Brattleboro, VT

Contact Name
Kate Anderson
Project Dates
Track 1 of CoreArts January through April, 2013
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2013
Policy, Research
Brattleboro Vermont, noted by multiple publications, including the Smithsonian Magazine, as a premier Arts Town ---- validates this acclaim through its vibrant and prolific arts sector. For a town of twelve thousand, it enjoys a plethora of arts offerings and opportunities. Track 1 of the grant, the track we are presently working through, and about which we would present, is cultural asset mapping. We will be able to assess both needs and opportunities much more clearly once the community is currently and accurately mapped, assumptions revealed, perceptions explored.
A team of Design students will, under the management of the CoreArts Directors, through focus groups over the next 3 months survey, identify, question, search out how this arts community has come to know itself.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
map, inventory, survey the community of Brattleboro with the underlying assumption that art, artistry, creativity, creative industries exist and grow in all of us, and in ways unexpected. How can we articulate this, as yet, unclear layer of creativity ? If the arts are about process more than product, then decoration and entertainment are not the main way to understand the arts. Are they not input more than output? The project goals cannot be better stated than the NEA outlined in its grant proposal----- community development with arts at the core. This is the goal of CoreArts. Once Track 1 is finished, we will formulate 6 open sessions designed to explore the notion of a Cultural District.
Have they changed over time?
Since the Direction Team of Brattleboro CoreArts has begun meeting, discussions have honed and crafted the purview of the different tracks. The goals have not so much changed as they have been refined in order to drill deeper.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
The formal partnership of this project,and as required by NEA guidelines, is the Town of Brattleboro and the nonprofit Arts Council of Windham County. The Town of Brattleboro is represented by the Planning Director, Rod Francis, the Town Arts Committee (Selectboard created) is represented by Kate Anderson, former chair, and the ACWC is represented by Zon Eastes, now of Vermont Arts Council. The impetus for the grant was the work over 4 years of the Town Arts Committee. Other stakeholders will be comprised of individual artists, arts organizations (of which Brattleboro abounds), as well as the further concentric circles of the creative industries. For instance, the new Brattleboro Food Coop's emerging culinary arts, as well as their example of local grown, local produced industry. Creative Placemaking, seen as an architecture for a community of highly engaged and creative individuals will, it is our hope, provide for ease of communication and the facilitation and strengthening of the creative initiatives and industries.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
Track 1 (subject of this proposal)lead by CoreArts Team + Conway School of Design graduate students.
Initial broad-based community meeting to a) engage members of the creative or artistic community to generate inputs into the mapping process b) inventory and graphically represent sites of cultural production, exchange, and consumption and the spatial relationships and physical assets that support or constrain artistic and cultural activity in Brattleboro c) engage stakeholders to review draft maps and participate in making policy, infrastructure d) give impetus to broader discussion about creating the "place" that Brattleboro seeks to be e) document and archive for grant requirements and stakeholder inclusion f) report out
Have they been refined over time?
TBD as this track of the Brattleboro CoreArts Project begins now, in January and will be presented in early April. There is a workplan determined, end date April 15th.
What were your major obstacles?
One major obstacle, and in fact, really a paradox, is the perception that Brattleboro is a thriving arts town--- the arts are everywhere, embraced, touted, etc--- why do you need to spend $50k from the NEA to learn what we can easily tell you ! If a sector is looked at as more than an amenity, if it is examined as a functioning industry, then an annual assessment is not questioned. While the phrase 'arts as industry' is not palatable to all, for the purposes of mapping and then exploring the notion of a Cultural District, the health of the artists, artisans, arts organizations comprising the sector, can better tell us what strategies need to be employed to strengthen and understand needs. I've not been surprised by the questions, but I have seen as an obstacle some unexplained resistance to the idea of a more exacting approach to the "mysteries" of creativity. I think the answers are only going to reveal even more value--- and begin understand that value.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1) do it
2) create partnerships cross-sector. Especially develop, with patience and persistence, a partnership with Town government, even when there is no funding. It is vital for us as communities to see things on an ecosystem basis---- and hand in glove to that is the obligation of each sector to communicate their values, their proficiencies and appreciate one another
3) win an NEA grant to support these efforts, they are labor and 'passion' intensive. Perhaps a MacArthur Genius grant like mechanism--- . An unbelievable dedication is needed to continue to pursue these answers.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
TBD, however, the results of the mapping process will reveal much in terms of openness, receptivity to being identified as a creative and what that means. Our hope is that cross-fertilization will be a not-so-unintended consequence of this project. Once the mapping is presented we will begin to see that we are one ecosystem, that our neighbors engage in the arts on every conceivable level,that accessibility is an issue to address, that we exchange our thoughts,politics, ideals, energies, and hopes through the arts---- therefore, our language is more supple, more common than we actually knew.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Were there unexpected impacts?
CCX Workshop Handout