Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Oyga Vault

Graffiti Vault at Fiddlehead at Four Corners

BENNINGTON -- Craig Karmin of the Wall Street Journal insists he had no intention of excluding New England from his incomplete story about repurposed bank vaults (HERE).

The geographically challenged 13-year reporter for the WSJ featured vaults at old banks in Brooklyn, Houston, Bucks County Pee-Ay, Los Angeles and Indiana -- yet forgot about similar reformations in the Pacific Northwest, the South and New England.

Which is funny because you can learn a lot about old banks turned into art galleries and pubs and book repositories by Googling for 15 or 20 minutes.

That's what infuriated Art Gallery Dude after a buddy of his tweeted a link about how Karmin ignored Fiddlehead at Four Corners in his half-hearted story and that the Bennington gallery has a good story going.

And that buddy is right because there isn't another story like it in America.

Fiddlehead's vault generates Graffiti Galore -- Karmin would've known with a little legwork.

His lack of effort is one more punch to the guts of small business.

Twelve years ago when Art Gallery Dude was still Newspaper Sportswriter Dude, he covered a high school girls hoops team that won back-to-back state titles.

It was a great team coached by a great woman who was a star hoops player at the school decades earlier and decided never to leave town. She is and forever will be the beating heart and prototypical soul in those sticks of East Vermont.

NSD understood the importance of mentioning every player from that team in the paper during the season -- and not just the best players over and over and over. This team was loaded, too, so it would have been easy to focus on the twins who scored 20 and 30 points a night, or the super-smart point guard who hardly ever scored but ran that offense like a fiddle, or the other players who contributed every night.

One night after another blowout, NSD decided to interview the 10th, 11th and 12th players on the team, and gave them the lead quotes high in the story even though the quotes were rather tame. But the coach noticed right away. She mentioned it next time she saw NSD.

Those players, the coach said, were really giddy the next day after seeing themselves quoted in the newspaper. They practiced harder because they didn't feel ignored. 

That was a big moment for them, the coach said.

After the second title the coach was on local TV and the interviewer mentioned the sportswriter and his stories throughout the season and how he chose to interview the girl with 1 point during garbage time even though the star scored 32 when it mattered.

There was a reason for that. That reason was to include everyone on the team in one chapter or another in the story of a championship season.

Craig Karmin and the Wall Street Journal don't understand that concept.

Can you mention every single converted bank in the story? For the print version, no. AGD was in the business for 23 years and understands that the industry is on its deathbed. Papers are shutting down left and right, from California to Maine, Seattle to South Beach, and short of that they're cutting back to 3-day print weeks.

The Times-Picayune in New Orleans won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Katrina -- and now the paper is printing 3 days a week! Eighteen percent profits isn't good enough because it's not 24 percent profits! Great reporters and editors and photographers by the thousands have been kicked to the curb by bloodsucking vampire squid newspaper CEOs across America, although to be fair most major papers are owned by hedge funds who handcuff CEOs and force them to eat the guts out of their properties.

But anyway, don't try to bullshit a bullshitter by saying there is no space to highlight cool bank vault transformations when the Internet is a vast universe of space. Jesus Christ. Have you ever read a Bill Simmons column? Trips to Pluto are shorter.

The hook on Fiddlehead is that it has the only Graffiti Vault in America -- and probably in the world. You know what? You don't even have to give Fiddlehead that much space in the online story. Just a mention of the gallery and its Graffiti Vault would have piqued the kind of interest that prompted readers to Google Fiddlehead at Four Corners to find its website and be moved enough to 1) take a trip to downtown Bennington to check out the gallery or 2) check out the handmade wares at

It's the little jolt in the arm a publication like the WSJ can give mom and pop.

Nothing against those cool bank vaults in Houston, L.A., Yardley (curiously, Yardley ... ), Brooklyn and Indiana because AGD thinks it's pretty awesome what the visionaries of those businesses did to attract the masses to their bank vaults.

It's the same vision Fiddlehead had for its gallery, which has been open since 2001, and the same vision for the Graffiti Vault, which launched October 13 during a listening party for Trey Anastasio's new album. The concept was the same one AGD employed during his newspaper days: Engage the reader. In this case he engages tourists or townies to share their artistic skills. Again, how many art galleries in the country let you scribble on their walls?

AGD's Graffiti Vault book called "Chalk It Up!" will publish within 6 weeks.

By the way, had Craig Karmin spent a few minutes trying a little harder he would have found New England visionaries who took old banks and did THIS and THIS and THIS.

There are many other examples for the next reporter who takes off his blindfold.

Here are the latest entries in the Graffiti Vault at Fiddlehead at Four Corners ...

Anya from Hoosick Falls

"Caroline = Swag"