlington


Nimue Washburn

“Boats” by Elizabeth Bunsen

Burlington’s artistic community came together once again this year with the 24th annual South End Art Hop. Local gallery showings, live performers, games, food, and people with a passion for the arts filled the South End in a three-day event from Sept. 9-11.
The South End has always done things a little bit differently, according to Adam Brooks, executive director at the South End Arts and Business Association (SEABA).
“Art Hop is designed as an economic boost for the creative businesses here on the South End,” Brooks said, “so it means a lot to the businesses and the artists down here. They get to showcase what they do every single day of the year.”
This is Brooks’ fifth Art Hop as executive director, and it’s through him, the SEABA team of coordinators and various media sponsors (Magic Hat, Seven Days, VPR and Ben & Jerry’s, to name a few) that Art Hop is made possible.
Of course, without local artists, Art Hop wouldn’t have the vibrant creativity to come to life. One artist who stood out was Catherine Hall, whose diverse gallery of luminous abstract oil paintings, dyed and painted Japanese paper pieces, and sculptures composed of baby doll heads brought a mystical fairy tale world to life. She works with many materials, including oil-painting, encaustic (pigments mixed with hot wax), paper and fiber sculpture, among many others. This is her 20th year presenting in the South End, but it has become a bigger event than ever before. For Hall, Art Hop is, above all, a chance to expose people to her artwork.
“It’s not primarily an event for selling work — you’re lucky if you sell one or two things,” Hall said. “Mostly it’s exposure. People come and get to know you, and over time they can afford to come and see what you’re doing later.”
Another veteran of the South End scene is Elizabeth Bunsen, who is celebrating her 24th Art Hop with her series of works entitled “Ecologgia.” These pieces incorporate a beautiful ensemble of richly patterned materials in an earthy palette, designed as quilts, collages, clothing and small books. Bunsen’s studio space doubles as a workshop for those interested in learning how to make imprints using natural materials such as tea, leaves, seeds and blossoms. To Bunsen, this event is about more than displaying her creative artistry.
“It’s an opportunity to pull everything together and see what it looks like. But it’s mainly about connecting, and I love being part of this community,” Bunsen said. Despite the hard work required to pull together her pieces, she says it is exhilarating, especially to see old friends.
For those looking to interact with the artwork, Art Hop offers many alternatives to the traditional gallery. A makeshift mini golf course, complete with books, children’s toys and other recycled materials was a fan favorite at the Resource Store. The Barge Canal Market’s hand-made carnival games, including oldies such as the bean-bag toss and wooden carnie cutouts, provided a whimsical, old-time atmosphere that attracted all ages.
One of the most inventive interactive projects utilized cardboard as a medium. Ben T. Matchstick and Pete Talbot of the Cardboard Teck Instantute introduced the PinBox 3000, a fully functional pinball machine, unlike its clunky ancestors. It’s a compact design made entirely of cardboard, complete with interchanging playboards. These “blasts from the past” were set up, arcade-style, for everyone to test their skills.
But for the creative souls hoping to place their mark on the city, various locations offered opportunities for Hop-goers to try mural painting, chocolate sculpting, screen printing, taiko drumming and a variety of activities centered around yoga and even sailing.
Art wasn’t the only thing to admire; everything about Art Hop had a noteworthy quality. Vendors lined up to serve hungry patrons, providing their own form of artwork: food. Throughout the massive crowd, the pleasant aromas of Italian, Mexican and Greek cuisine wafted in the air.
Pine Street was closed off and brimming with live entertainment from warehouse parties and live bands nestled in quirky locations to street performers showcasing their talents. Guitar strumming filled the air, accompanied by euphoric bass and drums pouring from areas packed with dancers. One street performer displayed his notable banjo skills, providing a distinct contrast to the techno beat in the surrounding area.
Art Hop has provided the South End with an outstanding opportunity to experience the rise of artistic culture on an intimate scale, while benefiting local businesses and artists economically. With major involvement from the community and almost every enterprise in the South End, and an incredible collection of creative patrons showcasing their talents, it’s no wonder that this event has continued to thrive for 24 years.