Monuments to Now

EveNSteve are very excited to announce that our hayfield art exhibit in Pawlet has been receiving outstanding regional and national media attention! We are now featuring four monumental works of art on River Road, perfect for drive-by viewing. Additionally, we have a parking area and a walking path for those who would like to walk the field and see the works up close. Free and open to the public, this temporary art exhibit is on display as a gift to our community during this challenging time.

To see what people are making of Pawlet’s hayfield art exhibit, check out the three news clips below…

The hayfield exhibition has now grown to be part of a larger series of monumental, outdoor works which we are calling Monuments to Now. The most recent piece, a thirteen-foot tall artwork, has just been installed on the front lawn of the Bennington Museum as part of the NoBoss Sculpture exhibition which will be on display till November. Check out the 2+ minute video below to see the installation process last week!

Selections for current TV media:

 

 

Recent installation at the Bennington Museum, Vermont as part of the NoBoss sculpture exhibition.

https://vimeo.com/manage/435358951/general

For more information please visit: http://www.evensteve.com

 

Drive By Art Expands in Pawlet

Drive down River Road and you can see the latest version of the Hayfield Art Gallery now featuring three monumental works by Pawlet residents EveNSteve.

Artwork number three has just been installed and stands an impressive 13 feet high by 42″ wide. Entitled Two Strong Girls, it features a black and white image of two girls by a lake, with handwritten text in cobalt blue. In compliance with pandemic safety protocol, the artwork is fully visible for viewing by car, but visitors are also welcome to park in the adjacent gallery parking lot and walk the mown path which connects the three outdoor artworks.

EveNSteve is delighted and gratified that the hayfield exhibition, which is free and open to the public, has been getting lots of attention in the media. We were very excited to be interviewed by Cassie Hudson of WTEN Albany ABC TV, (Above) as well as the subject of recent feature articles in Seven Days, The Rutland Herald, and The Times Argus. Stay safe and stay tuned!

For more information about EveNSteve visit EveNSteve.com

For additional video info please click:
news10.com/off-the-beaten-path/off-the-beaten-path-drive-by-art/

Pawlet Hayfield Becomes a Quarantine Art Gallery

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We all need art and creativity to help make sense of the world, especially during a time of crisis. But so many things are online by necessity now. How can people experience art without the involvement of a screen?

Because my husband Steve and I create art together, we’ve been thinking about this issue a lot.

Then recently we thought: drive-by artwork. Yes!

Driving down River Road, residents of the area will now notice the result of our efforts: a ten foot by 42 inch artwork placed in the hayfield across from our house. Entitled My Heart is Very Big, it is intended as a gift to our friends, neighbors, and community, a work of art that people can enjoy while still following quarantine regulations and being safe.

The work is meant to be legible from the road, and depicts an image of a woman in a field carrying a basket. Around her are painted the words: My heart is very big. Sometimes I wonder if it is big enough.

We hope to make more artworks to display in the field; people are welcome to park in the parking lot of Indian Hill Gallery (671 River Road) if they would like to approach the works on foot. We hope the works bring a positive art experience to folks during this unusual and challenging time.

Come see it!

For more information about My Heart is Very Big or other artworks by EveNSteve, please visit EveNSteve.com.

Article One Defeated- So What Next?

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The results of the vote came in Tuesday night and Article One did not pass. Out of 494 residents who voted on the issue, 205 voted in favor and 289 voted against. If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I think this a good thing- the right decision.

Official results of the Pawlet March 2020 Vote

But I think it would be wrong to say I’m “happy” about it. I can’t be happy about it, when clearly problems at the library exist, and a way forward to fix them has yet to be identified. The most pressing problems being:

  • falling snow and ice on all sides of the building, both in front where cars are parked, and in back where the handicapped access ramp is
  • the concrete front steps are crumbling and need to be replaced

Lastly, we know the handicapped access at the library is currently in compliance. But recent conversations have raised the very important, and more complicated question: is the existing handicapped access at the library sufficient?

In historic buildings like the library, where handicapped access is always going to be a compromise with issues of preservation, it is common for a handicapped access expert to be brought in to make an assessment.

This should have been done at the beginning, of course, before an architect was hired by the Select Board and thousands of dollars spent on a plan that will, in all likelihood, never be used. But it’s never too late to do things right. It is what we, as a community owe to anyone who ever has or ever will need handicapped access- and as we all know that could be any one of us.

If you think this is a good idea, please send a note to the Select Board via the town clerk – pawletclerk@vermontel.net- and tell them we need a handicapped accessibility assessment of the library done- as soon as is possible. Or call: 325-3309, ext.301. Or tell a selectman in person when you see them. This is, I think, the best way to show our love for the library, and our fellow townspeople, and get back on the right track after going down a dead end for far too long.

Library Project Vote On Tuesday

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By now I hope everyone has heard about Pawlet’s proposed library elevator project, aka: Article One on the town ballot.

For the last few weeks I’ve argued that this project has been poorly conceived, inadequately researched, and at an estimated cost of $295,000, it is inappropriate for Pawlet to take on at this time. Specifically:

  • We’ve seen no breakdown of construction budget.
  • The Select Board has never voted to endorse the project.
  • There have been no accessibility experts consulted.
  • By the library’s own projections, it will cost individual taxpayers between $165 and $765, and that’s if there are no unexpected costs.
  • There are always unexpected costs.

I’d like everyone to recall that the current incarnation of the library in the former schoolhouse was funded 100% without taxpayer dollars, at a lower total cost than this proposed elevator.

I’d like to remind everyone that the library already has fully-compliant handicapped access, without which they could not open their doors, including a radiant-heated ramp and two handicapped accessible bathrooms.

A recent mailing to town residents puts forth an alternative plan that proposes to fix existing problems by:

  • Replacing the crumbling front steps (desperately needed, yet not a part of the currently proposed plan and budget)
  • Install snow guards
  • Install a push plate, automatic door opener to handicapped entrance
  • Use the existing radiant heat in the ramp, which currently is turned off

The estimated cost for this alternative plan is $45,000. If we can fix existing problems at a fraction of the cost, this should be seriously considered.

A vote against Article One is not a vote against handicapped accessibility, nor is it a vote against the library or fixing problems at the library. Rather, voting against Article One is a vote in favor of doing things properly, with experts, with budgets, and with transparency.

I hope anyone who still has questions about the proposal will attend Town Meeting tonight: 7PM Monday, March 2 at the Mettawee Community School.

And I REALLY hope everyone comes out to vote on Tuesday March 3rd at the Pawlet Town Hall between 9AM and 7PM.

This is the not-at-all-confusing way it will be worded on the ballot.

NOTE: When you go to vote, please note that the library project is listed FIRST on the ballot: it is Article One. Often in past years the town budget was Article One, so it is extremely important voters read the ballot closely. Be aware too, that it is worded so as to be almost incomprehensible. Seventy-nine words, no less.

Don’t you just love politics?

No matter what your views, please come out and vote.  More important than any single issue is the participation of every resident in the decision making of our town. No idea or project is the enemy- apathy is the enemy. I truly believe that.

 

What Happened at the Proposed Library Project Meeting?

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I’m delighted to report that there was a very nice turn-out for the Library Board Informational meeting about the proposed elevator project: about 40 people showed up, and on a very cold, Vermont Sunday afternoon in February, that’s really saying something.

The Library Board, and specifically board member Sally Caras, gave a very comprehensive Power Point presentation, for which they should definitely be commended.

The Argument in Favor

Sally Caras explaining details of the proposed architectural plans

To super-summarize, the message was this: the library’s needs are changing and evolving. The Strategic Plan completed last spring indicated residents want the library to be a social center of the town that provides space for meetings. The Matt Waite Room in the basement would be an ideal candidate for additional meeting space except for the fact that it is not handicapped accessible. Additionally, the handicapped access that the library does have is problematic: despite the fact that it meets ADA requirements, falling snow hinders access and there are complaints that the ramp is too steep.

The proposed elevator project solves both these concerns and, according to the library board, is likely to get funding of up to approximately one-half the estimated $295,000 price tag. All we have to do as citizens of Pawlet is vote to approve article one on March 3 and the process of securing grant money can begin.

The Argument… Against?

 Just for the record, I’m not against handicapped access to public spaces, nor am I against improving existing handicapped access. I don’t think I know anyone who is.

What I have a problem with is this particular proposal, and, in a nutshell, here is why:

  1. The Select Board has never voted to endorse this project.

At the meeting, the Library Board gave the impression that this project has been endorsed by the Select Board. It has not. They put it on the ballot instead of making a decision themselves.

  1. Where are the numbers?

Check out the library website for a PDF showing a breakdown of six different scenarios. (They show how a bond taken out by the town could affect taxpayers to the tune of between $165 and $765, total cost, over either 20 or 30 years.)

But here’s my question: where does the official estimate of $295,000 come from? Ralph Nimtz, the architect of the plans, was at the informational meeting and he said the numbers come from a “very reputable contractor in Rutland.” When pressed to give a general breakdown he was unable to give specifics of any kind, save that the lift itself would probably be about $30,000. When I asked if new front stairs were part of this estimate, Mr. Nimtz said they weren’t but could add anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 to the total cost.

I’ve never heard of a construction project that did not have an estimated breakdown of expenses. It’s important to have the numbers available to voters so we know what we’re voting on.

It’s also important to remember that the original library project, which converted the schoolhouse into the facility we use today, was not funded by taxpayer dollars. It was funded exclusively by grants and donations from individuals. Because the use of taxpayer money is being proposed here, it’s even more important to have those specifics.

A full house on hand for the informational meeting last Sunday

  1. Where are the experts?

I’ve been reading up on ADA compliance, (on the Department of the Interior website.) When dealing with a historic building, it’s important to understand that there is no one perfect way to provide accessibility.

For example: Did you know that the recommended ideal is to have the handicapped entrance be the same entrance the general public uses? I didn’t, but it makes sense.

So… why aren’t we proposing to put the new elevator on the front of the building?

Because, of course, sticking an elevator on the library front entrance would drastically alter the beautiful and historic facade built in 1912. By having handicapped access in the rear of the building we’re compromising. In adaptive reuse of historic buildings, compromises are a given. Beyond meeting the federal and state requirements for handicapped accessibility- which the Pawlet Library does- the question is how do we strike the right balance between best practices for accessibility and best practices for preservation. It’s a judgment call: what is reasonable?

For questions such as this it is common to hire an accessibility consultant. Also highly recommended is to incorporate a person with ability challenges into the planning process.

Did our Library Board do those things? In their very thorough presentation there was no mention made of either.

  1. The order of events is all wrong.

When I went to the library board meeting back in December of 2018 and first learned of this proposed project, they could have said it was a good solution to a problem of inadequate handicapped access.

But, that’s not what they said. What they said, more than once, was (and I’m paraphrasing here, but not much): We don’t necessarily love it, but the Select Board wants it. We have to play ball.

I’m not big on playing ball, especially when it concerns spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. I know how tight our town budget is causing many important maintenance projects and upgrades to get deferred year after year.

At the informational meeting, you’d never know the library board didn’t love this proposed project only a few short months ago. The way it was presented, it seemed like a very natural progression: the public asked for meeting space, and so we made a plan to accommodate more meeting space.

The only problem is that this timeline is backwards: the strategic plan came out in spring of 2019, whereas the architectural plans were created in 2018.

That’s why I’ve described this plan as a solution looking for a problem: the solution was drafted first. Who cares what order it happened in? Well, I think the order in which events occur can tell us a lot about the motivation behind them. I’d feel a lot better about this project as a voter if this process hadn’t put the cart approximately a mile and a half before the horse.

A Final Thought

By writing about this as honestly as I can, I have become a bit of a target; I’ve been accused of having ulterior motives.

None of these accusations are true. I have the greatest respect for accessibility concerns and I contributed to the fundraising effort to install an elevator in the Town Hall. Both my father and my mother-in-law are handicapped so it is never an issue far from my mind. I have great respect for the memory of Matt Waite, who I considered a friend.

Leaving the meeting on Sunday I had a lot of different thoughts. I thought if I had never heard of the proposal at all, and simply showed up at the polls to find it on the ballot, I would surely have voted in favor of it. Handicapped access? Support the library? Of course. It’s a no-brainer.

But because I know a little more, I’m concerned. Process is important. Transparency is important. Just like any household, our town only has so much to spend, and we can only take out so many loans. It just makes common sense to prioritize town improvements. Does this plan for more meeting space represent the number one thing our town will need over the next decade? Do we need this more than we need the roads to be fixed, during this year of endless mud season? Do we need this more than a new town garage?

Whatever the current Number One Priority turns out to be, then we need to identify a solution, in the process incorporating experts and detailed estimates from more than one source. Most of all we need our Select Board- our town leaders- to have an opinion on such matters. And then they should actually do something about it.