Arts, culture and creativity are just as essential to Vermont’s future as roads, bridges and broadband. Our advocacy builds toward a future Vermont where everyone from community members to state leaders recognizes the essential nature of the creative sector and invests in policies and resources that will foster vibrant creative enterprises and strengthen Vermont communities. The Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Creative Network are committed to having the voices of arts, culture and the broader creative sector be heard at the local, state, and federal level.
Creative sector businesses and cultural organizations drive economic growth and community vitality, bolster Vermont’s reputation as a place for innovation and imagination, and build thriving communities. The pandemic has profoundly jeopardized the economic viability of performing arts venues and other organizations that attract younger workers and entrepreneurs who want to build a life here.
During the next legislative session that begins in January 2022, the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Creative Network will advocate for increased investment in economic recovery for cultural organizations still facing an uncertain future and for direct grants to assist COVID-related business and programming adaptations.
A full list of priorities and issues can be found in the CreateVT Action Plan. Our advocacy agenda focuses on the following four major priorities:
Invest in Cultural Infrastructure
Theaters, museums, libraries, parks, and community centers are essential for creative activity. Expanding programs like Cultural Facilities Grants and Historic Downtown Tax Credits can support upgrades, accessibility improvements, and new facilities.
Promote Creative, Local Economies
From food festivals to public art, increasing creative local economic development projects is a win-win, growing local economies, vibrancy, and access to arts & culture. The Arts Council invests in local creative infrastructure through programs like its Animating Infrastructure grants and its support of funding for the State of Vermont's Better Places placemaking grants.
Invest in Digital Capacity
Digital skills and the ability to connect are essential for creative enterprises in a post-pandemic world. Vermont must invest heavily in broadband expansion, technical assistance and digital capacity. Thanks to a generous allocation from the Vermont Legislature during its last session, the Arts Council will offer a new workshop series and a direct grant program to support cultural nonprofits in engaging public audiences through digital formats.
Develop Entrepreneurial & Business Skills
Diverse creative enterprises need diverse professional skills: fundraising, finance, project management, equity practices and more. Additional funding could scale up and customize small business trainings and programs for the creative sector.
Check out ways to advocate for use of municipal American Rescue Plan Act funds to empower the creative sector in this flier from Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
Creative sector enterprises—publishers, galleries, theaters, museums, design firms, film studios, manufacturers, artisan cheese shops, and more—provide 9.3% of Vermont jobs. In 2019, arts and culture alone contributed $1.1 billion to the Vermont economy.
But Vermont faces the demographic reality of a rapidly shrinking workforce. Prioritizing arts, culture, and creativity will attract young professionals and families. When it comes to health, strength and potential, the creative sector is not an island. Just as important is the “enabling environment.” Income and expansion of creative enterprises depends on consumers who want creative goods and services and the ability to afford them. The feasibility of creative businesses and work depends on the availability of suitable work spaces, equipment, broadband and technology, suppliers and workforce. The appeal of creative destinations and experiences depends on the strength of the service sector, including lodging, restaurants, recreation and other activities.
Creative enterprises succeed in a diverse, equitable, connected, and collaborative environment. We must proactively develop statewide investment in systems and channels that allow creatives to grow and thrive: business support programs, technical assistance, peer support networks, and statewide promotion to amplify creative sector offerings.