GUILFORD—Vermont Performance Lab and Windham Regional Commission have teamed up to launch The Confluence Project, a collaborative effort bringing arts, youth, community groups, and educational institutions to the table to help create a deeper engagement around water and watersheds.
The Confluence Project links Vermont Performance Lab’s artist residency program with the community development work of the Windham Regional Commission. Through public programs and integrated art-science residencies, The Confluence Project is helping local schools build an understanding of local watersheds and fostering a new model for civic engagement and collaboration around water, according to a news release.
Other community partners include the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center, Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, Connecticut River Conservancy, Green River Watershed Alliance, Marlboro College, the River Gallery School, and three Windham County schools: the Guilford Central School, Hilltop Montessori School, and Marlboro Elementary School.
“We are delighted to be working with schools and so many community partners,” Performance Lab Director Sara Coffey said in the news release.
Coffey said the aim of the project is to create resources and relationships in the community, and serve “as a regional, or potentially even national, model for how community organizations can work together with artists and local schools to enhance the quality of education through collaborative partnerships.”
With an environmental focus, The Confluence Project is developing creative avenues for student and citizen participation around the study and protection of Vermont’s watersheds. The artist residencies and school activities will center on the Green River watershed and the Whetstone Brook with students and teachers at three local schools.
The work provides a direct exposure to the watershed planning work of the Windham Regional Commission and other initiatives from local environmental groups like the Green River Watershed Alliance.
Each school is grounding its participation in its own location, taking a place-based approach to watershed study. Inspiring a new reading of the land and water in connection with culture, pre-colonial history and science, The Confluence Project uses the arts to invigorate grassroots conservation efforts.
VPL artists will be central to the project through their engagement in school-based residencies. These residencies will involve water-quality study and mapping of these watersheds through curriculum development rooted in both artistic and scientific research methodology.
Students at Hilltop Montessori School are working with Judy Dow, an Abenaki artist and educator, to focus on “Sawdust Alley,” an 8-acre parcel along the Whetstone Brook that is being restored to a floodplain by the Vermont River Conservancy in cooperation with the town of Brattleboro.
Students in the sixth-grade class at Guilford Central School are spending each Friday throughout the school year on the Broad Brook. In May, visual and teaching artist Gowri Savoor will be in residence for two weeks at the school and in the community to further student and residents’ connections to waterways and watersheds through collaborative art-making and community celebrations.
The town of Marlboro is the source of the headwaters to three watersheds. Students from Marlboro Elementary’s fifth- and sixth-grade classes are undertaking a watershed study delving into the history and water science of the streams and rivers and looking at the upstream and downstream implications and responsibilities of being part of a watershed.
In addition to this work being done within the schools, The Confluence Project will also host a suite of public events based on watershed conservation, river ecology, and community conversations around our shared waterways.
The public programs began on March 17, with the opening of Gowri Savoor’s exhibit We Walk in Their Shadows and Richard Klein’s Bottle in the River at the Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center.
The programs will continue through August 2018 with events ranging from vernal pool identification trainings, to artists talks, to forums about flood resilience with the local road foreman, to lantern-making workshops that culminate with the Confluence Lantern Paddle on Friday, May 25.
This will be a joyous, lantern-lit flotilla with community members and handmade lanterns in the Retreat Meadows at the confluence of the West and Connecticut rivers incorporating the handmade lanterns made by the community at workshops with Savoor on May 15, 17, and 19.