BRATTLEBORO—The Arts Council of Windham County (ACWC) has announced the first round of grantees for this year’s Brattleboro Town Arts Fund (TAF) program. Eight community-focused creative initiatives were selected from a competitive field of proposals received in this second year of the TAF program.
According to a news release, the program “promotes the development and presentation of creative projects that contribute positively to the greater community and to the vibrancy and diversity of Brattleboro’s arts and cultural landscape.”
This year, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, TAF said it solicited proposals for “low-cost, short-term creative projects that aim to build connections, support solidarity, and offer solace for those most impacted by social isolation in these pandemic times.”
Grant awards are set at a fixed amount of $1,000, and projects must be completed within 90 days of when funds are received.
“We received such a compelling range of proposals this year, underscoring for us how vital local artists, creative practitioners, and organizations are to the care and well-being of our community,” said Sharon Fantl and Chrissy Lee, ACWC’s chair and vice-chair, respectively.
They added that many of the applicants “have been pursuing community projects and mutual aid during this pandemic as self-funded and volunteer initiatives.
“We see how necessary creative expression is for so many in this difficult time, and [we] hope TAF can serve as a resource to enable more small-scale, local projects to come to fruition and reach those most in need.”
In this year’s funding, the Arts Council prioritized projects that target a specific community need and projects that center communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic — including but not limited to individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color, individuals from the disability community, and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
The 2021 grantees include:
• Puppet Companions (Shoshana Bass, Sandglass Theater): Sandglass Theater and Garden Path Elder Living team up to combat loneliness, promote creativity, and inspire storytelling in residential-care facilities through the magic of puppetry.
Sandglass will create a collection of puppets and accessories, along with a series of guided play suggestions for residents at Holton Home and Bradley House, two such facilities in Brattleboro. Puppet makers will also bring Sandglass puppeteers and puppets for window visits with residents.
• Hearts of Hope (William Forchion): Artist and performer William Forchion will paint 50 healing hearts of hope on locally-sourced, repurposed Guilford slate. The pieces will be distributed around Brattleboro for residents to discover and adopt.
The healing hearts “are a display of resilience in trying times. Each heart symbolizes the power of love to handle all things.”
• Lost Frequency (Doran Hamm, Ben Stockman): “Imagine two separate timelines diverging in the year 2020. In ours, we have been beset by an uncontrollable virus, are reckoning with centuries of institutional racism and oppression, and are living in an ideologically divided nation. What is happening in the other? And what if that one is even stranger?”
Lost Frequency will be a scripted science fiction podcast in the vein of 1950s radio anthologies and television programs like The Twilight Zone, written and voiced by members of the local theatrical community.
The pilot episode will be a double feature, consisting of two 15-minute tales “designed to thrill, amuse, and delight the listening audience.”
• PenPal Your Neighbor (Lauren Harkawik): This project is aimed at connecting neighbors to one another from inside their homes this winter through the power of “snail mail.” Each participant will be paired with another Windham County resident and encouraged to write five letters back and forth to one another.
The project is free to participate in. Participants will be assigned a pen pal and will receive postage, stationery, and ideas for what to write about. Details are at penpalyourneighbor.com.
• Daydreaming: Windows of Imagination (Laura Lawson Tucker and Darlene Jenson, Theatre Adventure): Challenges during the pandemic have given students with disabilities participating in Theatre Adventure an opportunity to expand their creative pursuits.
Puppetry will be introduced to the nonprofit’s performance troupes as a new storytelling medium using themes of inspiration, imagination, and connectivity. This project will provide art boxes with puppetry materials to support continued engagement in online learning and will culminate with three online performances on Wednesday, April 14, Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16.
• The Wishing Well (Em Hexe): The Wishing Well serves as a conduit for the lost wishes of this past year, as well as space to offer wishes for what is to come. Community members are invited to call a hotline and anonymously record a wish that they would like to put forth into the ether.
These recorded wishes will be played inside an ice shanty on the Retreat Meadows, within which a creative wishing well will be found.
The Wishing Well will be on view as part of Brattleboro Museum and Art Center’s Art Shanty Project, running through Sunday, Feb. 28.
• Snow-Heads Competition (Rolf Parker-Houghton): This winter, Brattleboro community members are turning piles of snow in parking lots and near driveways all over town into “Snow-Heads.” Three $100 prizes will be offered in a competition based on “artistry, goofiness, or level of delight their snow-head inspires.”
• Folk Duo Video Concert (Lissa Schneckenburger, Corey DiMario): When fiddler and folk singer Lissa Schneckenburger joins tenor guitarist Corey DiMario for a live performance, they deliver a mix of fiddle tunes and classics from the American songbook.
The duo will film two video concert specials for the residents of Holton Home and Bradley House in Brattleboro, “aimed to get toes tapping, audiences smiling, and voices singing along.”
Deadline for next applications March 31
The Arts Council plans to accept at least one additional round of TAF applications this year. The next deadline for applications will be Wednesday, March 31.
Application guidelines and materials can be found at artswindhamcounty.org/taf. Additional rounds of funding will depend on the volume of applications received and the potential for further fundraising.
To support this growing initiative and the TAF’s capacity to fund additional community projects, the Arts Council seeks contributions at artswindhamcounty.org/donate.
TAF is guided by a community advisory committee composed of artists, teachers, arts administrators, and other Brattleboro community members. Those interested in getting involved with the advisory committee can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updates about TAF projects and opportunities can be found at artswindhamcounty.org/taf and @artswindhamcounty on Facebook and Instagram.