Selectboard to consider 12 finalists for NEA grant art project

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BRATTLEBORO >> A screening committee that was appointed by the Selectboard to go through 34 proposals for a public art project met Friday and voted to pass 12 of those proposals on to the Selectboard for a final selection process.

The NEA Our Town Grant Screening Committee held an approximately five hour public meeting Friday. They watched videos from the artists, talked about the proposals and weighed each idea against a list of criteria the Planning Department developed to meet the requirements of the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant that the town was awarded in June 2012.

The committee and Planning Department will now present the list of 12 finalists to the Selectboard Tuesday night, and if the board approves their choices a Selection Committee will make a final determination for the ultimate winner or winners of the grant money.

The Selection Committee will then present its determinations to the Selectboard for final approval, probably some time in September.

"The Screening Committee members were thorough and fair in their review, and provided a great model for public decision making in the friendly and respectful tone they maintained," Town Manager Peter Elwell said late Friday. "There was some very frank disagreements about the proposals."

The artists whose ideas will be considered in the next round include Scot Borofsky, Chris Chapman, Jeanne-Marie Eayrs, Yetti Frenkel, Jonathan Gittelson, Liz LaVorgna, Tess Lindsay, Michel Moyse, Andy Reichsman, Brenda Siegel, Dan Snow and Andy Wasserman.

Their proposals represent a wide variety of ideas ranging from murals and sculptures to building a public stage and producing a video art installation.

A full description of all 34 proposals are available on the town website.

The Screening Committee was appointed by the Selectboard last month and included Valerie Stuart, Danny Lichtenfeld, Petria Mitchell, Gail Nunziata, Cassandra Holloway, Karen Cribari, and Adam Salviani.

The Screening Committee met at 8:30 a.m. Friday after receiving the artists' proposals earlier in the week.

The committee was charged with determining if the proposals complied with the town's public art policies, and if the proposed projects were realistic and could be accomplished. The committee also weighed the ideas against purposes of the grant, which stressed highlighting Brattleboro's natural, cultural and historical surroundings and working with the public throughout the art building process.

After winning the $50,000 NEA grant in 2012 the town formed a Core Arts group to help administer the grant, but the project stalled after disagreements rose between the group members.

The town has already received two extensions to complete the grant.

Following a public Selectboard meting in June, where the board called members of the public and some of the group members in to air their differences, the project began moving ahead.

Elwell said the meeting Friday represented a very big step forward for the continuation of the grant process.

"I was really impressed by the quality of their work and grateful for their service, as it has provided another important step of restored credibility and increased momentum for this project" Elwell said. "It was a job well done all the way around."

The NEA Our Town Grant is a matching grant, and after receiving donations from the public the town has $56,000 to spend on the public art project, or projects.

The Selectboard is expected choose a Selection Committee later this month, though the board has not yet decided how many people will serve on that committee.

The Selection Committee will rank the finalists' projects and the Selectboard will then choose the public art project, or projects, that will receive the grant money.

Work on the installations or performances is expected to take place in 2016.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be contacted at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.


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