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The Arts

A public investment with a good return

Working group is formed to guide development of $15,000 Town Arts Fund

Arlene Distler is a writer, artist, poet, and reviewer of art and books. Her Arts Notebook column appears occasionally in the Arts section of this newspaper. She is also a member of the Town Arts Fund working group.

BRATTLEBORO—Voters approved a resolution at this year’s Annual Representative Town Meeting to allocate $15,000 to create a Town Arts Fund.

This resolution came about in response to persistent concerns over the past decade expressed by members of the arts community that such a critical contributor to Brattleboro’s identity as its artists and arts organizations ought to receive town support and be part of the budget.

The working group that brought the proposal before Town Meeting has expanded and now includes a multifaceted group of people with experience in various arts disciplines, including teachers, creators, and administrators.

Group members will lay out a nuts-and-bolts proposal for the Selectboard to review next month so that funding may soon be received and directed to qualifying art projects.

The group is looking forward to opening the applications process early this fall.

The working group seeks the greatest possible transparency in the process. In the coming months, the group plans to provide opportunities for the public to learn more about the development of the Arts Fund and to contribute ideas, suggestions, and inspiration.

* * *

The goal of this early engagement, which will include pop-up events and workshops this summer and fall, is to invite ideas about art in the community, to generate interest and ideas for possible project proposals, and to inform and answer questions about the fund’s process.

Such activity could include discussion of a broad range of project types — visual, performance, literary, experiential, collaborative, etc. — and identifying spaces/places in your neighborhood that could be enlivened with art.

As Shanta Lee Gander wrote recently in the Voices section [“Putting our money where our mouth is,” Viewpoint, March 13]:

“According to the statistics, the arts matter in Vermont.

“The participation of 28,708 people in the state’s creative sector is 32 percent above the national average, according to a 2018 status report of the Vermont creative sector economy commissioned by the Vermont Creative Network.

“Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, an economic-impact study that was prepared by the Americans for the Arts in partnership with the Vermont Arts Council, further supports this assessment.

“Based on this study, arts and culture is a $123 million industry in Vermont.”

All these statistics indicate that public investment in the arts is a good return on tax dollars.

* * *

The Arts Council of Windham County is prepared to serve as the administrator for receiving and disbursing funds from the town.

The three Arts Council board members serving on the Arts Fund working group are Chair Sharon Fantl, the assistant director at Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College in Keene, N.H.; Vice Chair Brenda Siegel, director of Southern Vermont Dance Festival; and Secretary Chrissy Lee, a graphic designer with a background in community planning.

The Town Arts Committee, created in 2008 to be a liaison between the arts sector and town government, will be represented on the Arts Fund working group.

Other members contribute extensive professional experience in various areas that connect the arts with the public sphere:

Sarah Bowen, artist, professor of visual art, and designer of community art programs in Seattle.

Cindy Ludlum, sculptor, faculty member at Landmark and Endicott colleges, and board member of Downtown Brattleboro Alliance.

• Kate Anderson, artist, arts advocate, and former chair of the Town Arts Committee.

Gayle Weitz, retired art professor of community arts at Appalachian State University and current manager of the ArtRAGEus 1 artist collective.

• Zon Estes, a cellist and conductor who has held leadership positions at Vermont Arts Council and arts organizations locally and on Bainbridge Island, Wash.

* * *

The Arts Fund working group believes public funding for the arts will enhance an already rich cultural landscape in Brattleboro and promote creative and collaborative projects that advance a wide array of community quality-of-life goals.

The 2018 Brattleboro Town Plan echoes this sentiment: “The arts are essential not only in their contribution to our quality of life, but also in their enrichment of our cultural engagement. Arts and cultural experience can play an important role in bridging differences between people.”

The working group is a fluid and growing entity, and continues to seek additional members and input. Its members would like to hear from community members who wish to get involved with the development of the Arts Fund, either through the working group or one of its subcommittees.

These subcommittees include outreach and events, communications, and operations (establishing process, project criteria, goals, etc.).

Those interested in participating, providing feedback, asking questions, and/or receiving email updates about the Town Arts Fund process, may contact us at townartsfundbratt@gmail.com or check out the ACWC’s Facebook page for updates: facebook.com/ArtsCouncilOfWindhamCounty.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #515 (Wednesday, June 19, 2019). This story appeared on page B1.

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