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ArtHound hosts hundreds during grand opening

One of the largest and most extensive art galleries in the area held a grand opening on Saturday with the celebration seeing a tremendous turnout.

The ArtHound Gallery, which resides in the Essex Shoppes & Cinema plaza and has been open since early October, welcomed an estimated 300-400 people to the party during Small Business Saturday. The event included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and live music for its attendees.

Co-owners John and Jennifer Churchman, who had run a photography gallery in Stowe from 2007-08, wanted to establish something unique to the area with varying types of art being showcased. Shoppers can view photography, paintings, pottery, woodworking, and fabric art in addition to being able to purchase local goods such as honey, jewelry, and books.

“The idea was that there wasn’t that here,” John said about his and Jennifer’s inspiration for opening a gallery which covers an array of media. “I’ve been working in Vermont, in the arts and as an artist, for over 30 years, and there are really not a lot of spaces to show art in Vermont. There have been several galleries that have closed lately, so a lot of these artists have less spaces to show. So the idea was to get a place where we could feature local Vermont artists, and you can experience the breadth of the artistic community here--which is phenomenal. Since there really isn’t anything in Essex, we really want to be open to any and all creative possibilities.”

ArtHound displays works from over 150 artists--many of them being local to the northwest Vermont region. Numerous tags found throughout the gallery have Essex and Essex Junction listed along with names like Hunter Eddy, Julie Albright, and Peter Riley. Through December, in conjunction with the Essex Art League, ArtHound is showcasing a display titled “Winter Reflection,” and John said he would also like to have local high school students’ works shown in the gallery in the future.

“We really wanted to be part of the whole development of the Essex Experience,” said John, “and this is also our home. We live in Essex and really had no interest in going down to Burlington. We wanted to be out here where a lot of people would like to be able to shop; they don’t necessarily want to go down to Burlington, and I think it’s really important that we invest in our community. So we wanted to come in here and make a really viable and exciting shopping experience for people where they could come in and see all these great artists.”

ArtHound is a 60/40 consignment gallery with 60 percent of all sales going to the artists--something the Churchmans are proud about as many galleries in the area operate under a 50/50 model.

“We really thought it was important to try to give the artists a better return,” John noted. “So we really want to try to make a difference in what we can pay back to artists.”

While ArtHound has already seen a great deal of success through its first two months of being open, its owners would like to expand its offerings and be an art icon in the area.

John said, “We’d like to be the major art hub in northern Vermont where if you’re looking for an artist, you would find them here. We’ve been told this is the largest gallery in Vermont, so we also have the ability to expand with this sort of setup. And one of the other draws we have is free parking. You don’t have to put money in the meter to go somewhere… it’s easy in and an easy out. Those things make a difference for people.”

The gallery consists of high ceilings and open rooms with the square footage sitting around 7,400. The extensive spacing allows ArtHound to offer additional services including framing and printmaking, and the Churchmans are planning on having artists come in to provide classes for the public.

Visitors have enjoyed checking out the gallery so far with some already returning for additional viewings. Anne Lavigne and Jean Siegchrist, a pair of sisters from Jericho, had nothing but good things to say about ArtHound while exploring its many displays on Tuesday morning.

“It’s fantastic--the whole spectrum from yarn to paintings to metal to woodworking to earrings, and the price ranges,” said Lavigne, who was there for the second time since the October opening. “It’s like nothing in this area, and it saves us from going to Burlington… which I’m all for. And it’s so warm--the wood floors, all of the tables, the lighting… it’s just a very pleasant place to just hang out and take your time.”

“There’s really something for everybody,” commented Siegchrist upon her first visit to the gallery, “and the artists are just doing amazing work.”

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EHS girls’ ice hockey working toward another title

The reigning Division I Vermont state champion girls’ ice hockey team has been hard at work in preparation for a run at defending its title.

The Essex High School (EHS) Hornets are in the midst of their preseason training--playing the second of their three scrimmages on Saturday (Nov. 30). The team will once again be led by head coach John Maddalena, the only head coach in the program’s varsity history, who is entering his 15th season at the helm of the squad.

“I’m really optimistic,” Maddelana said about the 2019-20 campaign following his Saturday matchup against Harwood/Northfield. “I think we have lots of potential. We’re young; we have six or seven freshmen. We lost quite a bit to graduation: two 100-point scorers, Burlington Free Press’ Miss Hockey with Olivia Miller-Johnson, [Madeline] Young, Molly Bruyns... on defense there was [Francesca] Martin. So there’s some big holes to fill, but I think that I’ve seen some good things in practice and some good things in scrimmage. I know we’ll be competitive and continue to work hard, and they should be as optimistic as I am.”

While each game during the regular season can ultimately be a factor in playoff implications, Maddalena was honest in saying he and his players certainly want to, and are thinking about, lacing up at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse in the state title once again.

“Every year, we say we want to win the last game. We also say that that we don’t need to win them all, but we want to win the last game. And that’s really what we focus on from week to week as we have a number of objectives for each game. We track those objectives to see how we are doing; we will break down scrimmages and games and video... I really want the girls to become students of the game as well as develop their skills. So we work hard, and if the opportunity arises and we can get back to the Gut, we want to be prepared. So it isn’t as though the season will be a failure if we don’t win, but certainly one of our goals is to win.”

This year’s Hornets team is comprised of 19 players with Maddalena receiving additional help from a few assistant coaches and student volunteers. He noted how valuable the latter’s contributions are to the team despite not being on the ice.

“We’re fortunate this year to have three managers--which makes it so much easier in that we can look at statistics and help form our practices.”

Only three of those rosters spots are taken by seniors, but there will be a good number of juniors suiting up for EHS this year. Included in the position players are juniors Courtney Himes and Abigail Robbins who both had noticeable performances Saturday night--displaying solid stickhandling and skating skills against Harwood/Northfield.

When asked whether he thought Himes and Robbins would be a couple of his team’s seasoned leaders, Maddalena said, “Yeah, absolutely. Courtney’s been playing quite a bit her first two years. She’ll tell you she needs to step up this year, along with Kaylee [Moody] who’s a senior on defense. And that line with Abby [Robbins], Grace Wiggett, and Hannah Himes--they need to put some pucks in the net. When you lose two 100-point scorers, you’re looking for somebody to fill in, and I think those three can do it. They have to figure each other out a little bit, but they have great potential.”

Also among the juniors is starting goaltender Sophia Forcier who held Bellows Free Academy (BFA)-St. Albans scoreless in the 2019 championship bout. Coach Maddalena thinks her performance this preseason, along with that of classmate backup Megan Ginnett, has been good, but he acknowledges that they can still grow and get even better.

“They’ve played well. There’s certainly plenty of room for improvement. Sophie’s got two years under her belt. Megan’s improved immensely over the last two years. So I expect both of them to see some playing time. But Sophie is a great athlete, and she’s becoming one of the best goalies in the state. Last year, she shut out BFA in the finals to cap off a good year, and I expect her to get off to a good start this year.”

Saturday also marked an important date for the squad in terms of leadership. Maddalena opened the locker room floor to players who were interested in being captains--allowing them to read to their teammates a written essay as to why they wanted to brandish the ‘C’ on their jersey. All three senior Hornets and four juniors made their pitch prior to the scrimmage.

“I think that’s a testament to the team,” said Maddalena, “because when you decide to write that essay, you’re making yourself a little bit vulnerable… expressing your feelings and desires to the team. The fact that they’re comfortable doing that, in that setting, tells me that the chemistry is looking good right now.”

The Hornets start the regular season with the Christie Corrigan Blitz Tournament held at Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Center in St. Albans--taking on Potsdam High School on Friday, Dec. 13 before facing Hingham High School that Saturday. EHS will line up with BFA-St. Albans twice before the playoffs as the Hornets host the Comets on Jan. 25 before heading to Collins Perley on Feb. 19. However, Maddalena thinks that there are other teams in the state who will be tough competition and a hard matchup for his crew.

“It’s going to be very competitive. Burlington/Colchester is a really good team; BFA graduated a lot, but they still have two excellent goaltenders and some other good players. So I think that it’s going to be a battle. It’s not going to be one or two teams. It’s going to be three or four teams that’ll try and win.”

Coach Maddalena, who has won seven Vermont state titles as the head of the girls’ team--including four of the last six--offered up a little more insight to his style of coaching and his tremendous amount of success.

Essex Reporter: Does winning state championships get any easier?

Coach Maddalena: I think it gets harder because the other programs are getting stronger, so there isn’t as much difference between the teams. It’s just a lot more pressure. In the early years, everybody wanted Essex to beat BFA; that’s not the case anymore.

ER: Is it getting any less exciting, or even “boring,” winning state titles?

CM: No, because the exciting thing is: here you’ve got a bunch of girls that all have skills. How are you going to be able to put them together so that they can be a championship team? So I love the problem-solving aspect of it, and I love to help them develop their potential and really learn the game. So certainly, for me, it’s as exciting now as when it was first started.

ER: You mentioned earlier that you know you might not win every game. Is there something specific that you’d like your team to take away from your losses, or is it dependent on the game itself and how you lost?

CM: If we hit most of our objectives and we lose, then I’m not really disappointed. I’d be more disappointed if we won but I get 50 percent of our objectives. So that’s really our focus: not so much to score and not so much the wins and losses--but hitting those objectives. Then we review the video, making sure that that we’re disciplined in that we’re playing as a team.

ER: Do you adjust your style of play from year to year depending on your personnel, or do you keep it consistent and have your players adapt to what you want to do?

CM: I do. For example: we may do different things on the forecheck. If we don’t have a lot of speed on the wings--which is what I prefer--then we may not go with a two-person forecheck. Same thing with a power play… depending upon what we have, we’ve got a few different options. For defensive coverage, it usually stays pretty much the same

ER: Is there any specific amount of games during the regular season, or a specific date on the calendar, that you usually say, “We’re not doing things very well, so we need to change it up?”

CM: We’re trying to figure things out right up through, I’d say, the end of January. I’ve changed up the lines of people from offense to defense, defense to offense. Like I said, we don’t need to win every game, but we have to figure out what’s the right chemistry. So some years it comes sooner, or other years it can go to the middle of February until we say, “This is clicking, and this is what we’re going to roll with.” Some people: they need to be flexible, and that’s hard. If you’ve been playing [defense], maybe you haven’t been paying attention to what the center should be doing on the faceoff. So it can be intimidating, but they’re pretty resilient.

ER: How do you think the youth programs in the town, and community overall, help your success?

CM: It’s tremendous. If you don’t have people actually recruiting girls, then you don’t have girls to play at the high school level. So now we’re successful because, at the youth level, they put so much time and effort into their programs

ER: How does it feel to have so many of your graduates go on to play collegiately?

CM: I think it’s great. I think it says a lot about Vermont hockey that, these days, programs like the Shamrocks have certainly helped out, because they work with public high schools in terms of offering preseason and postseason for these girls--which allows them to stay with their high school teams. Plus, as you can see here, a lot of the girls on the Harwood/Northfield team are good friends with girls on the Essex team. I think it’s terrific.

ER: Do you have any hand in helping the girls get recruited to college teams?

CM: I can. But a lot of that is up to them. I write letters, but I’m not really that actively involved; I’m not contacting different coaches and saying, “Maybe you should come take a look at so-and-so.” I think quite a bit of that happens through the Shamrocks, and they play in these different types of tournaments and get that sort of exposure. For me, I’d like them to have opportunities to do that, but it’s really about just playing the game at a public high school and being part of this chemistry... enjoying it for what it is.

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AHS seeks Woodside closure

ESSEX — Staff at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center were notified Tuesday that the Scott administration will ask the General Assembly to close the facility next year.

In a statement, Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith cited a years-long decline in the number of youth at the facility and an increased capacity for acute care in Vermont’s communities.

“This Administration – through the Agency of Human Services – working with the legislature and community partners has greatly increased community capacity where youth with mental health concerns can be treated in the least restrictive setting possible. This work has led to a significant decline in delinquent youth in custody,” said Smith. “The steady decline of delinquent youth in State custody has impacted the population at Woodside, and over the last several months, the census at Woodside has been five or fewer youth. On Nov. 21, Woodside did not have a youth in the facility for the first time since its inception.”

“While Woodside has served a critical role in our continuum of care for delinquent youth for over 30 years, it has become clear that youth needs are changing, and we need to meet their changing needs,” stated Commissioner of the Department for Children and Families, Ken Schatz. “Youth have better outcomes through community-based settings where they remain connected to family and supports. DCF will continue to work with our community partners and will continue to grow capacity to meet the complex needs of acute youth in our care.”

The closure announcement follows a lawsuit by Disability Rights Vermont alleging mistreatment of youth at the facility. In August, Judge Geoffrey Crawford issued a preliminary injunction requiring Woodside to immediately adopt a nationally recognized standard for restraining youth.

Prior to issuing his ruling, Crawford reviewed video of three boys restrained at Woodside. He described multiple adult men restraining a single youth, concluding, “The court is satisfied that the emotional harm alleged is irreparable both in the sense that it is not readily compensated by money damages, and that the harm caused by the misuse of force resolves slowly and not always fully. The parties agree that youth admitted to Woodside have frequently been subjected to prior abuse and that they are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment.

“The violence depicted on the video exhibit is intense and long in duration.”

At another point in his ruling, Crawford describes the use of restraint he reviewed as “prolonged, chaotic and featur[ing] considerable violence.”

Woodside was also ordered to present the court with a new policy to reduce the use of seclusion and address deficiencies “such as toilet flushing and access to bedding and fresh water not less then ten days before the next hearing.”

Crawford found that Woodside was keeping its young residents in isolation for days, weeks, even months at a time.

Those in isolation are in a room with a toilet they cannot flush themselves, and which, Crawford found, often went unflushed by staff.

“Youth went without exercise, bedding and showers for days,” Crawford wrote. “Plaintiff’s experts were very credible in describing the harm caused by prolonged isolation of young people from their peers and normal activities of life.”

Woodside claimed isolation was a safe and effective way to provide intensive counseling. The counseling was provided by a staff person located outside the door.

The third issue in the injunction is the treatment of youth in mental health crises, particularly those at risk of suicide.

One of the videos reviewed by Crawford showed a girl naked in a tiled shower room, smeared with excrement, being subdued by a group of men in hazmat suits. Woodside was trying to transfer her to the University of Vermont Medical Center, which did not want to accept her.

“The use of four hooded male officers, clothed in hazmat suits, to subdue a naked young woman and force her to the floor beneath a plexiglass shield cannot represent an appropriate, professional response to her attempts to strangle herself with cords and fabric strips torn from her clothing,” Crawford wrote. “Instead, the segment shows staff responding to her dangerous behavior in a manner that was both too much and too little. The force employed was too much. The apparent absence of a considered, medically-directed plan of treatment for a person in the midst of a mental crisis was too little.”

“The treatment of this girl is entirely inappropriate and demonstrates in the space of a few minutes Woodside’s limited ability to care for a child who is experiencing symptoms of serious mental illness,” Crawford wrote.

At the conclusion of his statement regarding the closure, Smith said, “We are incredibly appreciative of the Woodside staff who have shown true dedication and devotion to the care of youth at Woodside. And we will be working collaboratively with the VSEA to support staff through this transition.”