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How the Screening Committee chose the projects

BRATTLEBORO—The Screening Committee selected 12 public art projects from the 35 submitted to the town last month as part of the federal Our Town Grant.

Town Manager Peter Elwell told the Selectboard last week how much the seven-member screening committee impressed him.

Selectboard member Donna Macomber said it was “profoundly motivating” and “incredibly inspiring” to see what people had submitted and how the projects served Brattleboro.

According to Elwell, the committee members used a color coding system to winnow the initial pool of proposals, which spanned disciplines, genres, and styles. Before discussion started, he said, the committee members individually identified each proposal as red for no, green for finalist, or amber for “not sure, and we want to hear more.”

“This was really challenging,” Elwell said. Comparing the proposals wasn’t even comparing apples to oranges but “apples, and oranges, and grapes, and bananas.”

This method helped the committee members reach an overall consensus on where the proposals stood for the whole group, Elwell told the Selectboard.

One caveat was that the results of the red-green-amber rounds would be tentative until the final decision, he added.

Artistic merits and relevance to Brattleboro

After a couple of rounds of winnowing, the committee members spent two or three hours discussing the proposals, he said.

Proposals had to work on two levels, he said. They needed to possess artistic merit, but they also had to reflect the community of Brattleboro.

Some of the proposals came with conditions, like a few proposed for private property that is publicly visible, Elwell cautioned. When those artists submit their more-detailed proposals in round two, they will need to include permission from the property owners.

“Art is so subjective,” said Selectboard member John Allen, noting that his wife is an art teacher. “It’s so personal.”

The committee members’ task was a big one, Allen said.

Elwell agreed.

He described some of the proposals as beautiful pieces of art and exciting projects, but said that upon closer examination they didn’t reflect Brattleboro.

Kate Anderson, who served on the Core Arts Committee and helped Brattleboro secure the Our Town grant, commended the screening committee’s work.

“It’s a job very well done,” she said. The placemaking portion of the grant is both “the genius and the challenge of this grant.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #318 (Wednesday, August 12, 2015). This story appeared on page A2.

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