“In January of 2018 a few Chelsea community members came together to host a series of potluck dinners at the Chelsea Town Hall- the intention was to bring community members together to talk about what they miss and what they’d like to see our in our town. These potlucks were well attended with as many as 120 people gathering to share a meal and create a vision.

Sarah Caouette and Carrie Caouette-De Lallo created the Chelsea Arts Collective in the Spring of 2018 which hosted its first Arts on the Green Market and Festival last summer. The festival was intended to be a celebration of local art in a rural community. 45 artists, artisans, and five music groups and individuals came together to share their work on the Chelsea North Common. Approximately 600 people attended.  To introduce the festival a community arts initiative was started, The Chelsea Barn Quilt Project. There are now over 90 completed 4 ft by 4 ft painted “quilts” on houses, barns, and businesses throughout the First Branch Valley. Other communities throughout the state, to include: Hardwick, Wolcott, East Randolph, Corinth, Vergennes, Tunbridge, to name a few, have joined the initiative.

After the festival, the group decided that it needed a home base and in October of 2018, signed a lease for 3 North Common in historic Chelsea Village. In November, North Common Arts opened its doors with an artisan shop, selling approximately 30 local artists and artisans work. We also opened a gallery space with changing exhibits every 8 weeks with work displayed by primarily local fine artists. In addition, we host a Second Saturdays music event and present music by local bands. The gallery is curated by a former curator from the University of Connecticut, Julia Pavone and she has artists scheduled to show their work through 2020. The second opening season for Second Saturdays will begin in October. Our receptions for artists in the gallery are now partnered with receptions at SafeArt, Chelsea Public Library, and Orange County Parent Child Center. The hope is to expand the Art Walk to include senior citizens and local businesses.

Four weeks ago Sarah Caouette opened The North Common Cafe which is open from Wednesday through Saturdays from 8:00-2:00 in the same space as the gallery and artisan shop and the artisan shop is open until 5:00 on those days. The cafe serves breakfast and lunch prepared with local ingredients in partnership with local farms and vendors to include: Carrier Coffee from Northfield, Cross Mollina Farm in Corinth, Chicken Wiggle Farm in Chelsea, and others. The menu is eclectic and the reception from the community, positive and supportive. Visitors to the cafe are not limited to those from Chelsea- we are seeing more and more folks form surrounding communities and from visitors from other states who are driving through the area.

We are now preparing for the Second Annual Arts on the Green Market and Festival and have begun receiving some corporate sponsorship as a result of outreach to Vermont B Corporations. Mascoma Bank has been a consistent sponsor and enthusiastic partner, as has Washington Electric; we are waiting to hear from others. there are 3 music performances, a Family Tent, a silent art auction, and many new artists joining us this year. In addition, local artist, Fritz Gross is donating proceeds to North Common Arts from the sale of 50 wood fired pizzas prepared though the day of the festival.

In the Spring of this year Sarah and Carrie taught a class on Community Placemaking Through the Arts at Bethel University which was attended by 12 artists from throughout the state of Vermont. Other Barn Quilt initiatives are planned as a result of the conversations at the class.

For more information or any questions, please email questions@northcommonarts.com

This article was written by Carrie Caouette-De Lallo.