Creative entrepreneurship crescendoed under the orange glow of the recent harvest moon for the 30th year of Art Hop.
Burlington’s South End Arts and Business Association, a local nonprofit, held its annual event Sept. 9-11. Closure of Pine Street to traffic allowed visitors the freedom to roam the art studios, local businesses, food vendors and live music performances stationed throughout the South End Arts District.
Art Hop serves as a three-day celebration of the South End’s arts scene, in which various art studios, independent businesses and restaurants, such as the Soda Plant, open their doors to the community to celebrate their work.
Entry to the festival is free, encouraging visitors to come out and show their support.
While COVID-19 forced the group to scale back Art Hop in 2020 and 2021, the 30th anniversary offered hope for a future of the event beyond the pandemic.
In 2020, Art Hop offered online or in-person attendance, but required a reservation and adherence to capacity limits and rules for mask-wearing. In 2021, Art Hop required masks for all indoor events.
“This last Art Hop felt like almost a return to normalcy a little bit, but not as big a crowd as in 2019,” SEABA’s Executive Director Christy Mitchell said. “I think it was really important for us to do those two smaller events during the pandemic to really make sure people know that the South End Arts District is alive and well and it really made people feel proud of the neighborhood they’re in.”
Since its inception in 1992, Art Hop has expanded into a beloved Vermont tradition that attracts art enthusiasts of all ages, Art Hop founder Melanie Putz Brotz said.
“I lived in the South End near Pine Street back in my late 20s, and I would just kind of walk around a lot and I would notice all these funky little art studios and things happening where people were making stuff, tucked in behind warehouses,” she said.
Brotz wanted to provide an opportunity for artists new and old to display their work and connect with the community.
“I thought it could be really cool to have an event where these artists could have open studios and invite people in,” she said. “Some friends of mine were like, ‘that sounds really cool, I’ll work with you,’ and then it was just a total grassroots event where we just started going door to door and talking to businesses.”
Three decades later, Art Hop has helped Pine Street to flourish into the cultural epicenter of the South End’s creative community.
This year, golden yard signs directed visitors to “Hop This Way” through the three-day event’s various attractions.
Throngs of college students flocked down Main Street to join the celebration, a sign of the gradual shift in student participation as compared to Art Hops of the more distant past.
“We’ve definitely noticed there’s a lot more students that are participating in the last few years getting their artwork out but then also actually attending the event and purchasing art,” Mitchell said.
Students’ support for the arts is a source of pride for local artists and a catalyst for the creative economy, Mitchell said.
“It’s been mentioned to me multiple times that when younger people are engaged in the arts and are buying art and are inspired, it inspires [artists] too,” she said.
In addition to UVM students, UVM faculty are also engaging in the event.
Kristian Brevik, an artist and an environmental studies professor at UVM, was stationed underneath the glow of the whale lanterns and ecological zines he sells.
This was Brevik’s sixth year as a vendor at Art Hop, and his fourth year displaying the whale lanterns.
Amy Seidl, an environmental studies professor, came to support her colleague and engage in the community.
“I love how everybody comes out for this giant party to celebrate creativity,” Seidl said.
First-year Ally Long was among the crowd surrounding the hypnotic rhythm of Afro-Brazilian percussion. This was Long’s first time attending Art Hop.
“The drumming part was epic,” Long said of the event. “This woman seemed to be leading the dance with a bunch of people on the street, and it was just good to feel connected to Vermonters.”
Long was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of activity at Art Hop this fall, she said.
“There were so many things around every corner,” Long said. “I didn’t even think that I was able to see all of it.”
Moving forward, Art Hop leaders look to continue expanding the event.
“In the future, we would like to add even more ways for the public of all ages to engage with art,” Mitchell stated. “That would include more kids activities, outdoor sculptures, and promotions to other cities to let them know that Burlington is the place to shop for creative art.”
Art Hop takes place every weekend after Labor Day in the South End Arts District. SEABA also hosts online and on-site art exhibitions one to three months after opening weekend.