Vermont Arts Council

Spread the News

If Bad News Fatigue Syndrome (BNFS) is real, we are all at risk. Every day we hear about forests burning, cities flooding, and hands reaching for scary buttons. This nonstop outpouring of concerning information can be overwhelming.

If good news can serve as an antidote to BNFS, we are lucky to be in Vermont — a funky little state with abundant art. Creativity is considered an asset. Communities support artistic enterprises, and more and more children are reaping the benefits of arts in education. There is good news here. We need to hear it, and we need to share it. As Erin Narey from Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury enthused, “Good news? I am all about it.”

You’ve Got to Have Fun(ds)

Funding is one reason Erin is dancing on the ceiling. Catamount Arts is gearing up for summer, thanks to a $25k Levitt AMP Grant for another live music series. Coordinator Molly Stone is scouting bands to book 12 concerts at Dog Mountain. That’s a full season of family-friendly entertainment. To be clear: you can bring your dog(s). And, the concerts are free.

Playwrights Rebekah Greer Melocik and Jacob Yandura

Some kids want to make music, not just listen to it. For them, the Osterman Family Foundation is here! Their generous grant will help fund Catamount’s EPIC Music program, which provides free intensive violin instruction and ensemble experience for St. Johnsbury schoolkids.

Circling Back Around

Northern Stage in White River Junction is starting the year with a festival. 2018 is the fifth year of New Works Now, which stages play readings. What started as a small workshop for about 30 people is now a full-on event attracting more than 600 theater lovers each year. Also important, notes Director of Marketing and Sales Irene Green: The festival is helping the company launch new plays into the American Theater. Since its inception, four plays have had world premieres at Northern Stage and lives beyond — from additional regional theater productions to Off-Broadway runs.

This all happened under the direction of Producing Artistic Director Carol Dunne, who was recognized with a Genius Grant of $250,000 from the Pussycat Foundation last fall. The funds awarded to Carol are split evenly between Northern Stage and the New London Barn Playhouse in New Hampshire, which Carol led from 2008-2014.

A different sort of perennial favorite returns to River Arts in Morrisville. The BIG & Messy ART Space is back! From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Sunday, River Arts makes room for creative explorations by parent and children together. There’s a chance to try activities including giant mural painting, weaving, a kid-friendly pottery wheel, and architectural building.

What’s New?

River Arts will soon launch a clay studio. They’ll offer open studio hours for ceramic enthusiasts, youth camps where kids can experiment, and classes from hand building to wheel throwing.

Circus Smirkus Camp registration is now open, and scholarship applications will open February 2018.

Circus Smirkus is leaping into the year, welcoming Jennifer Carlo, Ph.D. as executive director. Jen succeeds Ed LeClair, who retired in December 2017. In honor of his 14 years of service, the Circus Smirkus board founded a new scholarship fund, opening with a $60,000 matching challenge gift from a generous donor. The fund will be used to expand scholarship opportunities for Smirkus campers and troupers.

In January, more than forty talented youth from across the U.S. and Canada will try out for the 2018 Big Top Tour. The show will tour about 17 New England locations this summer and perform for more than 40,000 patrons.

Paul Gambill, Executive Director at the Community Engagement Lab, is so busy preparing for the debut Teaching Artist Academy this weekend that he can’t tell us much. Artists practicing in nine different disciplines will gather to explore the best practices that ensure their partnerships with classroom teachers thrive in real-world situations. The Academy’s inaugural year, including participation fees for the 2018 class, is funded by the Canaday Family Charitable Trust. This could be the start of something big.

New and Collaborative

VSA Vermont’s director Susan Evans McClure shares exciting news about a partnership with the Flynn Center and the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Together, the three will open a new exhibition in the Flynn’s Amy E. Tarrant Gallery. “FLOURISH” will showcase artworks by Vermont artists with disabilities. Their statewide call garnered 46 submissions; over 30 works will be on display from April 7- June 30.RiverWorksProjectExhibit2018

Partnering with Johnson State College, River Arts is displaying student-designed models of sculptures that will be installed at Oxbow Riverfront Park this coming summer as part of the River Works Project. You can catch the exhibit at Morrisville Post Office through January 18. There is no better way to say this than River Arts’ Heidi Bielenberg does. “Yay public art!”

There’s More

Three years ago, WonderArts in Greensboro started working with kids from Craftsbury and Greensboro Elementary Schools. Then they added Wolcott, Hardwick, the Albany Community School, and Lakeview Union. This year, they’re heading for Woodbury Elementary. The programs provide high-quality enrichment in the arts, design, and science. That means two hundred kids this year will have a fun, creative, and positive experience available after school.

Pauline Jennings
Pauline Jennings

Also three years ago, Vermont Performance Lab (VPL) created a program that supports local choreographers in the creation of new work. This is their way of working to support the regional dance economy. Pauline Jennings of Jericho has been selected as the 2018 SEED Artist. Pauline will use the award and a residency at VPL to develop “Sea Inside our Skin,” an audience-immersive, multi-media duet rooted in the Chinese maxim “飲水思源” (drink the water, remember its source). Jennings’ choreographic method promises to provide a journey for both dancers and audience, and engage local audiences in the artistic process.

VPL will also give Seedling Awards to Lida Winfield of Middlebury and Megan Buchanan of Guilford. Thanks, for that update, Sara Coffey (VPL’s director), and for your wise directive: “… let’s focus on the positive and making positive things happen in 2018!” Indeed.


Susan McDowell is the content manager at the Vermont Arts Council and made up Bad News Fatigue Syndrome (BNFS) for the convenience of this blog post.

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