Brattleboro Select Board asked to endorse highway art project

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BRATTLEBORO — With a proposal for an art installation on Interstate 91 in the pipeline, Tad Montgomery hopes to start a conversation about art and its meaning in our everyday lives.

"The real objective, which I think is tremendously important, is that this will be a project that engages the entire town and the better part of the county," he said.

On Tuesday, the Select Board will be asked to endorse the highway art installation. Town Arts Committee Chairman Adam Salviani and Montgomery are presenting a proposal that has been refined a couple times since it first came up about a year ago.

After a meeting in which the committee re-endorsed the project in June, Montgomery and Salviani met with state Rep. Mollie Burke, P-Windham 2-2, and Town Manager Peter Elwell.

"They both offered up different perspectives and thoughts and contacts," Montgomery said. "Peter (Elwell) seems to be enthusiastic about it, but of course recognizes that it's the board's decision."

The latest proposal specifically calls for the appointment of a committee that would oversee the project. Wanted would be people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise, according to Montgomery. They would look at establishing criteria and a submission process for artwork proposals.

Committee members might know a thing or two about analyzing art, installation, finances, publicity and maintenance. Also to consider is fundraising and highway laws. Billboards are prohibited in Vermont.

The town is not being asked to contribute money to the project. If the Select Board supports the project, Montgomery said he likely will ask for a meeting with the Windham Regional Commission Transportation Committee.

"When I talked with the officials at VTrans," he said, referring to the Agency of Transportation, "they said they really like to work through the regional planning commissions."

Montgomery does not expect the Select Board to immediately endorse the project. He said board members might want to wait and think about the proposal before taking action.

Support has been seen within the community.

"A lot of people have expressed a lot of enthusiasm for it. Also, there's been some concern about how the initiative would bump up against the billboard law and create safety issues," said Montgomery. "Those things are very much on the front of our minds as we move forward with the project."

Montgomery said he spoke with a police officer who specializes in data collection on Interstate 89 in South Burlington and could not point to any accidents attributed to an art installation depicting whale tails. The officer did note that "a lot of people pull off the highway" to snap photographs, he added.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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