Vermont Arts Council

Moving from Recovery to Resilience in Vermont’s Cultural Sector

crowd poses after cleaning out a building damaged by floodwater
More than 40 people showed up to help Vermont Studio Center muck out buildings damaged in July’s flood. Credit: Vermont Studio Center

Last summer marked some of the most devastating flooding the state of Vermont has ever experienced. Vermont’s arts and cultural sector was unspared and has spent months putting the pieces back together and looking to what comes next.

As co-leads of the Vermont Arts and Culture Disaster and Resilience Network (VACDaRN), the Vermont Arts Council was proud to work with an amazing steering team representing key statewide resource groups and critical expertise in specialized cultural recovery areas.

VACDaRN’s response and recovery efforts in 2023 were focused on:

  • Activating the VACDaRN steering team to use our collective networks to identify damage and critical needs around the state
  • Deploying National Heritage Responder conservators to sites with damaged collection for salvage and stabilization work
  • Outreach to help connect those impacted by the flood with state and federal resources (including hosting a webinar for cultural organizations with FEMA and the Small Business Administration)
  • Offering workshops about saving family treasures after the floods in coordination with the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, and Dartmouth College Cultural Heritage Preventative Preservation Program
  • Coordinating funding needs for the sector, including the Vermont Arts Council’s artist relief grant program which provided over $67,000 in funding to 39 flood-impacted artists

And now our sights are set on resilience. What role can a statewide arts agency play in building a stronger, climate-resilient future for Vermont’s creative sector?

As we move into the next phase of recovery, the role of arts and culture in community healing and recovery will be a significant priority for our work. Vermont is both recovering and preparing for an uncertain future, and our priorities moving forward will be focused on:

  • Continued support and strengthening of the VACDaRN network, including improved contact lists and asset mapping. VACDaRN operates as a “network of networks,” which was a significant asset during flood recovery and an area we will lean on in the future
  • Coordinating a statewide VACDaRN convening in the fall with hands-on training as well as reflection and case studies from the 2023 floods
  • Offering trainings for the arts and culture field on how to plan for and mitigate the climate crisis. The eight-week Culture for Climate Action workshop series, presented in partnership with UMass Amherst Arts Extension service, began in February with over 20 of Vermont’s cultural organizations enrolled
  • Offering trainings and support, with an emphasis on preparedness, to create emergency plans and continuity of operations plans
  • Adjusting existing grant programs to encourage projects in flood-impacted towns, facilities improvements that are flood resilient, and that prioritize energy efficiency and other green solutions
  • Advocating for and funding arts and culture initiatives that promote collective healing and recovery in communities around the state

From painters and performers to theaters and historic sites, Vermont’s many cultural assets are vital in making Vermont a place where people want to visit, live, and stay. The arts also serve as a helpful tool for rebuilding community fabric and processing collective grief after traumatic events. The Vermont Arts Council and our partners across the state, including the statewide leadership at VACDaRN, are committed to helping these cultural assets weather the next storm so that they can continue to serve their communities.