Q: Hello Adrian, thank you so much for speaking with us, lets hop right into it. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be an artist and resident of Woodstock, VT?
A: Thank you for your interest and for inviting me to participate in your blog. I moved here in 2008 with my wife and two young kids from Cambridge, MA where I had been working as an illustrator and painter. We were drawn here as it’s such a lovely spot with a vibrant community and a reputation for appreciating the arts.
I have found a lot of opportunities to create art and help facilitate and/or participate in art-centered events. From ushering the Vermont State Snow Sculpture Competition into Woodstock to participating in light sculpture events, set designs for productions at Pentangle Arts, and coordination of so many fine art exhibits at ArtisTree Community Arts Center- Woodstock has been an amazing spot to cultivate a life participating in the arts.
At first, the thought that all I might have to offer in the way of a contribution would be something drawn didn’t seem very practical or useful, but then I remembered the chalkboard in the center of the village and thought, considering it’s prominent location, it may be an opportunity to bring people together.
Q: How did the Woodstock Smiler evolve into sharing art with the community from just listing upcoming events? Was it pre-planned or part of a community COVID-19 response?
A: When the COVID restrictions began to kick in, I was quarantined with my friend Caitlin Eastman for a couple of weeks and during that time we were appreciating the efforts frontline essential workers of all stripes were making for the community. At first, the thought that all I might have to offer in the way of a contribution would be something drawn didn’t seem very practical or useful, but then I remembered the chalkboard in the center of the village and thought, considering its prominent location, it may be an opportunity to bring people together. We thought perhaps it could be used as an affirmation and reminder that, although we may not be actually seeing one another as we so often had prior to the pandemic, our friends and neighbors are all still here and all still thinking of each other.
We were granted permission from The Woodstock History Center, which owns the Woodstock Town Crier chalkboard, to use it for this new purpose (thank you Matthew Powers!!). That was great. The first order of business seemed to be to rename the Town Crier to the Town Smiler, there was enough sadness happening and not enough smiles! Then we created a way for people in the area to email us messages, some intended for the eyes of specific community members, others addressed to the village at large, and sometimes the messages were simply words of comfort or wisdom.
With little else to do at the time, we were able to switch the messages just about every day and would rework the decorative border every so often. As the months went by it evolved as things do. In the autumn, Caitlin, an art teacher, returned to school and I began to dedicate the space to full drawings that found their inspiration in the seasons or holidays. And that’s where we are with it now. I try to switch it up every couple of weeks.
Q: Do you do art full-time or is this a passion project you enjoy?
A: I spend quite a bit of my time drawing and painting or involved with an art project of one kind or another. Gallery work, commissions, illustrations... The Smiler is a labor of love for me, a love for the village and the people who live here. It does seem to live up to its name as I see a lot of smiles while I am out there doodling on the board.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration for the drawings you share?
A: I will usually start with a theme chosen for an upcoming holiday or an homage to the current or upcoming season. Then I doodle ideas at home until I come up with something that isn’t going to be too embarrassing. Keeping the style fresh is important to me, sometimes quiet, sometimes whimsical… it's fun to occasionally add little twists (like the cow that juuuust might eat that leprechaun?).
Q: Many in the town have re-shared your work and commented on how beautiful and talented the pieces are, does that make it extra special for you?
A: It has been a real privilege to have the opportunity to be outside (yes, even in the snow and the rain too) and have all of these lovely (masked / socially distanced) chats with whoever happens by. People have been so very generous with expressing their appreciation. Some have shared the fact that occasionally they’ll go a bit out of their way to see if there is something new or those who have added it as a part of their daily walking route. Whether it’s in person or through sharing online, the enthusiasm this community has shown about art is really wonderful and I’m very grateful for it.
Woven into the fabric of this quaint little town is real support and appreciation for the arts, I see it every time I go out to mess around on the chalkboard.
Q: Woodstock is known to be a great place for artists and craftspeople, what is it about Woodstock do you think drives them to live and work here?
A: What inspires and drives artists to get up and do something is going to be different for each of them as they tend to be kind of an eclectic bunch. However, to feel as though one is part of a tight community where things are happening AND have a sense that one can hide up here in the hills is very appealing to many who pursue creative endeavors. Located close enough to large cultural centers, that it's not a hardship to take advantage of what is being offered there, Woodstock is also far enough from those same areas to make it easy to find quiet and space to think.
Woven into the fabric of this quaint little town is real support and appreciation for the arts, I see it every time I go out to mess around on the chalkboard. That, I think, makes all the difference in attracting those artists and craftspeople.