Suspended Worlds:

Historic Theater Scenery in Northern New England

A unique look at an overlooked element of the American fabric—the ambitious murals that have served as the backdrops for decades of Yankee entertainment.

In small-town New England, long before television and the internet, the prevailing custom was to provide your own entertainment, often in the form of a performance at the local grange or Town Hall. Since there wasn’t much money for costumes or props, the plays relied on all purpose scenic backdrops-painted canvases of local scenes and interest. And they were glorious. Many of these minor masterpieces of vernacular art still survive and are presented in all their glory in this richly illustrated book celebrating the colorful and memorable painted curtains that graced the stages of countless New England towns.

A remarkable team of conservators from “Curtains Without Borders” has confronted and conquered a century of dirt, damage, and neglect to restore hundreds of these historic theater curtains to their rightful place at the center of community life. Here revealed in exquisite photographs are these monumental and glorious canvases, so often hidden in plain sight.

Painted walls rank as ‘one of the greatest forms of American folk art,’…[Suspended Worlds is] an in-depth study of the subject. —The New York Times

…an art form that desperately needed a champion. Along the way, [Hadsel’s] shown that these works and the buildings where they make their home aren’t strictly relics from the past. There’s a place and an importance for them in the modern world, too. Perhaps even a critical one.—Yankee Magazine

The fruits of the [Curtains Without Border’s] labors have been collected in an art book…[the curtains] are great pieces of folk art….restoration of the theater scenery can serve as a microcosm and inspiration for the larger project. —Associated Press

Many undiscovered treasures…[an] effort to restore a preserve a part of the past.—Vermont Public Radio

A coffee table book that belongs in the library of every Vermonter….a clear account of an imaginative partnership that has, so far, saved 185 theater curtains from neglect.—The Barton Chronicle

 

Christine Hadsel is Director of Curtains Without Borders. She has degrees from Northwestern University and the University of California at Berkeley. After moving to Vermont in 1970, she served on numerous Vermont nonprofit boards, including the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, and the University of Vermont Lane Series. For ten years, she was director of the Vermont Museum & Gallery Alliance. She and her husband, Bill Mares, live in Burlington, Vermont.