BRATTLEBORO >> Shram Bhanti wants to prepare for the next phase of downtown economics.
"Hands-on, we're trying to make it a vibrant, viable place but the intention for me is to create a dialogue," Bhanti said during an interview in his new Adivasi ArtVenture located at 79 Main Street in Brattleboro. "This has become a platform for all the artistic brains to come together."
His wife Taraneh Mosadegh said her vision is to have the space be a creative club or institution where people can come in and learn about making art, especially dying arts like lapidary which Bhanti can teach. He said there is a gap between generations knowing the gem engraving art form.
Plans are being made to get Rhode Island School of Design teachers to host lectures at ArtVenture, where Bhanti hopes to expand on the possibilities around downtown vibrancy. He has a business at 8 Flat Street in Brattleboro and owned Adivasi before it closed due to Tropical Storm Irene having destroyed it.
Once the business community sees the collaborations taking place at ArtVenture, Bhanti hopes the dialogue will continue. He wonders if partnerships could be created between artists and economic groups or committees. This could make it possible for more pop-up shops or temporary spaces for artists and business owners.
"The new concept has to be figured out to make downtowns vibrant. Downtowns cannot rely upon this old age scheme of product and product selling. Things are available now online. How do we redefine our downtowns? What are our core values of Brattleboro? We are an artistic community," said Bhanti. "Thinking about things in a new fashion is required to address the downtown issues."
He is looking to find funding to offer art classes for free. Attendees can later became teachers or mentors for future students.
Although this model is still under investigation, Bhanti said he has traveled to Arizona where he saw how lapidary is being passed down to other generations. He believes art education can recreate community vibrancy as artists in other states are seeing success with similar "small venture" concepts.
Mosadegh has a bachelor's degree from Tehran University of Art in Iran where she grew up. She met Bhanti while studying lapidary in India. She later drew up a proposal to set up art displays in downtown Brattleboro and a landlord allowed her space in an unoccupied building to do so.
"The installation is meant to bring attention to the presence of an artist," said Bhanti, referring to a room where Mosadegh has used mirrors, yarn and other materials to weigh in on artistic identity. "In the last month, the experiment has made a lot happen."
A piece of paper in front of the installation asks: "Where does it all begin?"
"Could there be anything more powerful, more self-evoking than the ability to self overcome? To take in hand the tangled knot of the conditioning and dare to unravel it? To give into a mirror and brave the shattered depths? To shed layer after layer, letting go of the security blanket until true self is revealed? To risk with our sense of self, recapturing experience after experience, having won or lost, just to emerge with true me," the document written by Mosadegh said. "True me, that has the reflection of all the others on me. Is not accepting the only way of being creative? Or is it about facing my own fears of discovering how scared I am to find the single line on the white canvas?"
Bhanti wanted to discuss the project after reading about a report outlining Southern Vermont's economic troubles. He said the idea is to bring people back to enjoying the community of a downtown.
Anyone can visit ArtVenture and see the artwork displayed inside. But artists can volunteer to assist in exchange for studio time and gallery display.
"Our vision's not going to be easy if we were doing it on our own. Shram (Bhanti) and I can start the engine but we need the town's help," said Mosadegh. "Everyone with a vision is most welcome to be a part of this venture with us."
The couple began working together the same evening they met. Mosadegh said they have not stopped since, adding that Bhanti's first name means "hard working" in Hindi and that he always finds a way to do things.
Mosadegh said she has always thought communities were going through "tough times" in the places she was living. But in Brattleboro, she came to another realization.
"You can change place but you have to have yourself or nothing is going to change," she said.
The name Adivasi ArtVenture combines Adivasi meaning "first people" with the words "art" and "adventure," after Mosadegh would take visitors through the space explaining she and Bhanti "always have adventures."
In the summer, the couple is hoping to create a town-wide art installation called "Tying the Town Together" in which a piece of thread will be walked around Brattleboro.
"It says it doesn't matter who we are, we are all together in this," said Bhanti. "Instead of individually trying to solve this, we all have to solve this together and we have to realize how much we affect each other."