By JOANNA TEBBS YOUNG
CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY
Here’s the interesting thing about negativity: it grows when you focus on it. But good news: the same goes for positivity. Being positive doesn’t mean ignoring the negatives and pushing them under that proverbial rug; it means finding the positive in less than ideal situations, or better yet seeing it as an opportunity for change and growth, not a reason to give up.
Local artist Brian Sylvester says that when he first moved to Rutland in 2010 to get closer to nature, he was surprised by the “number of naysayers that had given up on the town.” He sees that some are “content to focus on the negatives, believing they don’t have the wherewithal to do anything to change the situation.”
But this is not Sylvester’s mindset. “I believe in Rutland,” he says. It is this belief in his new hometown that has prompted him to use his own talents and abilities as a way to focus on positive change in this area.
In the short time Sylvester has been here, he has experienced much positivity in terms of his art. One of the two-person team who painted the large mural on the back of the Opera House on Evelyn Street in Rutland, he has exhibited in multiple places and settings, including Ana’s Empanadas on Strongs Avenue, where his work can be currently seen. He has also painted “live” at the Rutland Winter Farmers Market.
Once a horticulturist, Sylvester now paints full time, creating what he calls contemplative or meditative art. His work, which could also be described as sacred geometry, “progressed organically.” Creating since a young age, mandalas — his newest form of artistic expression — “just came out after focus and discipline.”
“The act of painting itself is very sacred and spiritual to me. I work intuitively,” Sylvester says. “I start with a blank canvas and let the work flow.”
Rutland isn’t exactly a blank canvas, but, Sylvester says, “I don’t believe in obstacles, and from experience, I know that Vermonters don’t either.”
Crediting individuals such as Greg Cox, “who would not accept it could not be done,” he uses the success of the new Vermont Farmers Food Center as an example. Sylvester sees there are enough people here who believe in this town, people who are willing and ready, and so a difference will be made.
“Being an artist is all about giving of oneself so others can enjoy the work,” Sylvester says. He extends this belief to the larger community, stressing the importance of taking an active role in its growth. One place he particularly wants to give is in downtown, starting with the Chaffee Art Gallery. Seeing an opportunity to combine his love of art and his enjoyment of running, Sylvester will be participating in the Burlington Marathon on May 26. He is collecting donations to benefit the Chaffee.
A track runner in high school, Sylvester’s last full marathon was in Baltimore in 2009. He says while he enjoys road races, he now prefers the abundant Vermont running trails, adding that running alone gives him time to think and decompress. He attributes the fact that he’s never had “artist’s block” to his fitness routine because he believes “it aids in keeping the mind open and clear, and that means the creative process is open and clear as well.”
Wishing for someone who shared his vision and also had a connection to the Chaffee, Sylvester chose Graeme Wilson as his running partner for the marathon, a former multimedia student of Chaffee Executive Director Margaret Creed Barros.
“I like that I can help support an arts initiative in Rutland, which could really use the positive influence,” Wilson says.
Sylvester agrees: “I think Chaffee is a vital part of the downtown’s revitalization … It is a modern and progressive addition to the downtown, and that’s exactly what Rutland needs.”
To donate to the Chaffee fundraiser, click here.
Weekly Writing Prompt
Each week I will post two prompts related to this week’s article; one for personal insight and one for a creative springboard. Let them lead you where you want to go.
- Prompt 1: When I’m negative/positive I find …
- Prompt 2: Feeling her feet hit the hardened dirt of the trail …