Middlebury, VT

Contact Name
Sue Hoxie
Project Dates
May 10, June 14, July 12, August 9, Sept 13, October 11
Middlebury Arts Walk is celebration of the arts in Middlebury, Vt. On the 2nd Friday, May thru October, artists display their work in 40+ venues throughout downtown. Hundreds of visitors stroll through downtown Middlebury to see the art, hear live music and enjoy the downtown atmosphere, guided by special pink Arts Walk map/brochures, and our distinctive "pink boot" markers.

The Arts Walk is a project of ArtsConnect which is dedicated to connecting the arts and business communities. ArtsConnect began when the Vermont Council on Rural Development selected Middlebury for a Creative Communities program. Developing a creative economy umbrella association was identified as a community priority—and ArtsConnect was born. Middlebury Arts Walk is arguably ArtsConnect’s most successful initiative.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
The goals for Middlebury Arts Walk, founded in 2009, have been:
* Create an event to bring people (residents & tourists) to the downtown area
* Create an event/reason for retail stores to stay open later than 5 p.m. (typical closing time)
* Host a free cultural event that allows all citizens equal access to arts experiences regardless of income
* Create an environment to connect the business and arts communities
* Provide artists with venues to display their work so that it's accessible and approachable by anyone
Have they changed over time?
The 2013 season will be Middlebury Arts Walk's fifth. We have remained true to our original goals, but have made tweaks over time such as adjusting the number of months, location of venues, outreach to artists, and increased event promotion.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Emily Blistein, Clementine, local business owner; Jean Cherouny, artist, community volunteer; Kathy Clarke, Middlebury Studio School; Nancy Cobden, ArtsConnect founding member, retired school administrator; Ellie Friml, Town Hall Theater gallery manager; Kirsten Hoving, PhotoPlace Gallery owner and Middlebury College Charles A. Dana Professor of History of Art & Architecture; Sue Hoxie, Addison County Chamber of Commerce; Mary Lower, Middlebury Studio School; Susan Parsons, Middlebury College
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
Middlebury Arts Walk is a repeating event--we host six events each year and the process repeats on a monthly basis. However, before the beginning of the season current and potential venues are contacted to see if they'll participate. To recruit more artists, we'll post a "call for artists" on Craigslist.

One committee member is our Arts Walk Coordinator who is the "matchmaker" between artists and venues. Some venues have their own network of artists and can schedule artists on their own without our help. But, not all venues have those connections, so our coordinator identifies artists and connects them to venues depending on size of pieces, how much space the venue can accommodate, duration of display, etc.

About 3 weeks prior to each event, venues are contacted to get that month's listing information for the monthly brochure/map. Brochures are printed and distributed to each venue a few days prior to that month's events.

There is no cost for venues or artists to participate. Our only source of income is from advertising in the monthly flyer which covers the coordinator's time and cost of printing. All publicity is done at no cost--newspaper calendar listings, Facebook, monthly press release, and the local newspaper donates advertising space.
Have they been refined over time?
We've developed some processes and forms over the last four years to better manage event planning and the pairing of artists and venues. There's always quite a bit of juggling to match up 40 venues and artists and a nearly monthly basis.
What were your major obstacles?
Our obstacles have been:
* Creating an income source to cover the cost of printing and coordinator's time
* Continually expand our pool of artists
* Getting the word out to residents/tourists beyond Middlebury
* If we don't have someone in the coordinator's role it is very difficult for a non-artist to identify artists and make the pairings with venues
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Although the participants of our committee has changed over the years, we are very resourceful and creative in coming up with solutions
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Identify an income source
2. Make sure venues are committed to participating
3. Clearly articulate benefits of participation to both venues and artists
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
Participation and attendance has grown steadily for the Arts Walk over its four years, and so has its impact on our community. The Arts Walk is going into its fifth year and attendance has grown from several hundred to over 1,000 people annually. The event is free of charge to all. Artists receive free exhibition space and opening receptions. Each year, over 100 artists gain valuable visibility for their work, educate the public about art, and enrich the community with their creativity. In return, the business community benefits from increased traffic and commerce.

Partnership is key to the success of the Arts Walk. The arts and business communities have
partnered to create exhibitions, welcome visitors, and boost traffic and business downtown. In the
future, we hope to extend these partnerships to additional cultural organizations as well. We have
already started on this work--we have strong connections to Middlebury's Town Hall Theater, a
community arts center; to local galleries and museums; and the Spring Into the Arts, the local school arts festival. In 2012 we made a new connection with Middlebury's Festival on the Green (a free, annual, week-long summer music festival). We swapped ads in our respective programs, and started brainstorming about cooperative marketing opportunities. We have also made good connections with musicians interested in visual art. Two local artists/musicians displayed instrument-making and collages in venues nearby the Festival on the Green. Long-term we would like to explore cooperative marketing opportunities with other local community organizations.

A good example of the Arts Walk's impact is our partnership with Spring Into the Arts--a bi-annual arts program in the local schools. In 2011 we hosted the Spring into the Arts Festival as the kick off Arts Walk. This collaboration brought dancers and musicians out into the middle of town to perform. Student artwork was in every store, representing artists of all ages, from Pre-K through College. The community came out to see the students perform and share their artwork. By having the schools participate in the Arts Walk we reached many different types of people who wanted to see their son or daughter represented by their school, and who might not have otherwise considered themselves Arts Walk attendees. That night made an artistic impact, and educational impact, and a commercial impact.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We've connected artists to businesses. Participation at every level is free--artists, venues, attendees--so accessibility is not a concern. Downtown Middlebury is bustling from 5 to 7 p.m. one Friday night a month bringing revenue to retailers and restaurants.
Were there unexpected impacts?
None that I can think of.