Agency of Administration
Office of the State Curator
Chris Miller is one of my favorite public artists. We were fortunate when he responded to our call create a Granite Labyrinth at the Kent Museum in Calais, VT during the summer and fall of 2012. The installation of the stone labyrinth in the barnyard of that rural museum was without question the piece that resonated most with many of our visitors—and a piece that happily was installed permanently so that public enjoyment and interaction could continue for many years to come.
Chris envisioned and proposed the labyrinth in response to our theme—finding innovative ways to keep costs in check and siting it for maximum aesthetic impact and enjoyment. The design is very much his own, and yet it pays homage to more traditional labyrinths as well, quickly becoming an important part of the landscape of the historic crossroads hamlet of Kents’ Corner.
I work regularly with many artists in many different situations. Chris is one of the most inspired—and yet carefully deliberate and organized that I have encountered. He understood from the outset that to install such a piece in a Design Control District where approval might take some time could prove to be a challenge. But he worked closely and carefully with us to gain that approval, and with a modest amount of volunteer assistance, was able to accomplish this ambitious installation under budget and comfortably within our timeframe. For that, and his frequent generosity to our community, our curatorial team remains very much in his debt. Meanwhile, the Kent Museum Labyrinth is fast becoming a notable symbol of what we hope the museum will offer the public well into the future-- with its unique combination of historic ambience and contemporary art. We look forward to collaborating with Chris on other projects as we continue to bring new life to this important cultural resource.
Vermont State Curator
Seven days July 2014
Bicyclists in downtown Barre now can take advantage of a curious new addition to the Main Street curbside: a pair of granite gargoyles, faces twisted and tongues extended, flanking either side of a serpentine bike rack.
The sculpture, by Calais sculptor Chris Miller, is the first of three commissioned bike-rack sculptures to be sited around Barre in coming months. All three are carved from Barre granite.
The bike racks are funded by the Stone Sculpture Legacy Program, which is overseen by Sue Higby, executive director of Studio Place Arts. Last year, Miller, was commissioned to create the sculptures with money from the Charles Semprebon Fund, as well as other public artworks.
Sempron, a businessman and Barre native, left $2 million to the city to promote public art in Barre, paying homage to its legacy as a stone capital.
"Barre was definitely the original art city in Vermont, and I would say the region," Higby says. "People would come from Europe — Italy, Spain and Scotland — to use some of the best granite in the world ... And people try to live next to the best material they can get their hands on, because it's so expensive to ship."
The bike racks are just a few of the Stone Sculpture Legacy Program initiatives underway, Higby says, all designed to spotlight local talent and local materials.
"My hope is to get a larger recognition of the talent that is here in Barre," Higby says. "Most of the very fabulous work that is done here is shipped out."
Article in Vt. Arts Council 2014 Annual Report
on "Art in State Buildings" Award Grant
Link to page 10-11
Seven Days Oct 2013
When Studio Place Arts commissioned sculptor Chris Miller to create Barre’s newest public artwork, he was faced with a unique challenge: Craft an engaging structure — from Barre gray granite, of course — to fill the long but narrow space between the downtown gallery and the new Barre City Place building on Main Street.
Miller was up for the challenge. The Calais stone carver worked with the constraints of the site to winnow down his options. The space is just 5 feet and 8 inches wide, but 74 feet long. His task was to define the space with granite yet leave room for plantings. SPA and DEW Construction, the firm that owns Barre City Place, wanted the sculpture to be the centerpiece of a new pocket green space.
At first, Miller considered carving train tracks with a train at one end, but the design would have been too bulky. Next, he says, he thought about building a stone wall, but that option seemed too linear.
“When I kept sketching out the design as a stone wall, it kept looking more and more like a zipper,” says Miller.
Which is exactly what it became: a 74-foot-long, undulating granite zipper. The sculpture evokes the sense of “the Earth opening up,” Miller says, a perfect thematic fit for a garden.
The recently finished sculpture is called “Unzipping the Earth.” Complete with all the zipper parts, it’s the kind of piece that makes you want to reach out and touch it — or zip it up.
Miller started carving the zipper five weeks ago. Since the work has been finished, SPA executive director Sue Higby has planted perennials in the long opening between sets of granite teeth.
The pocket park, which doubles as a main entrance to Barre City Place, takes the place of the temporary sculpture park SPA created on the vacant lot before construction began on the new building.
“We realized that we needed to make another special place,” says Higby. “The zipper sculpture garden will catch the attention of people, in part because of the curiosity factor and for its original beauty — imagine what fun they will have visiting what is likely North America’s largest zipper.”
This isn’t the first stone sculpture Miller has carved for downtown Barre. Last summer he completed an unusual bike rack — over which a pair of granite gargoyles fought tug-of-war style — as part of the Semprebon Stone Sculpture Legacy Program.
With its deep stores of granite, its rich history of Italian stone cutters and its current crop of talented local carvers, Barre is reclaiming its role as a serious Vermont art hub. And Miller is thrilled to be a part of the city’s expanding public art landscape. “I’m among those that believe Barre should have a sculpture every 10 feet,” he says.
The Kent Tavern Museum Labyrinth
The Barre Gargoyles
Semprebon Stone Legacy Award - Barre Vermont
State of Vermont
Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital
Art in State Buildings 2014 Design Award Grant
My sculptor colleagues Ryan Mays, Gampo Wickenheiser, Heather Milne Ritchie and I won the design competition for Vermont's New Psychiatric Hospital to create sculpture throughout the grounds.
Barre Zipper Garden Park
City Place Barre, Vermont
The Stone Truck Project
A crowd sourced community sculpture installation
University of Vermont Catamount
Gutterson Fieldhouse Burlington, Vt.
"Olympia" West Branch Sculpture Park Stowe, Vermont
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