Vermont Arts Council

Flood Report: Vermont Arts, Culture and Creative Sector Rallies Once Again

bookshelves and books in water
Damage to the library at Vermont Studio Center. Credit: Matt Neckers

Update (10.24.23): Read our report on how the Vermont Arts Council has responded to flood damage with emergency flood relief funding to artists.

Our hearts go out to the many people and communities affected by the Vermont floods of last week. Many are still reeling, taking stock of losses, digging out Covid masks for the toxic clean-up, and bracing for what seems like the never-ending summer rains. Others are volunteering their time, organizing fundraisers, sharing resources, and finding creative ways for the show to go on. The creative sector rallies again.

Assessing Damage

We are still assessing the damage across the field, but some of the worst damage occurred to arts nonprofits in the hardest hit areas.

Over in Johnson where the Lamoille River breeched its banks, staff, volunteers, and current and former artists and writers-in-residence at Vermont Studio Center spent the last several weeks cleaning out, erecting giant piles of waterlogged books, boxes, furniture, and equipment. Many invaluable prints—representing years of artmaking at VSC—were rescued to dry out in the Lowe Lecture Hall.

flood in basement of Weston Theater
Water floods Weston Theater. Credit: Rob Aft. Courtesy Weston Theater Company

At the 86-year-old Weston Playhouse in Windsor County, floodwaters, deeper than those from Tropical Storm Irene, swamped the basement, where costumes and props were stored, and the first rows of the theater, scuppering several sold out shows, according to a report in Seven Days. Vermont’s Congressional Delegation visited on Monday offering care and commitment to supporting the theater company in its recovery. The company has rallied, and some of its shows—its 87th season—will be performed in the Walker Farm space on the property.

But Susanna Gellert, Weston Theater Company executive director, noted today that attendance is down for shows that are still running. “Our audiences have dropped off precipitously even for the shows that are still moving forward,” Gellert said.

Lost Nation Theater located in Montpelier’s City Hall, which sustained major damage. In addition, their props, costumes, and furniture that were stored in a nearby building were heavily damaged. The theater was about to mount its biggest show ever, “The Addams Family” musical, through early August. But the show must go on—Barre Opera House came through offering to host, and so the musical will play two shows there on Friday and Saturday.

two men in muddy clothes sit on stairs outside theater
Clean up is muddy work at Weston Theater. Credit: Scott Zielinski. Courtesy Weston Theater Company

Many other arts and culture nonprofits, creative for-profits, and artist studios took on water, and folks spent most of the week pumping out basements. We received reports of some flooding at Radiate Art Space in Richmond and also at Rural Arts Collaborative’s Spark co-working and makerspace in Greensboro and its Grassroots Arts and Community Effort (GRACE) building in Hardwick. Fortunately, the GRACE’s flooding was contained in the basement and did not breech the first floor; no artwork or equipment was damaged. Bread and Puppet in Glover canceled its show as its indoor performing space became unviable, and the Frank Suchomel Memorial Arts Center in tiny Adamant canceled its remaining concerts and QuarryWorks shows this month due to impassable roads.

Unfortunately, the catastrophic flooding did not spare the Vermont Arts Council offices along the banks of the Winooski River at 136 State Street in Montpelier. The first floor was inundated with at least a foot of water, meaning that our staff will be working remotely until the damage can be repaired. Sculptures from the “Elements of Shelter” exhibit in our Sculpture Garden were mostly left intact, except for one large piece that was rescued along Route 2. 

Helping Hands

Organizations are pitching to fundraise or to offer space to artists and other groups who are displaced. Lyric Theatre in South Burlington organized a flood supply drive, serving as a distribution location for urgently needed supplies to aid in recovery efforts. The Center for Arts and Learning in Montpelier whose facility escaped the flood opened its doors to host the Montpelier Food Pantry, which was flooded out of its space in town. Artists with Iris Lane Studios in Jeffersonville, another hard hit Lamoille County town, are donating their work to fundraise for the Cambridge Flood Disaster Fund.

And musicians are donating their time to perform for a number of fundraisers. Here are just a few:

  • From 12-4 p.m., July 22, John Fusco, Duke Davis, AliT, and the Art of DonnCherie will perform a Flood Relief Benefit Concert at Stowe Cider in Stowe. Tickets are $40 and all proceeds go toward NOFA and Vermont Community Foundation.
  • From 5-8 p.m., July 25, Hula in Burlington is partnering with Fin Catering and a number of local musicians for a fundraiser to benefit the Vermont Community Foundation, NOFA, Intervale, and the New Farms for New Americans Fund. Tickets are free.

For other organizations, the show must go on. Check out our story on can’t-miss August festivals.

Recovery Resources

Has your organization experienced flood damage? The Vermont Arts & Culture Disaster and Resilience Network (VACDaRN), of which the Vermont Arts Council is a founding member, is gathering reports on damage to arts and culture organizations, especially to collections and buildings, in order to assess needs for on-site/direct help and share the impact of this event with state agencies. Please take a few moments to complete this form to help us in our assessment.

If you are an individual artist experiencing loss due to the flood, the Arts Council has just announced new flood relief grants through its Artist Development Grant program. Applications open Monday for emergency grant funding of up to $3,000 to artists for whom flooding has significantly and adversely affected their ability to produce, perform, and/or market their work. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted, and notifications will be made as quickly as possible.

If you are looking for other resources for recovery, please visit our Flood Disaster Resource Page for information on recovery funding, how to help, and how to stay safe.