By Curt Peterson
Partners Doug Nolet and Meg Carleton were sitting around contemplating the state of the world, particularly the plight of the Ukrainian people under attack by the Russian military, when they decided to do something about it.
Nolet, who happens to own the dilapidated old house and a half acre of land, painted the vacant dwelling bright yellow and blue like the Ukrainian flag to protest of Russia’s aggression. Painted in huge letters across the color break is, “Ukraine Strong,” adapted from Vermont’s post-tropical storm Irene battle cry: “Vermont Strong.”
“Putin claims there is no such country as Ukraine,” Carleton told the Mountain Times, “That it’s just a part of Russia, and that justifies the invasion.”
“But the Ukrainians stood up to Putin and said they are a country, with their own cultural identity. That gave us the idea — two people like us in a tiny state can’t change the world, but if enough people do what they can, it can make a difference,” she said.
The house is on Route 5/12 in Hartland, right in the heart of Hartland Three Corners. Over the years, Nolet’s had several ideas for using it, but never got around to making them happen. He tried to sell it with a spray-can painted “For Sale by Owner” sign, but prospective buyers weren’t willing to pay his price.
Nolet, who likes to imply he’s a leftover hippie, does a lot of painting, including at a huge mansion on an island in New Hampshire, and a 40-foot totem pole. He’s an artist, and art, Carleton said, is the manifestation of a culture — if there is art, there is a culture — and Ukrainian grit has inspired a lot of art.
“Doug likes to say that each of those works of art is a gun in the war for Ukraine,” she said. “Art makes people think.”
The local Hartland listserv is often a podium for expressing opinions. When Nolet and Carleton had painted enough so passers-by could see what it was about, someone called it an “eyesore,” probably assuming there was general agreement. The remark inspired a cascade of rebuttals, including, “Thanks for taking a stand and reminding us of our blessings,” “Looks great,” and “Amazing.”
Looking at the house the obvious question comes to mind — does it have a future? Perhaps as a perpetual art project?
Nolet and Carleton laughed.
“No, it’s a tear-down,” Carleton said. “The sills are crumbling and there’s nothing left to work with, really. It’s probably just going to continue to speak to Doug’s inner anarchist.”