Danville, VT

Contact Name
Michele Bailey
Project Dates
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2015
From 1999-2014, the Vermont Arts Council (VAC) partnered with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and the Town of Danville to oversee and manage the Danville Transportation Enhancement Project, a program designed to nurture collaboration between artists, community members, and engineers in the re-development of a section of U.S. Highway Route 2 that runs through the center of Danville, Vermont. This was the first collaboration of its kind in the state. The project focus was on developing roadway designs that would enhance the essence of a small, close-knit, rural community by providing a safe, attractive, and comfortable pedestrian environment in the Village of Danville and celebrate its unique historic, built, and natural features.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The Route 2 project through Danville had been stalled for over a decade prior to the involvement of the Arts Council for a variety of reasons, including community concerns about the incursion of an expanded federal highway on the village center of Danville. The primary goals of this collaborative project were to upgrade road conditions through the Village, and to provide better sightlines and improved vehicular and pedestrian safety while respecting the aesthetic and cultural fabric of the community.
This project sought to the essential rural character of Danville and keeping its village center intact, while meeting the essential need for an important state transportation corridor. It was hoped that Arts Council involvement could engage the community in the redesign of this federal highway and help to minimize the impact of Route 2 on the village center of Danville.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Throughout the process, the focus was on developing roadway designs that would enhance the essence of a small, close-knit, rural community by providing a safe, attractive, and comfortable pedestrian environment in the Village of Danville and celebrate its unique historic, built, and natural features. The partners did not waiver from their commitment to these goals and did not change over time.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans): Coordinated the overall transportation project, managed the federal and state transportation funds, coordinated all construction and permitting processes.
Vermont Arts Council (Council): Coordinated artist selection process, contracted with the artists, oversaw the design, fabrication, and installation process in collaboration with VTRans and the Danville Select Board and the Local Review Committee. Coordinated meetings of the Local Review Committee and acted as liaison with the artists.
Danville Select Board: The local governing body in the Town that oversees calling town meetings, proposing budgets, coordinating, making Town decisions about design, and construction projects.
Local Review Committee: Oversaw the Project from conceptual design through maintenance, including installation and was made up of representatives from the Town Select Board, Library, School, Planning Commission, Village Improvement Association, Historical Society, Chamber of Commerce, Local businesses, residents, Vtrans project managers and Vtrans engineering Consultants and coordinated by the Vermont Arts Council
Artists: Vermont artists David Raphael, landscape architect from Landworks in Middlebury, VT and Andrea Wasserman, sculptor from Vershire VT were selected by the Local Review Committee and brought into the design process.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
The project addressed the principles of “Context Sensitive Design” which are defined by the Federal Highway Administration as “a collaborative, interdisciplinary, approach that involves all stakeholders in developing a transportation facility that complements its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, and historic and environmental resources while maintaining safety and mobility.”
The Village Green in Danville was an important focus of the artistic enhancement efforts to create a vibrant community. The Green is now listed with the Vermont Village Green Initiative being undertaken by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The initiative will document, analyze and promote the cultural, economic and environmental benefits of village greens in Vermont. Understanding this context is paramount in preserving and revitalizing our historic village greens. Through research, documentation and observation this exploration will shed light on the cultural and environmental significance of village greens in Vermont. This initiative will be shared, marketed and promoted to increase exposure of our cherished village greens and offer insight into the meaning of village greens in the settlement and ongoing development of Vermont villages.
Vermont’s village greens lie at the physical and cultural heart of communities. Located historically where roads converged, where meetinghouses were established, where commerce concentrated and homes clustered, village greens hold a special place in community life. Greens are open spaces around which community life has grown. In contrast to the buildings and streets around them, they represent a positive void. The historic, civic, spiritual, and economic life of the community is often represented in the buildings around the green. But the significance of the green goes beyond its physical location and appearance—it has cultural value as well. It is a gathering place, a place for the community to observe tradition and celebrate holidays. Village greens are the site of concerts and fairs, commemorations and parades, seasonal festivals and farmers markets.
The green is part of a larger ensemble of townscape elements that provide us with a sense of time and place. It is often the only public space that reflects the collective interests, desires, and values of a community. This has long been the role of the green, and is no less true today.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
The Vermont Arts Council was influenced by the public art movement across the nation and the work of the Animating Democracy program through Americans for the Arts. Initially, the Council was inspired by the work done by Vermont artist Michael Singer. One of Singer’s most influential infrastructure projects is the 27th Avenue Phoenix Waste Transfer and Recycling Center; created with artist Linnea Glatt. The artist-led design team reimagined the entire facility as an aesthetically and environmentally advanced civic asset. The New York Times chose the design as one of the top eight design events of its year, noting its “ambitious program that joins art to infrastructure”.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
In the late 1990’s the Council had a number of conversation with the Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). In addition, the Council invited the Deputy Commissioner to speak at an Arts Council conference. At the time, VTRans was struggling with the issues they were facing with the need for the road reconstruction of Route 2 through the village of Danville. VTrans invited the Council to develop a pilot project in partnership with them and the Town of Danville. The Council took the lead in organizing a Local Review Committee made up of local community members and civic leaders to work with them on the hiring of artists and developing a process for community engagement and dialogue. The artists, once selected, engaged the community in a series of meetings and events aimed at understanding what was important to the people of Danville. It was an opportunity to identify community goals, shared community values, and to develop a plan that would meet that needs of the community and VTrans. In approximately 18 -24 months, the preliminary designs were approved by the community at a required “502 hearing” for transportation projects. While there was a long delay in getting the project through transportation “right of way” hearings, VTrans was finally able to publish “construction document” drawings for bidding purposes in 2011. The construction process began in 2012 and was completed in 2014.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
While the project steps did not change significantly other than the fact that it took 14 years for the project to come to fruition from the point of the Arts Council involvement. In addition, through Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy’s leadership, the project received two federal appropriations: the first in 2004 for nearly $2 million, and the second in 2005 for $5 million. Even with significant Federal funding, there were budgetary challenges that had to be addressed. In February of 2008, there were additional meetings between the Local Review Committee and the partners to address elements of the design that needed refinement in order to meet budget requirements. Adjustments were made to the number of light poles, and other elements of the project that the community, in partnership with VTrans, felt could be reduced or altered. The Local Review Committee stood firm on their commitment to include enhancements that were designed into the project and looked for other ways to reduce the project budget without sacrificing those community elements that were addressing the important goals of the project.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
The top two challenges were the time delays and changes in personnel—both of which were out of the control of the three partners. Factors such as the economic environment (the Great Recession), changes in political leadership, and changes in transportation policy on both a state and national level contributed significantly to project delays that virtually ensured the resultant changes in personnel. The altered timeframe led to several changes in leadership on the Danville Selectboard. VTrans also transitioned through several project managers/engineers throughout the duration of the project. These obstacles also led to challenges with communications, not only among the partners, but also with the community.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
While there were elements of communication between the partners that needed improvement, the Council played an important role in providing a consistent and persistent presence throughout the project. Continued dialogue between the Arts Council, VTrans, the Town and the artists kept things moving along, albeit slowly. A strong commitment, as defined in a memorandum of understanding between the Council and VTrans helped to solidify the partnership, ensure outcomes, and maintain the understanding of the importance of the artists and the enhancement portion of the project.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1) When undertaking a complex project, develop clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and budgets among the partners. Document this in writing through a memorandum of understanding or contact.
2) Find ways to provide clear, consistent communications among partners and keep the community informed of the progress or the reasons why there are delays in progress. Continue to allow for public input and feedback throughout the process, but be firm about maintaining decisions that have been made and why.
3) Be sure partners understand what happens after the project is completed. Develop clear understandings of who will own and maintain all portions of the project. Communities may be used to thinking about roadway and sidewalk maintenance, but be sure to define who will own and maintain any artistic elements of the project.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
The Danville Transportation Enhancement Project included the following features that were all concentrated in the village center of Danville, Vermont, especially in the area of the Village Green:
• Installation of new signage at the entryways to Danville designating this as an historic village
• Removal of a road that bisected the Village Green
• Creation of 19 sculptural installations on the Green and in adjacent areas along the Route 2 corridor
• Reconstruction of a bandstand on the Village Green
• Installation of parking spaces around the Village Green
• Introduction of a new traffic pattern around the Village Green
• Installation of a new traffic light in the center of town, as well as traffic calming features (islands, etc.) and sidewalks
• Introduction of new plantings and trees on the Green
• Installation of stone walls and a stone amphitheater on the Green
• Installation of decorative light posts through the Village to improve nighttime visibility
• Underground power and electrical lines around the Village Green
The traffic calming enhancements included gateway signs, fence posts, and traffic islands to visually identify the entrance to the Village. The pedestrian safety features incorporated decorative light posts for improved visibility at night as well as the extension of sidewalks from the local Market, through the village, and out to the playground at the Danville School. Artistic enhancements including stone wall seating areas, carved granite posts, and the “Map of the Mountain and Map Maker” relate to the natural world, the community and the educational mission of the school and were included to invite residents and visitors to slow down, stop in the village, and share the story of Danville’s unique history.
Community members, including the school principal, have expressed opinions that they believe the community is now safer for pedestrians. Vehicles have a clear sense that they are entering a village and are slowing to the traffic light. There is a great deal of community pride in the Town. Community events, celebrations and activities (Farmers Markets, Danville Fair, Autumn on the Green, Memorial Day Celebration, Fourth of July Parade & Celebration to name a few) once again take place on the Green.
Cultural tourism appears to have increased on the Green. According to community member observations, tourists have been observed enjoying the project: “I’ve seen people taking pictures; I’ve seen them looking at the granite markers.” There have been many comments from visitors “about how nice the Green looks.” The Council has developed a “walking tour” brochure about the project that has been shared with the Town officials, the local library, historical society and Chamber of Commerce. Note: A documentary film about the project is nearing completion and will be a valuable tool in sharing the story of the project with other communities.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
In 2000, eleven specific project goals were established by the Local Review Committee (the committee charged with providing Danville resident input into the project). They all related back to the principal goals of the project (pedestrian safety, traffic calming, and sharing Danville’s unique history through the enhancements). Focus group and interview participants felt that the goals were achieved through the project.
How did you measure this success or progress?
During the period of this project, the Council conducted the following research and analysis:
• Review of background materials, including over 200 transcripts from community meetings, video documentation of the program, documentation of promotional efforts and media coverage, interim program reports, financial statements and contracts, and other relevant contextual materials.
• 3 focus groups with the artists/designers, community leaders, and project management team.
• 1 phone interview with the lead designer on the project.
• 4 planning meetings on the phone or in person to plan, review, and analyze the research results.
While the project scope was not designed as a comprehensive evaluation of the Danville Transportation Enhancement Project, these research activities yielded input from principal individuals involved in the project that could inform future work of a similar nature launched by the Vermont Arts Council.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
The following impacts were not anticipated at the start of the project but are evidence of the importance of this work in Vermont communities:
• The inclusion of the Danville green in Vermont’s Village Green initiative
• 2005 Received Honorable Mention for the VT Public Spaces Award (Given by VT ASLA, ASCE, AIAVT, & VT Planners Association)
• Early on, Vermont Arts Council representatives were invited to present on the project at national convenings, and it was featured as an exemplar by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
• Community creativity and embracing of the project with construction related themes at their annual fair in August (“Fair-Well Pike” in 2013 and “Back on the Green in 2014”)
CCX Workshop Handout