Town Arts Fund group seeks broader participation

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A resolution was voted at Brattleboro's 2019 Representative Town Meeting (RTM) to allocate $15,000 in funding to create a Town Arts Fund (TAF). This resolution came about in response to persistent concerns over the past decade expressed by members of the arts community that such a critical contributor to Brattleboro's identity as its artists and arts organizations ought to receive town support and be part of the budget.

The working group that brought the proposal before RTM has expanded and now includes a multi-faceted group of people with experience in various arts disciplines as teachers, creators, and administrators. The TAF working group will lay out a nuts and bolts proposal for the Select Board to review next month so that funding may soon be received and directed to qualifying art projects. Pending Select Board approval, the group is looking forward to opening the application process early this fall.

The TAF working group seeks the greatest possible transparency in the process. In the coming months the group plans to provide opportunities for the public to learn more about the development of TAF and to contribute ideas, suggestions, and inspiration. The goal of this early engagement, which will include pop-up events and workshops this summer and fall, is to invite ideas about art in the community, to generate interest and ideas for possible project proposals, and to inform and answer questions about TAF's process. This could include discussion of a range of project types - visual, performance, literary, experiential, collaborative, etc; and identifying spaces/places in your neighborhood that could be enlivened with art.

The participation of 28,708 people in the state's creative sector is 32 percent above the national average, according to a 2018 status report of the Vermont creative sector economy commissioned by the Vermont Creative Network. Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, an economic-impact study, further supports this assessment. Based on this study, arts and culture is a $123 million industry in Vermont.

The Arts Council of Windham County (ACWC) is prepared to serve as the administrator for receiving and disbursing funds from the town. The three ACWC board members serving on the TAF working group are Sharon Fantl, ACWC chair and assistant director at Redfern Arts Center in Keene, N.H.; Brenda Siegel, ACWC vice chair and director of Southern Vermont Dance Festival; and Chrissy Lee, ACWC secretary and a graphic designer with a background in community planning. The Town Arts Committee (TAC), created in 2008 to be a liaison between the arts sector and town government, will be represented on the TAF working group.

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Other members of the working group contribute extensive professional experience in various areas that connect the arts with the public sphere: Arlene Distler, co-founder of Write Action, arts journalist and advocate; Sarah Bowen, artist, professor of visual art, and designer of community art programs in Seattle; and Cindy Ludlum, sculptor, faculty member at Landmark and Endicott Colleges, and board member of Downtown Brattleboro Alliance; Kate Anderson, artist and arts advocate; Gayle Weitz, retired art professor, community arts at Appalachian State U, manager at Artrageus artist collective; and Zon Estes, a cellist and conductor, who has held leadership positions at Vermont Arts Council and arts organizations locally and in Bainbridge Island, Wash.

The TAF working group believes that public funding for the arts will enhance an already rich cultural landscape in Brattleboro, and promote creative and collaborative projects that advance an array of community quality of life goals. The 2018 Brattleboro Town Plan echoes this sentiment: The arts are essential not only in their contribution to our quality of life, but also in their enrichment of our cultural engagement. Arts and cultural experience can play an important role in bridging differences between people.

The working group is a fluid and growing entity, and continues to seek additional members and input. The TAF working group would like to hear from community members who wish to get involved with the development of TAF, either through the working group or one of its subcommittees. Subcommittees include Outreach and Events, Communications, and TAF Operations (establishing process, project criteria, goals, etc.).

Those interested in participating, providing feedback, asking questions, and/or receiving email updates about the TAF process, may contact us at townartsfundbratt@gmail.com or check out the ACWC's Facebook page for updates:

@ArtsCouncilOfWindhamCounty


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