Vermont Arts Council

NEFA’s Harold Steward Tours Vermont’s Arts and Culture Sector

Speaking at the Burlington City Arts press conference were, from left, Harold Steward, NEFA Executive Director; Joan Goldstein, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Economic Development; Doreen Kraft, BCA Executive Director; Kara Alnasrawi, Director Business and Workforce Development/Director Church Street Marketplace City of Burlington; and Susan Evans McClure, Vermont Arts Council Executive Director. Each spoke about the valuable economic contributions of Vermont’s creative sector. Credit: Stephen Mease/BCA

Developing strong partnerships, uniting as a region, and building robust, sustainable cultural organizations were the messages that Harold Steward brought to Vermont arts and cultural leaders on his listening tour of the state last week in their new role as executive director of the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).

Steward was joined by Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Susan Evans McClure on the whistle stop tour, Jan. 17-19, which included coffee and conversational gatherings at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, Burlington City Arts, the Center for Arts and Learning in Montpelier, the NEK Collaborative Creative Sector Convening in Lyndon, and at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction.

NEFA’s is one of six regional arts organizations established with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to strengthen the national arts infrastructure by cultivating the arts on a regional level. Its programs are regional, national, and international in scope and support artists and communities through grants and other opportunities in dance, music, theater, and public art.

NEFA also runs the main art directory for the New England region called CreativeGround, which spotlights cultural nonprofits like libraries and theaters, creative businesses like recording studios and design agencies, and artists of all disciplines such as performing arts, visual arts, and crafts. Steward strongly encouraged artists and all creative entities to register a profile, as the directory is a great tool for networking across the region.

As NEFA embarks on its 50th year, the organization has begun a strategic planning process to envision its future.

To that end, NEFA has launched a Strategic Planning Survey to gain insight from the field on the ways that the organization can make its work more relevant, engaging, and impactful. Read more and take the survey.

Two people standing and talking before a small crowd in an interior room.
Susan and Harold engage the crowd in conversation at the Center for Arts and Learning Montpelier.

“As we approach 50, we want to become as relevant as possible to this region and this nation,” Steward told the crowd of about 30 gathered at the Center for Arts and Learning in Montpelier.

At Burlington City Arts, Steward’s visit coincided with a press conference announcing the results of the Arts & Economic Prosperity Study (AEP6) of the Greater Burlington area. The recent Americans for the Arts study found that Greater Burlington Area nonprofit arts organizations generated $93.5 million for the local economy in 2022. The economic activity also supported 1,321 jobs, provided $55.8 million in personal income to residents, and generated $16.8 million in tax revenue to local, state, and federal governments.

Learn more about NEFA.

Learn more about AEP6.