Letter: River Valley School presents Art for Social Change programming

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Editor of the Reformer,

As citizens of our planet, we face challenges of racial inequity, COVID-19 and climate change. We are all becoming increasingly aware of how insulated we are for a variety of circumstances and how necessary it is now to pay closer attention to our roles and responsibilities within our relatively small community.

We may feel distant from the urban street protests but the same issues face us all in our local community. We are heartened to see thousands of residents march in Vermont to support Black Lives Matter and police reform.

"A small town of predominantly older white Americans stood with me to protest the wrongdoings at the hands of police everywhere....Today we stood together for an injustice. Today people who don't look like me or relate to me showed love and support. I was overwhelmed to see the people I saw today marching in protest " — Local protestor of color

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As a non-profit art school, the River Gallery School intends to bring heightened intention to our programming and outreach efforts. Two years ago we started an initiative, Art for Social Change, focused on better serving our area by offering free art programs for marginalized residents, especially low income, LGBTQ and BIPOC area residents. An increased effort to move towards dismantling the financial and social barriers to our community art school.

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At this time, we reinstate our commitment to work building healthy diverse connections within our community while attending to the growth of the artistic gifts of all. People who have the opportunity to express themselves freely and creatively share their whole person and expand awareness of shared experiences as human beings.

As we continue to build this program, we will welcome collaborating with The Root Social Justice Center and other local social justice organizations; provide scholarships designated to our local BIPOC community; and keep offering classes to people regardless of their ability to pay. We look forward to hosting a staff training with other Brattleboro art nonprofits to address issues of social justice and race within Brattleboro organizations with Equity Vermont.

In Solidarity as we work towards overcoming systemic racism and oppression in our country,

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Jess Weitz

River Gallery School of Art

Brattleboro, June 21


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