What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Montpelier and the surrounding region is packed full of artists, but there are very few dedicated gallery spaces. At the same time, vacant storefronts persist for years on end. Locals don't buy enough art at the prices artists need to sustain a traditional commercial gallery, so several recent local attempts at galleries have folded.
We aim to alleviate the lack of display space for artists, help them engage with their immediate community, and enliven the downtown. More specifically, we aim to support our members' art practice by encouraging their production, connecting them with a community of fellow artists, and showcasing their work for potential buyers.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
As an artist-run gallery with a changing membership, our short-term goals and tactics change with our members. But since the basic goal is "persist," it won't change much until we cease operations.
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):
Over our 4 years of life so far, more than 30 local artists have joined as dues-paying, gallery-managing members-- too many to list here by name, but they are the reason The Front exists. Their money has paid our rent and bills; their labor has built our website, painted our walls, sourced and purchased our lighting system, maintained our mailing list and outreach efforts, arranged and installed our exhibits, hosted our receptions, facilitated our sales of art, organized and staffed our lectures and special events, and kept the gallery open every weekend for four years. Other essential partners include all the community members who come to our receptions; the collectors and shoppers who purchase art at the gallery; Tremolo Coffee, a pop-up business who sublet at a crucial moment and gave us needed income and exposure; Montpelier city government, which gave us a grant to build our sign; and our landlord, Jesse Jacobs of Montpelier Property Management, who has been steadily reasonable about the rent and has provided needed encouragement at key moments.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Maintaining The Front cultivates our members' art practices and careers, and fosters connection among local artists. It showcases local talent for the broader community, encourages parallel projects, and puts otherwise vacant space to good use for residents and visitors alike.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Despite the existence of other artist-run galleries, there really wasn't a specific inspiring project or place that seeded The Front, other than the vacant storefront itself. Walking by it every day put the idea in my mind that it should be used.