Most guests coming in for a meal at Rustic Roots in February have noticed something unusual about the dining room. A striking and realistic charcoal drawing of a snarling wolf wearing an orange shirt is one of the first things that catch the eye. Next to it, a large multi-colored painted cube virtually pops off of the wall. And below it, three intricate artworks in mixed media of a kingfisher, garlic bulbs, and a melancholic maiden holding a skeleton. While there is no apparent theme to these works, they do share a common thread; all 35 original artworks on display were created by the restaurant’s own staff.
Of nine current employees at Rustic Roots, seven have their visual creations on display for the public at its first employee art show. Three of the artists are also Shelburne residents Steve Crawford, Liz Swindell, and Ashley Campbell. Gianna Cavallaro and Amila Nuhodzic commute from Burlington, and Ethan Tischler and Eli Barlow from St. George and Charlotte, respectively. Despite the odds, being an artist is not a prerequisite to working at the restaurant, said Campbell, 30, who runs the 25-seat eatery with chef and owner Mike Orfan.
“We just got very lucky to have such a talented crew and wanted to show off what a unique thing we’ve got going on here,” Campbell said.
Despite the work’s varied subjects and mediums, which include pencil, micron pen and charcoal drawings, photography, watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings, ink block prints and stained glass, the show has a cohesive feel and adds liveliness to the dining room. Though after letting diners try to comprehend the visuals around them for a few moments, the servers sometimes find it necessary to tell them a little about the art.
“After they realize that it’s a staff art show, they seem a little shocked and amazed. It’s been a cool and unexpected enhancement to their experience,” said Cavallaro, 23, who recently moved to Vermont from California and holds a BFA from Humboldt State.
And for the staff, another unexpected side-effect, “it makes work feel like home … sort of,” jokes Crawford, 49, who has been quietly creating all sorts of art in Shelburne for decades, and now helps in the kitchen making made-from-scratch goods.
Stop in for a bite to eat through April 3rd to catch the show. Some pieces are available for sale. Other more personal pieces are part of the artist’s or their families’ private collections and labeled “NFS.” Rustic Roots serves made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch five days per week and a limited dinner by reservation on Friday and Saturday nights. A rotating display of Vermont art changes every two months. For more information visit rusticrootsvt.com or contact Ashley Campbell at (802) 985-9511.