BURLINGTON — The South End Arts & Business Association (SEABA) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a gala celebration at its Pine Street offices in Burlington’s South End on July 14.
In addition to socializing and sharing a large anniversary cake, members and guests took time to celebrate an organization dedicated to “fusing art and industry, reflecting on its history and looking toward the future.”
Adam Brooks, executive director, said, “We’re a small nonprofit organization focused on the creative economy, and specifically on fusing art and industry. As we look toward the future of Burlington, I think it’s important to look at what’s working well. For SEABA to survive, and thrive, and grow for 30 years is a real testament to the people and businesses here in the South End. It adds value to the city of Burlington, and it’s not something you can easily replace.”
Brooks said SEABA adds energy and opportunity to Burlington.
“SEABA plays a role in creating that creative vibe and atmosphere that may be missing in other parts of the city. And for the next 30 years, we’ll continue to work with artists and businesses to build on that.”
SEABA’s flagship event, the South End Art Hop, will hold its 24th edition this September.
“Every year we draw 30,000 people to a free arts event that brings a sense of pride to the community,” Brooks said. “We work with about 1,000 artists for Art Hop alone, and last year we had 36 bands as well, making us maybe the largest music festival in the state, too. To do this with a small organization with one full-time staff person is, I think, a testament to our creativity and way of doing business.”
As of this year, Arts Alive Vermont moved under the SEABA umbrella. Sarah Drexler, associate director at SEABA, also serves as the director for Arts Alive, and curates on behalf of both initiatives. Arts Alive brings visual arts to the Main Street Landing Union Station gallery, and has a solid rotation of events each year. These include the Festival of Fine Arts (FOFA) in June, the Annual Open Photography Exhibit, and Art Hop’s First 50 exhibit.
“I plan to keep the same rotations for these events, but also try to see what new and exciting opportunities can be developed that allow for growth for events and artists,” Drexler said.
“Personally, I am so excited to have been given this opportunity,” Drexler said. “I love doing my job because it’s more than just a job, it’s also a representation of myself. Being an artist myself, I am honored to be representing so many other amazing artists, and I truly have fun creating a world where the arts can be seen and experienced on a daily basis.”
Stoneware clay artist John Brickels said, “I make Vermont barns, New York City row houses, vehicles, machinery and robots out of clay.”
He said the robots are life-size, while his other works are smaller.
“I’ve been a member of SEABA forever,” Brickels said. “I’ve been a full-time artist my whole life, but in Burlington, since 1986.”
He participates in the South End Art Hop, and also sells his work through Frog Hollow and his website at www.brickels.com.
Mark S. Waskow said, “Art has had a profound impact on my life, and the precipitating event for that was the 1998 Art Hop. I went and some switch flipped, and it hasn’t flipped back since. So, because of my exposure to that event, I became involved with SEABA.”
Waskow is now an art collector and independent curator. He said he is also an independent financial advisor with FESCO.
“I’m also planning to build a museum,” Waskow said. “Hopefully here in the South End, but certainly somewhere in northern Vermont. I think it’s important for Vermonters to have access to what’s happening in the visual arts world. Some who want to just literally can’t get to urban areas where this work tends to be incubating and happening.”
Waskow calls the project “The Waskowmium.” He said the goals are to give Vermonters a chance to have a deep experience with current art without leaving the state, give visitors another reason to visit Vermont, and give Vermont artists another avenue to show their work.
Savannah Simonds is marketing coordinator at ReSOURCE.
“We are a nonprofit located right down the street here in the South End,” she said. “We have a three-part mission focusing on job skills training, environmental stewardship, and poverty relief. Many people know us through our thrift stores, but we have about a dozen job skills training programs for unemployed and underemployed Vermonters.”
ReSOURCE serves communities throughout northern Vermont, Simonds noted.
“We have a thrift store in Barre, and recently opened one in Hyde Park.”
Mattison is a user-experience manager at Burton, with a focus on the company’s online presence.
“One thing we’ve been talking a lot about at Burton is the concept of ‘content blindness,’” she said.
That can occur when content, or the site’s “look,” is so familiar, even repetitive, that customers no longer really see it.
“You may design a really beautiful template to present content efficiently, but that can also devalue that content’s effectiveness through the repetition,” Mattison said. “So how do you create a template that works, but change it up just enough to freshen it for customers, while at the same time honoring the people — the designers — who actually have to do the work?”
User experience managers ultimately serve as customer advocates.
“My job is actually to advocate for all customers,” Mattison said. “External customers — those buying products — as well as internal Burton employees who create products, whether it’s physical products or content design.”
Beth Peters owns VIVID Workplace, which offers leadership, career and performance coaching, and consulting services related to human capital management, strategic planning, project management and workplace transformation.
“Having worked in HR for many years in a variety of industries, including Vermont Teddy Bear, Green Mountain Power, and the banking sector, I realized I had unique perspectives on really vibrant workplaces and what made those workplaces vibrant.”
Six years ago, she got together with friends and colleagues in human resources and marketing and developed a brand and business strategy.
“A vivid workplace is a place where employees feel recognized and acknowledged, where they get feedback, and where they feel challenged,” Peters said. “They also have a sense of clarity on what their role and contribution is and how that relates to the overall mission, and have a sense of satisfaction with their work. They have a voice — a place at the table — within the organization.”
She noted physical environment also place a key role.
“Natural light, workspaces that invite collaboration and synergistic conversation, and other things that lead to employee satisfaction, which is crucial in either the for-profit or nonprofit sectors.”
Connie Coleman and Marie-Josée Lamarche represented nearby Alchemy Jewelry Arts at the event.
“This year we are celebrating our seventh year in business here at the corner of Howard and Pine Streets,” Coleman said. “We offer fine, handmade jewelry, custom and collections, all made on site.”
She said it’s also a transition year, in that former co-owner Timothy Grannis is semi-retired.
“Tim is scaling back,” Coleman said. “He wants to spend more time in his canoe and with his grandkids, so Marie-Josee and I formed an LLC and are now the owners.”
Lamarche said, “It’s really special to be in this business, because you are helping people celebrate the events of their lives. They are getting married, or celebrating an anniversary, or having a child. They are inviting us into their lives in that way, and that’s really special.”
Stephen Mease aid he’s been taking photographs for SEABA at Art Hop for the past five or six years through Stephen Mease Photography.
“I shoot the Friday night events, going around to try to capture the essence of the evening,” he said, “and I also shoot the Strut Fashion Show. It’s a lot of fun, but an event like that really needs someone to capture those images. They can use them for promotion next year, show them to sponsors so they can see what happens, and — if nothing else — (it) helps the people who are spending the whole time working on the event see what they accomplished. Art Hop or any event is fleeting. It happens, and it’s gone. With photos, you have some memories.”
Brian Merrill is a member representative on the board of the Burlington Generator, a makerspace currently located at Memorial Auditorium.
“There’s a very good chance the maker space will move to Pine Street in the South End by the end of the year,” he said.
Merrill makes handcrafted wooden flutes at the Generator. “I’ve come up with an innovative design using a laser to cut the parts,” he said.
Emily Anderson owns Bluebird Fairies.
“It’s a business that provides workshops, resources, and techniques to people interested in transition and personal change, and just need a little extra support,” she said. The idea for the business grew from Anderson’s creating an initial 52-card deck of hand-drawn fairy cards.
“I drew them with my left hand — and I’m right handed,” Anderson said. “I drew one a night during a period of time when I was changing my life. I never thought these would be shared with the world, but I now use them as a tool to start genuine conversations about what’s going on in clients’ lives.”
Bluebird Fairies recently acquired a new business space in the heart of the South End Arts District.
For events sponsored by South End Arts & Business Association (SEABA), check the website at www.seaba.com.
Business Vermont roving reporter Mike Reilly offers regular coverage of Chittenden County business networking events, with notes on events, hosts and sponsors, with news and snippets from those in attendance.