Nina and Joel Lentzner '91 on Opening Fiddlehead
Nina Hardt Lentzner ’91 and Joel Lentzner ’91 opened contemporary craft and fine art gallery Fiddlehead “the last day before Y2K” in the grand neoclassical marble building that housed their bank when they were Bennington students by Heather DiLeo
Nina Hardt Lentzner ’91 and Joel Lentzner ’91 opened contemporary craft and fine art gallery Fiddlehead “the last day before Y2K” in the grand neoclassical marble building that housed their bank when they were Bennington students. Seventeen years later, Fiddlehead was named 2017’s Best Craft Gallery in Vermont by Yankee Magazine editors. Neither artist Nina nor Joel, then a teacher, had plans to open a gallery.
“It just evolved from the turns our lives had taken,” Joel says. “We happened to live next door to a well-known marble sculptor and he got us into doing craft shows.”
The two sold Nina’s hand-painted furniture at shows around the country. Over time, they decided that instead of traveling 25 weeks a year, they’d find a space where they could show not only Nina’s work but the work of the amazing artists they’d discovered on their travels.
“We met a whole crew of artists we wanted to invite back and represent in this area,” says Nina.
With artisanal glassware, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, paintings, and fiber works, Fiddlehead is a tantalizing mashup of things handmade.
“We really like the blurring of the line between fine art and fine craft,” says Joel. “You’ll see a $3,000 marble sculpture displayed next to a $23 glass tumbler because they have an aesthetic relationship rather than a pricing relationship or a relationship of mediums.”
Because Nina and Joel want the gallery to provide experiences that aren’t about shopping, they covered the walls of the bank’s main vault with chalkboards where visitors express themselves with drawings and in writing, and installed
a vintage pinball machine and a 1932 Story & Clark baby grand piano. They host openings, as well as listening parties, and offer children’s and adult art classes.
“We try to involve people in different ways so it’s not just about buying and selling of merchandise but about the whole experience.”