A Love Letter to the Plainfield Community Center

From Jerome Lipani and Alexis Smith

November 11, 2023 marked the ending of the 50th Anniversary year of the Co-op. As part of this Golden Jubilee we celebrated in our own Community Center, honoring the year-long 50th Anniversary Group Art Show. As you can see from the several photos posted from the video shot by Chris Belcher, we enjoyed presentations by a number of artists who have performed and exhibited there since the early 70’s and up to the present. The evening was especially dedicated to the late Eliinor Randall, “Randy,” who along with all the other artists here devoted herself to creating work that defied the typical commodification of the arts in the  capitalist hegemonic art gallery system.

The evening began outdoors with Jason Mallery singing a welcoming candlelit tribute to the Co-op surrounded by art hanging on the exterior building and in surrounding trees. Deborah Stoleroff organized the delicious potluck entrees and desserts upstairs, including Alexis’ Garlic Spaghetti, recalling all the early years of the weekly Spaghetti Dinners.

The PCC gallery displayed artworks which spanned 50 years, opening with a performance by the Umlaut band. Alexis Smith introduced the night’s performers with customary brio. These included Avram Patt, who spoke about theatre pieces performed there in the early 70’s by Barney and Fred Carlson and Bread and Puppet as well as the PCC launch of the ground-breaking “Not Afraid of Falling”, which subsequently enjoyed a heralded Off-Broadway run in NYC.

Then Bread and Puppet performed a cantastoria which related directly to the present genocide in Gaza. This was followed by Peter Schumann’s intense Fiddle Rant on this tragic Nakba, which was then somehow gainfully completed by the precocity of a delightful toddler.

Brian Tokar and Jerome Lipani offered their tributes to Elinor Randall, several of whose pieces are hung in the space, while showing a biopic documentary of her life and art: Elinor Randall – Journey with Horses

Ellis Jacobsen, Erok Gillard and Heidi Wilson presented theatre, poetry, collective song. Jerome offered Eric Satie’s dada Gnossienne No.1 on the newly tuned piano. Then suddenly a surprise dance performed by a legendary B&P Garbageman!

In a mini-history of the restoration of the space over the years, devotedly headed by Alexis Smith since the late 80’s – early 90’s, she recalls, “Before 1989, when I arrived, the space was condemned. I was looking for spaces to create a community center in Vermont, in the Plainfield area. . . .  The space was totally condemned by Labor and Industry. I did a lot of research to figure out what it would take to get it legal and open.”

She then recollected a partial list all of the amazing projects that we achieved:

  • dismantling the old library
  • installing a utilities sink and partial kitchen (thanks to Randy’s encouragements and too many potlucks without a kitchen!)
  • gallery track lighting (thanks to Salaam)
  • new wiring and energy efficient lighting (thanks to John Draper)
  • a few new windows (thanks to our Building Committee and Chris Thompson)
  • restored emergency exit
  • creating the lobby and the gallery space walls
  • installing the mirrors to facilitate dance classes
  • Wi-Fi access for the public
  • meeting and work space
  • the massive removal of the old wood stove
  • installing propane heater
  • the floors, multiple times! (Paul Bales helped out and another good friend, Tommy, who’s since passed away)
  • painting and repainting and painting again in between art shows that changed several times a year, which is how Alexis earned her title of Curatrix
  • the painting of the whole building, and now again, a refreshed front side, more recently by Jason Mallery and Chris Thompson, who’s always up to something in the improvements department
  • the community action of bringing in the baby grand piano through a second-floor window, and subsequently scheduling its bi-annual tunings
  • new signage by Matthew Denton and Erok Gillard
  • many evolutions of the” free store”

The list goes on and on. . . . 

“We’ve hosted thousands and thousands of movers, dancers, meeting people, kids, weddings, funerals, music events, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, the Plainfield Gamelan, every kind of yoga, wellness clinics, upstart Vermont bands, experimental theatre, contact improvisation, Bootcamp, African, ballet and modern dance; and of course, Bread & Puppet every single year for the 25 years I’ve been working there!!!” recounts Alexis. And more art exhibitions than you can shake a stick at! So consider staging your own event! See Co-op website for rental details. The Community Center is available at a discount for Co-op members, with no rental charge if events are offered to the public for free.

We still have the work before us to create disability access for folks who cannot climb the stairs.

We hope that the creation of non-profit status via the newly formed Community Trust will help us to achieve this long-term goal, so that this wonderful space will be able to be open to All for years to come!

In Solidarity!

Jerome Lipani & Alexis Smith

Contact: jeromelipani@gmail.com or VTPieGirlCo@gmail.com

  • For complete video by Chris Belcher of the Golden Jubilee Opening of 11/11/2023, see JeromeLipaniYoutube or click on: Plainfield Co-op Golden Jubilee Celebration
  • Photo credits: Chris Belcher
  • Enlarge photos by clicking on each one

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