The adage that Vermont has as many art galleries as towns might be an exaggeration, but it serves as a useful launching point to capture the outsized role the fine arts have in the Green Mountain State. And while folk art still dominates the discussion, the state’s art galleries are no slouches when it comes to classic masters and modern outpourings. If you’re in Vermont and in the mood to see some art, here are our favorite galleries.
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center (BMAC)
Museum, Train Station
One of Vermont’s busiest towns has some of its finest art offerings. Housed in the smallish confines of a former train station, the BMAC, as it’s known, has works by international and local artists and gallery exhibits that range from animal totems to the calligraphy and geometric patterns of Islamic art and architecture. A strikingly curated sampling of modern artists using materials as diverse as extension cords (wrapped into a scarf) is on display.
A state treasure for more than 80 years, the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont features more than 20,000 pieces spanning human history. The more modern offerings include the works of Winslow Homer, Francisco Goya, and Andy Warhol. There are also Pre-Columbian ceramics and Ancient Egyptian artifacts.
The college’s permanent collection includes thousands of objects, including superb collections of Asian art, photography, 19th-century European and American paintings, sculptures, and contemporary works. Highlights include etchings by Rembrandt and artworks by his pupils, prints by Goya, a lithograph of Manet’s TheExecution of Emperor Maximilian, and works by Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Outdoor sculptures spring up around campus (including one of Robert Indiana’s LOVE pieces), and a free audio guide available via a download is a perfect way to explore.
Truly unique, Shelburne Museum houses what has been called folk art but really encapsulates the history of Americana. In over 39 buildings spread out across 45 acres, the museum hosts world-class paintings, circus collections, textiles, toys, carriages, and duck decoys in a village-like setting. Highlights include a parked steamboat as well as paintings by Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Andrew Wyeth, Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses, and Albert Bierstadt.
Perhaps most famous for its collection by folk painter Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses (who started painting at the ripe age of 70), Bennington Museum also has paintings from the Gilded Age in the late 19th century, notable local stoneware, and works from 20th‐century modernists such as Rockwell Kent and Jessica Park. Special exhibits include modern photography by international artists, as well as relics and artwork showing the life of the state’s early settlers.
Burlington City Arts @ The BCA Center | Image courtesy of Burlington City Arts
For more than 30 years, the BCA has been dedicated to contemporary works, from print to clay. The museum shows local and national artists and combines the experience with live music acts, films, and performances. Themes might include environmental exposés, nostalgic landscapes or colorful sculptures made from tiles and other materials that combine elements “of Louisiana craft and folk art with Op-Art and geometric pattern-based painting.”
Norman Rockwell painted more than 200 Arlington residents during the 14 years that he lived there, works prominently on display at—of all places—a maple syrup maker (also known as a sugar shack). Rockwell was known for his great technical skill and depiction—often with a gentle prodding humor—of a rosy vision of middle-class America. Some of his most famous works are on display here, including The Four Freedoms, which were painted in Arlington during WWII using Rockwell’s neighbors as models and were used to raise war bonds.
The Domes of Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt | Courtesy of St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
Housing a distinctive collection of American and European paintings and statues (from Fra Angelico and Veronese to George Loring Brown) in a stunning late 19th-century building, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum is a unique, can’t-miss stop on any art tour of Vermont. Highlights include the massive The Domes of Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt, as well as numerous works by other Hudson River School pupils. The library also features books from the 18th to the 21st centuries and serves as a fascinating counterpoint to the art.
Hall Art Foundation in Vermont | Courtesy of the Hall Art Foundation
This museum, founded in 2007, showcases works collected by oil trader Andrew Hall in a converted 19th-century stone farmhouse and clapboard house, as well as three barns located in the village of Reading. The Vermont museum (there’s a sister site in Germany) rotates postwar and contemporary exhibitions, and has featured a massive outdoor waterfall by Richard Deacon, Olafur Eliasson, and Marc Quinn; paintings by Peter Saul Georg Baselitz; and shows on “redefining the sublime” curated by the fine-art color photographer and Guggenheim fellow Joel Sternfeld.