For almost 40 years, the Helen Day Art Center has turned into a magical center for the holidays, with ornately decorated Christmas trees and menorahs on loan from Jewish families in the Stowe area.
And in addition to the Festival of Trees and Light, the Stowe art center holds its annual show and sale of artwork created by its members.
The festival and exhibit opened on Thanksgiving week and continues to Dec. 28. Typically, it’s popular with families to see that the sky’s the limit when it comes to decorating a Christmas tree. The evergreens are decorated by master artisans.
The Hanukkah display includes menorahs, games and dreidels.
At the art show, people can often find a piece — among the paintings, fine-art photography and sculpture — created by a neighbor or friend.
Most of the work is for sale and 25 percent of the profits go to the art center. And Helen Day might remind you that a piece of locally made art makes a terrific Christmas gift.
Friday’s opening reception was packed enough to have bodily contact when moving from room to room — better to bump into someone than something in this space.
Mercifully, many of the trees’ trinkets and trimming weren’t breakable, avoiding that conversation-stopping smash of a delicate glass bauble hitting the floor from an errant elbow.
Each tree is adorned by work from one artist, and the ornaments are for sale.
Some of the trees had ornaments made from different paper-folding techniques, from traditional to modern origami to more rustic creations like roosters, butterflies, snowflakes and cats.
One tree was full of fuzzy felt animal faces, like pigs and puppies. Another was so full of large handmade Christmas stockings you could barely see the spruce needles underneath.
One of them featured delicate ornaments of stained glass and another cheery garlands of red, waxy dried chili peppers.
There were more children than usual for an exhibit not aimed at the young ones — some of them being interviewed for short video segments, and some of them clustered in one corner of the gallery called @hands_on_HDAC, where kids were encouraged to touch and make things and take selfies for the gallery’s Instagram page.
The trees make for interesting paths through the gallery space, where members’ artworks adorn the walls and sit on pedestals.
Paintings and photography are of all styles and media, and a special shout-out goes to the Helen Day curators for making such a varied collection of pieces fit so well together. Each piece is allowed to stand on its own, but don’t get too used to a certain style as you work your way along the wall.
That’s the joy of the holidays and the joy of this annual members’ art show: people from all different walks of life, upbringings and sensibilities, crammed together, like a carol of tasteful cacophony.