Vermont Arts Council

Let the Renewed Work Begin!

Upcoming grant rounds for the Artists in Schools and Animating Infrastructure Grant programs will speak volumes about the Council’s priorities in grantmaking. We leave the ignition of wonder and insight in classrooms and communities to qualified, skilled professionals — the celebrated artists of Vermont. In supporting their work, we strive to expand arts opportunities, cultivate creative placemaking, and energize Vermont’s creative economy. These concepts are not new; it is with renewed focus the Council pushes them into the limelight. These excerpts from our last Annual Report foreshadowed the direction of the Council’s grantmaking.

Circus Arts Enrich Learning

A young boy looks intently at a spinning plate he is balancing on a stick. Earlier in the day, the same boy might have been reading a story about acrobats, or an elephant returned to the wild after life as a circus performer. These activities were part of an Artists in Schools project at the Jamaica Village School. Teaching artist Troy Wunderle worked with the entire PreK-6 school in a week-long circus arts residency. Students at every grade level were immersed in reading, writing, and learning about circuses. They actively engaged in juggling, balancing, and riding on unicycles. Everyone participated in a performance at the end of the week. One particularly shy fifth grader wasn’t sure he would be able take part in the show. With Troy’s help, he took center stage and completed his part accompanied by cheers and applause from the audience. This moment captured the essence of the values Jamaica Village School is trying to develop – self-awareness, being present, perseverance, and kindness to others. According to this young man’s teacher, “The smile on his face was priceless, and I am sure this is a moment etched in his memory forever.”

Jamaica Village School | Artists in Schools Grant

  • Every student participated in the residency
  • Every teacher participated in the residency
  • Friends and family that attended the final performance: 80
  • Students eligible for free or reduced lunch: 65%

Artists in Schools grants fund artist residencies in schools and are intended to serve as a model for the integration of the arts across the PreK-12 curriculum. More than 100 schools received Artists in
Schools Grants in the last three years.

Arts Revitalize a Community

These days, children visiting the Bethel Public Library are apt to run up to the librarian bursting with excitement. “Did you see my fish? I painted those!” More than 150 people of all ages and walks of life gathered to help artist Mary Lacy paint and install a 200-foot-long trout-themed mural as part of an Animating Infrastructure Grant project. Senior citizens painted alongside kids, and longtime residents next to newcomers. Community leaders watching the flurry of activity were pleased — and surprised — at how much the community’s outlook and energy had shifted. For Bethel, weaving art into the core of the downtown is part of a broader revitalization effort to increase livability, support local businesses, and encourage people to visit. All of Bethel’s renewal work — including the Animating Infrastructure project — has been grassroots and democratic. This helps to create access and to engender a sense of ownership. Community members were quick to recognize the value of public art in generating new energy. “Bethel’s revitalization work has all taken a very creative approach, and we believe in creating very visible public art partly as a way to highlight and celebrate the creativity of the town,” said Rebecca Stone, a volunteer with the Bethel Revitalization Initiative. “And we believe in engaging the whole community — especially youth — in everything we do.“

Bethel Revitalization Project | Animating Infrastructure Grant

  • 150+ community members helped paint the trout mural, contributing more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time
  • Three major historic buildings on Main Street are slated to be redeveloped into community-centered businesses and mixed use spaces
  • Several business owners say they decided to come to Bethel specifically because of the new energy in town
  • In a recent survey, 92% of respondents said they would like to see more public art in Bethel

Animating Infrastructure Grants support community projects that integrate art with infrastructure improvements. Five communities received Animating Infrastructure Grants in FY2017; there was no grant round in FY2018.