Final Reading: Yes, the Statehouse is also a museum

David Schütz, Vermont State Curator. He is the first person to serve in this office. Photo by Riley Robinson/VTDigger

It all started with an ad in a historic preservation newspaper: a college student from Dartmouth was studying art at the Vermont Statehouse and needed an assistant. David Schütz, freshly graduated from the doctoral school, applied.

Forty-two years later, he is still there. He is now state curator, responsible for collecting thousands of Vermont artworks and furnishings, and of course, the Statehouse itself.

The first 20 years of Schütz’s career were devoted to the restoration of the people’s house. When Schütz arrived, it was “pretty 70s,” he said, with lower ceilings and fluorescent lighting. Now restored to its former glory, it still requires cyclical maintenance, Schütz said, as the sun and weather take their toll on the furnishings. Part of his job is to figure out what needs attention and when.

But the main task ahead of us, Schütz said, is storytelling.

“What are the stories that need to be told and how do we use the collection to its advantage?” Schutz asked. “How can we change the collection to reflect the reality of 21st century Vermont and its government?”

The Statehouse portraits mostly depict former governors, which means they are mostly white men.

Sidebar: Portraits of governors are paid for with private money and commissioned just before a subject leaves office. A good portrait can cost around $40,000, Schütz said. The curator proposes a few artists to each outgoing governor, who then chooses whom to commission. Part of the reason the curator role was created in the first place, Schütz said, is that some of the mugs on the walls were aesthetically — in his diplomatic description — “not good.”

Schütz plans to keep a few portraits of governors on the walls, “but do we have to have them all?” He asked.

“We have an obligation to make sure every Vermonter feels comfortable here and feels like this is, in fact, their state home,” he said.

About five years ago, Schütz formed a task force to assess the state’s collection, which prompted two postings in the lobby: one about state recognition of the Abenaki people and the other on women political leaders in Vermont. (Senator Ruth Hardy, D-Addison, also introduced legislation in 2020 to expand the diversity of Statehouse art.) Because the pandemic canceled Statehouse tours for more than a year, there were more time to devote to this work, said Schütz. He expects that by July the team will have completed an “interpretive plan” to diversify the collection.

In December 2020, the nonprofit organization Friends of the Vermont Statehouse raised funds to commission a portrait of Alexander Twilight, the first person of African descent to serve in a state legislature. Twilight was elected to the Vermont General Assembly in 1836. The portrait, which Schütz said will hang in the lobby, is now complete and awaits a frame. Schütz’s team wanted to hold an in-person unveiling celebration this month, he said, but that is on hold for now due to the pandemic.

—Riley Robinson


TO KNOW

Before the House moved on to business — namely sending a $360 million spending package to the Senate — Rep. Jim McCullough, D-Williston, asked his colleagues to take a moment to mark the passing of legendary rock star Meat Loaf.

The 74-year-old singer’s passing may not mean much to young members of the chamber, McCullough said, but Meat Loaf’s 1977 album “Bat Out of Hell” remains one of the best-selling of all time and sold some 40 million. copies all over the world.

“Many rockers here in this house remember him and mourn his passing,” McCullough said.

Separately, this reporter woke up to a 6 a.m. text from a certain Statehouse source, who claimed Meat Loaf’s “Bat out of Hell” is also highly regarded by Senator Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia , who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

The senator confirmed that “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” is indeed one of her favorite songs – as well as a very useful way to think about the trade-offs when working out the multi-billion dollar budget. state dollars.

—Lola Dufort

There will be a new face in Montpellier. Governor Phil Scott announced on Friday that Matthew Walker of Swanton, a Republican, will fill a vacancy at the Vermont House.

Walker and his wife, PattiJo, own and operate Vermont Clothing Company & JC Image, a small graphic design, screen printing and embroidery business, according to a statement from Scott’s office. Walker also coached youth baseball and basketball for over a decade and is now head coach of the Missisquoi Valley Union High School men’s varsity basketball team.

Walker takes the place of former Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton, who resigned his seat in December. Although not required by law, Scott retained the state tradition of appointing someone from the same political party as the incumbent legislator, chosen from a list of suggestions provided by the local party branch.

“As a small business owner and someone who has spent a lot of time volunteering in his community, Matt will bring valuable experience to this new role,” Scott said in Friday’s statement. “When I interviewed him, I was impressed by his enthusiasm for service, his pragmatism and his common-sense approach, and I’m confident he will be an impactful legislator.”

—Sarah Merhoff


ELECTORAL DIVISION

Former Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman is seriously considering returning to his old role. The progressive Democrat, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Republican Gov. Phil Scott in 2020, now says he’s “more likely than not” to throw his hat in the ring in the open race for lieutenant governor.

“A number of people reached out to me and encouraged me,” Zuckerman said. “I then reached out to other people all over the state, trying to gauge if there was any interest, and there seems to be quite a bit of interest and excitement.”

He said he would make a final decision and announcement in the coming weeks.

Zuckerman isn’t the only former LG thinking about asking voters to return to his old job. Doug Racine, who held the position from 1997 to 2003, tells VTDigger that he’s “going more in that direction than not.”

—Lola Dufort


IN CONGRESS

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., came under scrutiny last month when an investigation found his wife, Margaret Cheney, sold shares of ExxonMobil weeks before Welch asks the company’s CEO during a high-profile hearing on “Big Oil.”

The disclosure, first reported by Insider, was notable not only because of the Exxon connection, but also because Welch himself promised VTDigger in 2020 that he would no longer buy individual stocks. He has since become a vocal critic of the practice in the halls of Congress and has signed legislation banning the practice altogether.

Cheney’s divestment came just months before Welch launched a campaign for the U.S. Senate on a platform that includes backing the Green New Deal.

Now Welch spokeswoman Emily Becker said Cheney has pledged to avoid holding individual shares. She and Welch haven’t purchased any new shares since 2020, according to Financial Disclosures.

And, according to Welch’s office, he’s about to sell the last individual stocks in his portfolio acquired before his 2020 engagement — at which point, according to Welch staff, he won’t hold any more individual stocks.

Learn more here.

—Sarah Merhoff


FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Please enjoy this cartoonish interruption from Sarah’s cat in Thursday’s Vermont edition. The audio clip is courtesy of Vermont Public Radio. The lamp is fine, please ask.

The culprit, Suki, is a sweet cutie when she’s not destroying things.

WHAT IS THERE TO EAT

While lawmakers won’t be back until Tuesday, the Statehouse Cafeteria will be open Monday serving lasagna — likely carnivorous and vegetarian versions.

But also! We have more information on Chef Manager Bryant Palmer, the man who will likely feed many end readers over the next few months. Before assuming his current role at the Statehouse cafeteria this month, Palmer was director of culinary operations at Skinny Pancake, where he oversaw a dozen kitchens.

By comparison, “it’s kind of a relaxing job,” Palmer said.

Watch this space: Palmer said he loves the process of smoking meats, cheeses and vegetables, and he could get a smoker out once the weather warms up.

—Riley Robinson


WHAT WE READ (AND LISTEN)

After decades of failed attempts, the Champlain Parkway gets the green light from the federal government (VTDigger)

Rapid tests intended for the general public may be diverted to schools (VTDigger)

Jeremy Jones on the fight to save winter (Vermont Conversation)

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