Letter: Art center expansion is a misplaced priority

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Editor of the Reformer,

I am deeply concerned about Brattleboro Museum and Art Center's recent $30 million construction proposal. Can we please pause for a minute, and really evaluate whether the aim to build an empire to one's creative ego is equitable for the community in the long term?

In a time where we claim to be looking for sustainable solutions that will allow our local producers and craftspeople to thrive, we can't seem to separate idealism and fantasy from quality of life for those whose families have participated in the community of greater Brattleboro for generations. To boast that the building will also create housing by containing apartments for rent, is to also conveniently leave out the fact that we know full and well the need for housing in our community is for affordable housing, not posh spaces that look sleek on Instagram.

Do we think gentrifying our community even further is going to create the kinds of opportunities we hope will be available to our children? Do we have hard numbers on how long it would take the new museum space to re-coop the funds required to construct it? Can we afford to wait that long? What about the interruptions to so many businesses this massive construction project would cause? Can these businesses survive those losses in revenue over the course of this project? How much of those proceeds can we rely on being directly funneled back into the community?

As un-glamourous as it is, it is time we really honor the values we claim to have as Vermonters by providing opportunities for our brothers and sisters to live, literally, LIVE. It's time we really get back to basics. We are so lucky to have access to quality local products and food we can trust, at prices that are beyond reasonable for the efforts required to produce them. If we are unwilling to get our hands dirty ourselves, we need to focus on lifting up those that provide the body and soul nourishment we so deeply crave. We need to think longer and harder about what people truly need, and support those barely scraping by doing the honorable work that sustains us. We need to work together to bridge the gap between locals, not try to compete with the architecture of major cities.

Our community is beautiful because of all the artists, makers, teachers and service workers who do what they do without praise or behind closed doors because the environment and economy dictates that they must. I am a working artist and enjoy viewing artwork as much as the next enthusiast, but I also understand that visiting museums is historically an activity of privilege; an environment not all feel welcome to experience. A museum that caters primarily to an outsider audience will not provide the kind of stability, inclusivity and revenue we need as a community to move forward into a more loving future.

Lindsay Richard

East Dummerston, Nov. 27



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