BRATTLEBORO—Of the 35 proposals from artists who responded to a call for public art to reflect and inspire the community, 13 will move forward in the process.
The town is seeking a public art piece — either visual or performance — as part of a federal Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The project will connect the community to the arts, “magnify the role arts play in Brattleboro,” and inspire the community to create more public art.
The artists, some working individually and some in teams, will submit additional information to the town, including a detailed budget.
In the upcoming weeks, the Selectboard will assemble a selection committee charged with making the final recommendation on which project — or projects — will receive the $56,000 grant.
The town has received $6,000 in matching donations to the grant, bumping up the total from the initial grant amount of $50,000.
The selection committee will hold a public meeting on Sept. 25 to discuss the proposals.
According to Town Manager Peter Elwell, people interested in serving on the selection committee can apply directly to the town.
In addition, the Selectboard gave Elwell permission to approach arts experts outside of the community to serve on the committee. Elwell said he has received suggestions from community members of experts to contact.
Contacting people with expertise outside of Brattleboro will help augment the committee and ensure the placemaking aspect of the Our Town Grant “has the best chance of success,” he told the board. People from the larger art world will help provide an additional layer of objectivity to the judging process, he said.
The committee will make its recommendation to the Selectboard, which will authorize the winning proposal, or proposals, at its Oct. 6 meeting.
The project must be finished by July 31, 2016.
Choosing the projects
The seven-member screening committee whittled down 35 projects to 12 during an almost-six-hour public meeting on July 31. A 13th project was added to the list at a special Selectboard meeting on Aug. 11.
Projects ranged from murals, to videos, to photographs, to a camera obscura (a type of building, popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, that projects images of the surrounding landscape inside the structure).
The committee recommended proposals from Scot Borofsky; Chris Chapman; Jeanne-Marie Eayrs; Yetti Frenkel; Jonathan Gitelson and Michael Becker; Liz LaVorgna and Wyatt Andrews; Tess Lindsay; Michel Moyse; Andy Reichsman; Brenda Siegel; Dan Snow; and Andrea Wasserman, Elizabeth Billings, and Evie Lovett.
The Selectboard approved adding a 13th project, from Deborah Lazar.
During the committee’s meeting, the members reviewed the projects against criteria set out in the request for proposals that the town released in June.
Proposals needed to conform to the town’s public art policy. They also needed to meet the grant’s goals to inspire the community to engage with the arts in its daily life. The proposals needed to respond to Brattleboro’s natural landscape and built environment, cultural and community assets, opportunities for public expression, and provide community members with a sense of ownership.
Of the screening committee, Elwell wrote, “[They] were thorough and fair in their review, and provided a great model for public decision-making in the friendly and respectful tone they maintained while having some very frank disagreements about the proposals.”
“I was really impressed by the quality of their work and grateful for their service, as it has provided another important step of restored credibility and increased momentum for this project,” Elwell continued.
Long and winding road
Reaching this final phase of the Our Town grant has proven to be a long and winding road. As a result, the NEA has granted two deadline extensions to Brattleboro.
After receiving the competitive grant in 2012, the Our Town grant process stalled before reaching its third phase: the completion of a public art piece or performance.
A breakdown in relationships between leaders of the Core Arts committee has been pinpointed as a cause for the stall.
The Selectboard called for a public discussion at a May meeting to clear the air. Work on phase three then resumed in earnest.