East Dummerston artist collective wins state grant for socially conscious show

Big Teeth Performance Collective of East Dummerston received a grant from the Vermont Arts Council.

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An artist collective in East Dummerston won a state grant to support the creation of a show designed to engage audiences about the realities of mass extinction, climate catastrophe and processing loss.

Big Teeth Performance Collective was among 15 recipients of the Vermont Arts Council's Creation Grant, which supports artists in creating new work.

Naomi Ullian, a co-founder and artistic director of the two-year-old collective, said the grant will support research, creative development, securing rehearsal space and paying collaborators, among other parts of the process.

She said the themes came about through conversations with her fellow acrobatic performers.

"We all have other kinds of work we do in the world and a lot of it is around public health and ecological restoration and farming," she said. "We all just independently and as a group talk a lot about climate change."

Ullian is a farmer, clinical herbalist and writer. She said she and the other collective members came across the word "solastalgia" — distress caused by environmental change.

One dimension of the project, she said, is a response to recent protests against racial injustice and exploring the role of white artists in making reparations, and also the relationship between the need for reparations and climate justice.

"It's sort of hard to ignore all those things, and we try really hard to make work that's relevant to our communities," Ullian said.

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The Vermont Arts Council received more than 120 applications for this year's Creation Grant program, collectively requesting a total of $484,000. The Council typically has funding to support approximately 12 to 15 percent of requests for the annual grant.

Recipients were selected over the course of two independent panels comprised of 26 practicing Vermont artists and arts professionals. Six of the awardees are first-time applicants. The award is only available to artists who have not received a Creation Grant within the last five years.

Grant awards are $4,000, which the artist may use for time spent to develop new work, to purchase materials, or to rent equipment or space for the process.

"In the midst of a pandemic, I know that Vermonters are deeply grateful to artists across our state, whose vision, courage, and imagination are needed right now. We are pleased to be able to support so many new, first-time applicants to this grant program," Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman said in a statement.

The Creation Grant program has supported 140 Vermont artists since the program began in 2009.

Four Windham County artists were also recently awarded Artist Development grants. Robert Burch, Michaela Harlow, and Lisa McCormick received $700, $528 and $900, respectively, to support website redesigns. Bonny Hall received $375 to support the purchase of a drum carder and brushes to blend locally sourced wool for artwork. They were among nine recipients across the state.

These grants, which range from $250 to $1,000, support activities that enhance mastery of an artist's craft or skills or that increase the viability of an artist's business. Many of the grant proposals from this round focused on today's digital reality, with proposals to support the redesign of websites or to attend online learning opportunities.