Cuts Both Ways
State of the Arts
Good news for local culture vultures: The Shelburne Museum, which reopens May 1, has cut ticket prices in half for Vermont residents.
Not-so-good news for longtime museum employees: The museum has made a major change in its pension plan that will mean a drop in what some staffers were expecting to receive at retirement.
An anonymous "employee of the Shelburne Museum" alerted Seven Days to the move in an email. Museum spokesman Sam Ankerson confirmed that a change has taken place: "We are moving from a system where the museum makes 100 percent of the contribution, to a system where the museum and the employee both contribute -- and at the same time investment options like 401K plans are being introduced."
Sounds benign enough -- it's the way most companies work, after all -- and Ankerson adds that the two cuts are in no way related: The reduced admission was made possible by a grant, and the board has long been considering making adjustments to the pension plan.
Still, the mystery emailer suggested that the pension freeze is a raw deal for those who've worked at the museum for many years with the expectation of a bigger payback. The email also made bitter reference to a recent Burlington Free Press article about museum president Hope Alswang's renovation of her Victorian home, which the correspondent felt added insult to injury.
Two longtime employees, who spoke with Seven Days on condition of anonymity, shared a feeling of betrayal. "A lot of people are feeling let down, obviously," said one. "Promises were made," said another.
Still, even though their trust has been shaken, they both added that they loved working at the museum. So, for that matter, did the disgruntled emailer. "The Shelburne Museum is a unique and wonderful place," the email concluded. "It is staffed by dedicated and knowledgeable people with a real feel for the place. I would urge one and all to come visit and become a member if possible."
Ticket buyers, at least, will get a good deal.
Have you been glued to Court TV for the Tyco trial and the saga of the little old lady juror who wouldn't agree to a conviction? Well, have we got a play for you.
With serendipitous timing, Champlain College opened its production of 12 Angry Jurors on April Fool's Day, the day before the Tyco mistrial was announced. A less gender-specific version of the play that inspired the 1957 film 12 Angry Men, the script famously depicts a jury room stand-off that should sound familiar: 11 jurors who want to convict -- in this case, a murder suspect -- and one lone holdout who refuses.
Warren Schultz plays the angriest of the angry men, er, jurors, portrayed in the movie version by Lee J. Cobb. He says the news about Tyco has drawn additional audiences to Champlain: "They just want to see what the dynamics of a jury room might be like."
The timeliness has also been fun for the cast, says director Joanne Farrell. "It gave new meaning to some of their lines, as when one insists, 'This is not going to be a hung jury!'"
For Schultz, who has never done jury duty in the real world, the experience of working on the play has given him new appreciation for the juror's task. "I think that after rehearsing this for a month and being crammed into a small space with a bunch of strangers, we can almost feel what people go through when they're stuck in a jury room."
And if he'd had to decide whether Tyco ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski was guilty of corruption?
"Oh, I'm pretty sure I would have voted guilty... Of course, the Martha Stewart trial -- that's a whole different thing."
watch the birdie
There's a great temptation to make avian puns in discussing the Jeff Hatfield installation at the Firehouse Gallery, but I'll try to confine myself to one: Hatfield's mechanical birds are flying out the door.
According to Burlington City Arts Executive Director Doreen Kraft, sales of the twittering creations have been notably brisk. It's no doubt due to their price -- a reasonable $27 apiece with battery pack -- but also because of the noise. During the opening on March 26 and the subsequent spring-like weekend, the chirps -- audible through the gallery's open windows -- attracted many passersby. While sales didn't quite compare with the recent Max Schumann show, in which some pieces sold for 50 cents, the Hatfield clientele is unique. "It was very cute to have these 13- and 14-year-old boys coming up and purchasing art," says Kraft. Look for more indoor-outdoor action next month, when a portion of the Sylvia Safdie-John Heward installation will literally be hanging from the trees of Burlington's City Hall Park.
buddha's delight Last week's New York Timesmega-supplement about museums included a behind-the-scenes look at how various institutions managed to acquire their art objects. Among the prized possessions: the Fleming's Parinir-vana Buddha, one of 27 items the museum snagged from the Asian art collection of tobacco heiress Doris Duke. The Buddha looks especially blissful, reports the Times. Must be the fresh air.