Molnar: Seeing the City

Dec 15, 2015

Art can help us see the familiar with new eyes, leading us to appreciate the old through a new perspective.

Rutland artist Bill Ramage has for the past 35 years been working on a revolutionary new perspective. He’s turned the linear perspective artists use to show depth and distance into a new paradigm that moves the focus into the mind of the observer. His 43-foot-wide drawing of downtown Rutland, on which he used up 350 pencils, is erected in a half cylinder and reflected in a mirrored wall. Standing inside the cylinder, the viewer sees this city with its elegant architecture and broad streets anew. I saw it through a haze of vertigo, caused by having a visual experience very different from the familiar – that according to the artist is a culturally imposed perspective.

Ramage’s work is just one of dozens featured in the Downtown Rutland Art Walk – DRAW for short, a new effort to showcase 20 regional artists in five central venues: in three Castleton University galleries, Rutland City Hall, and Rutland Library. Visitors can take a guided tour - the last one this year will be this Saturday at 1:30 - or go on their own with a detailed brochure, that also includes sites not formally on the tour such as the Rutland Post Office with its huge WPA murals and the renowned Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in nearby West Rutland. Murals found on other nearby buildings round out the tour.

I thought I knew Rutland pretty well. But it wasn’t until I stood inside Ramage’s meticulously rendered reproduction that I noticed just how attractive one particular street is, lined with brick and marble buildings, climbing a gentle slope, the sightline ending at the western edge of the Green Mountains. And when I peered around the massive sculptures and out the windows of the green-marble bank building at the lively scene outside, I saw a city working hard and smart to energize its places and people. Moreover, while I’ve seen many of the artists’ work in individual shows, seeing so many sharing the city’s spaces brought home the enormous wealth of talent in this part of the state.

The people who created the art and those who brought it all together – an effort sponsored by Castleton University and the Rutland Downtown Partnership - deserve our congratulations and thanks for giving us new eyes with which to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.