Burlington celebrates the 25th anniversary of local artist festival

Addie Beach, Staff Writer

Visiting Burlington’s South End 25 years ago, people walking around would have seen empty warehouses and crumbling buildings. Unless you were one of a few artists, that is—then you saw potential.

Last weekend marked the 25th anniversary of Burlington’s South End Art Hop. The three-day event featured the work of over 600 artists at more than 100 locations, according to the South End Arts and Business Association (SEABA) website.

Adam Brooks, executive director of SEABA, said the art ranged anywhere from sculpture to music and performance pieces.

SEABA brought back annual events including the Juried Art show, STRUT! fashion show and classes on how to make sunglasses and mold chocolate into sculptures.

Brooks said that Art Hop hadn’t forgotten its roots. This year, the festival brought back some of the artists and businesses from 25 years ago that “activated” the South End into what it is today, Brooks said.

The original event had only 300 attendees. Now, the weekend attracts about 30,000 attendees a year, according to a Seven Days article published on Sept. 7.

The goal behind the first Art Hop was simple: a group of artists got together to see how they could show their studios and artwork to the Burlington community, Brooks said.

Rich Arentzen of AO Glass was one of these artists.

“It was a good opportunity to show my work in a collective space,” Arentzen said.

The event featured amateur and professional artists alike. Arentzen said he believes the Art Hop has been particularly valuable for the amateurs.

“They are often very talented, and it’s a good way for them to show the community what they like to do and what their skills are,” he said.

There weren’t many issues putting together the first Art Hop, but the fact that there weren’t similar events to emulate made the first year a challenge, Arentzen said.

Over the years Art Hop has spread across town, now encompassing much of Pine Street and spreading into other areas of Burlington.

Arentzen said this expansion is a positive force for Art Hop. “Some people say it takes focus away from the art,” he said, “but I think it adds much more energy and life.”

Brooks also sees the sprawled-out nature of Art Hop as a key part of its fun. “You just never know what you’re going to find around that corner, in that door, through that alley,” he said.

Both Arentzen and Brooks said they hoped to see more of the UVM community at future Art Hops. Brooks said it gave students a chance to try something new and interesting.

“Whether you take up glass blowing or painting as a hobby,” he said, “the South End is open to any and all possibilities, and Art Hop helps those artists start, grow and thrive.”

Senior Elizabeth Whalen said she is happy to attend Art Hop.

“It’s good to support local art,” she said. “The community can always use more culture.”

Art Hop Timeline
– 1986: SEABA founded (as Greater Pine Street Business Organization)
– 1993: First Art Hop takes place
– 1994: SEABA begins organizing the Art Hop
– 1998: Juried art show moves out from the train car where it was originally based
– 2006: First STRUT! fashion show
– 2013: First Art Hop ale (in partnership with Magic Brewing Company)