by Katie Yee '17
338 Main Street used to be a bank – it had an elaborately decorated entryway, high ceilings, and a vault for valuables in the back. Then two Bennington students graduated, fell in love, and turned it into an arts and crafts gallery. With colorful glass jewelry covering the countertops that once saw currency exchanges and an area reserved specifically for banned books, Fiddlehead at Four Corners is the kind of place that could only have been created by Bennington alumni.
“Bennington was that special place where talent, passion, imagination, and individual responsibility was interconnected with academic freedom and intellectual independence,” says Joey Kulkin, the cheerful and chatty cashier at the front desk. For Joel and Nina Lentzner (Fiddlehead’s owners), Fiddlehead is not merely an art gallery that sells paintings and sculptures; instead, it is a place where the common denominator is handmade – be it a painting, a piece of blown glass, or an earwax sculpture.
Though 338 is no longer a bank, the owners have decided to keep the building’s original structure. Nevertheless, one major change has been made to the building’s interior design: Joel and Nina decided to transform the bank’s pre-existing gold vault into a space for communal art. Black chalkboard panels now cover the walls. Inside the vault there is a large bucket of colored sidewalk chalk and a bright plastic chair in the corner. The walls are covered with scribbles of all sorts – quotes, lyrics, signatures, simple doodles and well-composed drawings. “Fiddlehead debuted the Graffiti Vault last October during an exclusive listening party for Trey Anastasio’s new Traveler album. We invited everyone at the party to compose their own drawings and the old gold vault instantly became an overnight sensation,” says Kulkin.
Soon after Kulkin realized that the drawings had to be shared: “As soon as I took a picture of the first artist – a Buckeyes fan from Ohio – everything fell into place.” Kulkin, who also works as a journalist, immediately set out to compose a series of self-published books revolving around what is known as Fiddlehead’s “Graffiti Vault.”
The first three Chalk It Up! books record the work of various artists that have wandered into Fiddlehead. Over the years however, many Bennington College students have found their way onto the pages. Impressed by the sheer amount of students that have contributed to the blackboards, Kulkin has decided to dedicate a whole volume exclusively to the work produced by Bennington students - the title of this volume will be titled Chalk It Up, Bennington College! Kulkin plans to sell this edition and use the proceeds to raise money for a local charity of the students’ choosing.
Though the Bennington College edition is off to a steady start, Kulkin is always looking for more faces to photograph and more art to share.