Big Red Barn Comes Back to Life as Year-Round Art Gallery

WAITSFIELD, Vt. - An historic barn fully opened its doors to the Mad River Valley community on Sunday.

The Big Red Barn is now on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Established in 1794, it's one of the oldest farms in the Mad River Valley.

The barn was at risk of being torn down, but owner George Schenk said that wasn't an option.

He wanted to make sure he saved the space for the community.

If you know the space, you know it's adjacent to American Flatbread and Lareau Farm Inn, but the barn is also home to an annual art show.

Valley Arts has been holding the Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition in the barn for years, before much-needed renovations took place.

"We had the art shows in the barn with the roof leaking, etc, and we started trying to figure out how to fix the barn and very quickly realized we needed a foundation, redo the frame the floor and the roof," said Clay Westbrook, President of American Flatbread.

The renovations cost about a half-million dollars; most of the project was privately funded, but the rest came through grants.

A little over a year later, the barn has re-opened.

"As you get to know it, I've walked through it numerous times, and learned more and more about the history and it really is a tangible piece of our landscape here in Vermont," said Westbrook.

Gary Eckhart, President of Valley Arts, recalled how the barn used to just be utilized once a year for the art show.

"I remember coming here maybe in 1996 or '97 and there were still horses in the barn here, and after george bought it, it was strictly used as storage for Flatbread purposes," said Eckhart.

Now, Valley Arts will have a full time home in the barn. Their next event is in August for the Red Barn Art Show, and it will also host a new Multimedia Mania show in September.

The newly renovated space will also host meetings, wedding receptions and other events.

The Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition is open through July 22, Thurs. - Sun., noon - 9:00 pm (Closed Mon., Tues. & Weds.).

It includes 80 watercolor paintings from artists across North America, and is judged by internationally acclaimed watercolor artist, Anne Abgott, who has received more than 100 awards and has judged numerous exhibitions. The exhibition is free to the public.

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