Emblems & Gems
Christmas trees in all their holiday splendor have always fascinated me. Like snowflakes, no two are the same. Some are adorned with family keepsakes, handed down through the years; some are brightly-lit, glitzy affairs, drizzled with tinsel and draped in garlands; some may have a sophisticated color scheme, while others are a riot of color. Whether simply trimmed with natural materials and homemade ornaments, or grandly embellished, they are all special. I can’t think of any other endeavor where the whole family gathers to create together an emblem of who they are, what they value and where they come from.
I was especially interested in going to see the Festival of Trees at the Bennington Museum, now in its 17th year. I met with Susan Strano, Marketing Director, and Robert Wolterstorff, Executive Director for the Museum, last week to find out more, and to check out the exhibits. The Museum’s collection of American art ranges from portraits, paintings and decorative arts to Folk Art and Modernism; most have some connection to Vermont. Also displayed, historical furniture, early paintings of Bennington, antique pottery and stoneware, and the Bennington Flag – one of the oldest stars and stripes in existence.
The highlight of the Museum this time of year, however, is the Festival of Trees, which is set up within the galleries in a series of vignettes, beckoning a visitor to enter and carefully inspect each one. Local businesses, non-profits and artists were invited this year to select one item from the Museum’s back coffers not frequently on display, and design a tree around these ‘Hidden Gems.’ Trees are then decorated and displayed with their objects of inspiration. I was impressed with how differently participants interpreted the theme. Everyone who comes to see the Festival of Trees can vote on their favorite. Awards will be given for Most Creative, Best “Gem” Inspired, Peoples’ Choice and Children’s Favorite. They are also holding a live and silent auction at the Festival of Trees Gala on December 14, as a fundraiser for the Museum.
I plan on setting up my tree this weekend. Some of my favorite ornaments are the hand-crocheted snowflakes that my Grandma made me years ago, some German glass pine cones frosted with sparkly ‘snow,’ and the stars – paper mache, wire, glass, beaded – that I’ve collected over the years. And while I’ve experimented with multi-color lights, I always go back to all-white because of the way they make a tree glow.