Woman outside smiles in front of autumnal trees
Program Associate, CreativeGround

 

CreativeGround highlights the people and places that contribute to New England’s thriving creative economy. Every other year, NEFA hosts the Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) to celebrate the projects that leverage those people and places for community development. This June, the sixth CCX will take place in Montpelier, Vermont. To prepare you for the imminent peer exchange of creative community initiatives, CreativeGround invites you to dig into the juicy activity in the area with the latest from local creative economy players. We begin with CCX local host, Montpelier Alive, to learn more about what makes the nation’s smallest state capital such a big deal.

 

Screenshot of the CreativeGround profile for Montpelier Alive- featuring a profile image of a crowd and descriptive text for the organization's activities.
Montpelier Alive's CreativeGround profile is stellar.

Montpelier Alive celebrates downtown Montpelier every day by crafting events, as well as supporting other organizations with their downtown events through grants and technical support. Some of Montpelier Alive’s signature events include the quarterly Art Walk, the eight-week summer Brown Bag Concert Series, and October’s Moonlight Madness. To take full advantage of both the CCX and the VT Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference coming to town in June, Montpelier Alive has organized an ArtsFest for event participants and local neighbors. To get the lowdown on this downtown anchor, I connected with Montpelier Alive Executive Director, Dan Groberg...

CreativeGround (CG): Tell us about your role in supporting the CCX.

Dan Groberg, Montpelier Alive (MA): Montpelier Alive is the local host organization for CCX. As the Executive Director, I’ve been working closely with the NEFA staff on all the logistics that go into a big event. That’s everything from hotel rooms to reception caterers to potential sponsors. I’ve also been working with an amazing committee made up of representatives from various creative organizations in the area to plan a bunch of events in the evenings during the conference. (like ArtsFest!)

CG: What makes Montpelier the perfect host city for the CCX?

MA: Montpelier, Vermont is the smallest American capital city (pop. 7,600) that has traditionally been defined by its reputation as the seat of state government. While this certainly remains true, the last decade has seen an explosion of creative energy in the city and throughout the region. A new narrative of the City of Montpelier as a truly “creative capital” is emerging. We can’t wait to showcase all the energy here.

CG: What do you hope visitors to the CCX discover about the cultural offerings in your region when they visit?

MA: We’re really proud of the organizations we have within Montpelier, but I hope that people have an opportunity to explore beyond Montpelier as well. In a rural area like ours, the arts play a key role in creating “third places” that bring communities together. Here, it’s as likely to play at a public library, bookstore, or general store as it is at an art gallery.

The back of a guitarist and a woman singing into a microphone on an outdoor stage in front of a crowd and summer trees.
Montpelier Alive's Annual July 3 Concert

CG: After the CCX, what will change about your cultural community for the better? What do you hope it will inspire?

MA: CCX has already had a huge impact by bringing together organizations in the community around the table. CCX will lead to increased collaboration and an increased recognition of the importance of creative economy in our community.

CG: That’s exciting to hear! Tell us more about you. What is a typical day for you at Montpelier Alive?

MA: There’s no such thing as a typical day! One of the best parts about my job is the diversity of the work. Today, I met with a representative from the Farmer’s Market to talk logistics about the upcoming outdoor market, worked with my project manager on the details of a new brochure we’ve been creating, found a new venue for our summer concert series, prepared materials for our upcoming Art Walk, updated our website, posted on our social media, awarded grants to downtown event organizers, and had a phone call with my board chair about our downtown wayfinding signage project. It takes a lot of partnerships to get our work done, so most days I have meetings with a business owner, another organization that we work with, or a representative from the City. 

In a rural area like ours, the arts play a key role in creating “third places” that bring communities together. Here, it’s as likely to play at a public library, bookstore, or general store as it is at an art gallery.

 

CG: Now that we have an idea of what you do on the clock, tell us how you’re involved in the region’s creative sector off the clock? Let’s start with what you’re reading. What is your favorite arts blog or online publication?

MA: I read a lot of city planning publications, like CityLab. I’m also a huge news junkie, so I read the newspaper from every town I’ve ever lived in. I have about 200 feeds that I follow in my RSS reader!

CG: Name three New England artists, creative businesses, or cultural nonprofits we should all know about.

MA: We’re excited to showcase some wonderful creative businesses and organizations as part of ArtsFest. Modern Times Theater does old-fashioned puppet shows inspired by Punch and Judy shows. Bread and Puppet Theater is an activist puppet theater that uses its work to depict political themes and social commentary. PinBox 3000 creates DIY cardboard pinball machine kits. The Vermont International Museum of Contemporary Art and Design Mobile Museum is a miniature art museum housed inside a 1960s era camper!

A woman wearing a fedora and a microphone speaks to a small crowd of all ages on street filled with brick buildings.

CG: What was the last New England creative business or cultural nonprofit you visited and what did you see?

MA: My board and I just went on a great field trip to Rutland, Vermont to learn from our counterpart organization there, the Downtown Rutland Partnership. In addition to telling us about their wonderful events to stimulate the creative scene in Rutland, they took us to the beautiful historic Paramount Theatre downtown. They put on more than 200 productions a year!

CG: How does CreativeGround serve the creative economy in your region?

MA: I think that hosting CCX has given local organizations, artists, and creative businesses a new appreciation for CreativeGround and the benefits. I look forward to using it more as a way to connect with each other. There are lots of amazing organizations doing great work in Vermont, but they aren’t necessarily connected to each other. CreativeGround provides a medium for connection to take place.

CG: Why should New England artists, creative businesses, and cultural nonprofits be listed on CreativeGround?

MA: Surviving in today’s world is all about collaboration, and CreativeGround makes it easy for people to connect.

Thank you, Dan, for showing us what makes Montpelier come Alive, and giving us the insider information on CCX.


Want more? Check back in next week for “On the CreativeGround with…” another Montpelier creative economy insider that you might meet at #CCX2019. Until then, enjoy digging into CreativeGround!

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