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Artist Development Grants Support Digital Pivot for Pandemic

A visitor to the Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center contributes to the Ask the River exhibit. Photo by Michelle Frehsee.

A visitor to the Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center contributes to the Ask the River exhibit. Photo by Michelle Frehsee.

November 20, 2020

Posted By: Desmond Peeples

During the Covid-19 pandemic, artists everywhere are discovering that the viability of their creative business depends on delivering their work digitally. In early August, the Council announced a special round of Artist Development Grants intended to help artists adapt and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Created to support the pursuit of professional development opportunities, the ADG program has traditionally helped artists pay for attendance at workshops and residencies, supplies, marketing services, and other projects that “enhance the viability” of a creative business or practice.

Since announcing the special round, the Council has awarded 31 grants to artists in nine counties, and of them 19 supported an artist’s “digital pivot” in some way. These include nine website launches or redesigns, six purchases of equipment or services for digital media, and four online courses or digital media consultations. Of the artists receiving these awards, six of them are teaching artists working in Vermont schools through our Artists in Schools program.

Weaver and public installation artist Elizabeth Billings of Tunbridge received funding for an online Yestermorrow class to help her learn SketchUp, a 3D modeling computer program.

Cyanotype banners from the "Ask the River" project in motion
Cyanotype banners from the “Ask the River” project in motion outdoors this summer. Photo by Evie Lovett.

“In applying for new work and with all communication online, being able to visually and imaginably articulate ideas in ways that beautifully display on a computer screen becomes essential,” said Billings.

Billings has worked to adapt other projects since the pandemic began. Her “Ask the River” project in Brattleboro, created in collaboration with Andrea Wasserman and Evie Lovett, features large cyanotype banners mimicking the movement of the Connecticut River and cyanotype postcards created by the community. The project had an exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in mid-February. Over the summer the artists worked with choreographers to re-create the banners in a socially distanced way. A virtual aspect took place in the fall with the final banner performance scheduled for the summer of 2021 in both Brattleboro and Montpelier.

The Putney Crafts Tour website.

Glass artist John Burch of Putney applied on behalf of the Putney Crafts Tour, a group of 20 craftsmen in southern Vermont. Burch received funding for a website redesign so that the 2020 Tour could go fully virtual.

“We were forced to change from being a yearly event where thousands of visitors come to enjoy the magic of different art and crafts being created, to being a virtual online event which hopefully can have the same effect,” said Burch. “The tour has a huge following numbering in the thousands and also brings a significant amount of revenue to our area including restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and other businesses.”

The Putney Crafts Tour website is now live and ready for the virtual tour scheduled for Nov. 27-29. Artists will offer video demonstrations, personal shopping experiences, and studio visits via Zoom.

Another round of Artist Development grants is open, and artists adapting their work for Covid-19 are encouraged to apply. The deadline is Monday, Jan. 11. Learn more and apply at vermontartscouncil.org/artistdevelopment.

Tags: Artist Development Grants, Artists in Schools, Brattleboro, COVID-19, Elizabeth Billings, professional development, Putney, Putney Crafts Tour, teaching artists


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