River Gallery School receives grant to start BIPOC Creative Community space

BRATTLEBORO — River Gallery School (RGS) recently received $3,000 from the Vermont Community Foundation's Spark Connecting Community grant program. The grant will help further RGS's mission of reducing the economic, racial, and social barriers to art making.

“The school welcomes the BIPOC community to come find connection, support, and creative experience in River Gallery School's vibrant upstairs art studio, led by Roxell Bartholomew and in the company of other local BIPOC residents,” it said in a news release. “There is a studio full of art supplies for you to use and there will be art help available. No art experience is needed! Making art can provide relaxation and the pleasure of being in your senses for a few hours.”

The community will meet on the second Thursday of each month, starting June 9, from 4 to 7 p.m. Leader Bartholomew was born in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, an island in the Caribbean that is home to the Garifuna, an Afro/Caribbean community that developed between the indigenous people and escaped slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries. He lost touch with much of his personal and cultural roots when he moved to the U.S. in his teens.

After entering the U.S. military at 21, Bartholomew's interest in drawing and painting helped him to cope with the high-stress environment and provided a safe place to reflect on his life path and connect with his cultural history. His current work is a response to the weight of life in the “melting pot” and the necessary task of mindfully reconnecting with his culture.

“Painting has always been my way of introspecting and processing my experiences,” he said. “Whenever I'm creating, there is no choice but to be present within the space called 'me' and that eventually always leads me back to my roots. I simply try my best to breathe life into the surreal colorscapes and feelings that arise within my stream of consciousness.”

According to the foundation, the Spark Connecting Community grant program “puts building and nurturing community front and center. The Foundation aims to support the work happening throughout Vermont's 251 towns that builds social capital. These grants - where a small amount can make a big difference - are intended to light the spark that keeps Vermonters healthy and happy.”

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