A swirling light installation makes lines of light against a black sky.

Montpelier, VT

Contact Name
Dan Groberg
Project Dates
June 2016-August 2019
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2019
Municipal government and planning, Policy, Placemaking/placekeeping, Design
The Montpelier ArtSynergy Project was designed to bring our community together to articulate a vision for how art can strengthen the livability and vibrancy of Montpelier, and to create a public art master plan that would be adopted as city policy. The ArtSynergy Project also included the city 's first commission of major public artwork. The commissioned work serves to celebrate the community's involvement in creating the Public Art Master Plan and the adoption of the plan as a central component of city planning.
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 mission of the Montpelier Public Art Program is to invest in public art to strategically drive community vibrancy and social cohesion. The vision is to enrich the lives of all citizens through honoring the City's history, celebrating its culture, and creating rich experiences for residents and visitors through art in public spaces. We look to facilitate a future of public art that is meaningful, locally-based, and will resonate with residents and visitors alike.

Montpelier's 2010 Master Plan identified the communities primary cultural goal: "Montpelier is considered a destination for arts and culture, with a number of arts and cultural activities , such as festivals, exhibits and performance taking place" and that the natural beauty, art and talent in Montpelier will delight and inspire people and that everyone has the opportunity to participate in creative endeavors.

To this end the department of planning and community development has sought to engage with arts organizations to fulfill that goal.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
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):
The project leadership team included Montpelier Alive, the city’s office of Planning and Community Development, and the Community Engagement Lab. The Community Engagement Lab (CEL) had a lead role in planning the project, helping to organize stakeholders, designing the project scope, and presenting the project vision to the City Council for funding approval. CEL worked closely with the project consultant and leadership team as follows: 1) identified and managed the teaching artists for the visioning workshops; 2) lead the design of the visioning workshops, in close partnership with the teaching artists, project consultant and leadership team; 2) managed the communications plan with stakeholders and the community-at-large; 3) lead the design and implementation of the fundraising campaign.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
This project came at an exciting time for Montpelier. The City was developing a new transit hub in the heart of downtown with $8.8 million in local, state and federal funds, which was Montpelier’s largest private-to-public development in the past 30 years. The site will include green space, the long-planned continuation of the Montpelier bike path—connecting it into the heart of downtown—the removal of two buildings to make way for the bike path and new green space, and a new pedestrian/bike bridge over the Winooski River to connect the transit hub site and bike path to downtown.

One Taylor Street, which is being called the new gateway to Montpelier, has been catalytic for other design and community development projects. The City of Montpelier recently participated in the EPA’s Greening of America’s Capitals project. Downtown merchants approved a Downtown Improvement District tax to fund downtown cultural activities and streetscape improvements. And a Downtown Design Summit was organized—and attended by a standing-room-only crowd—to better engage the community in these developing projects.

Although these design and cultural initiatives are generating excitement and new energy, there is not any public art master planning that connects horizontally through all projects. The Montpelier ArtSynergy Project seeks to create a Public Art Master Plan that will bring the community together to understand how to connect-the-dots between these and future design and cultural initiatives for greater community and economic development.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
OCT 2015-JAN 2016 (3-4 months): Final assemblage of key stakeholders and consultant. Responsibility outlines with project scope and details.

JAN-JUN 2016 (4-6 months): Information-gathering and research, planning, additional partner development.

JUN-OCT 2016 (4-5 months): Confirm artist jury, RFP to artists, commission artist, engage teaching artists for visioning workshops.

OCT-NOV 2016 (2 months): Initial public consultations.

2017 (12 months): Creative visioning workshops and community-engaged design sessions with commissioned artist.

JAN-JUN 2018 (6 months): Finalizing and adopting of the Public Art Master Plan.

AUG 2019: Commissioned art work installation and celebration/public announcement of the Public Art Master Plan.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Overcoming misconceptions about what a public art master plan is, and how it can be positioned ad a key stepping stone to other cultural development plans.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Lots of discussions with the community in various venues and settings to share information about public art and its potential for transformative impact on our city.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
No amount of communication is too much – between partners, the community, city council, leadership team.

Be prepared to be flexible with the engagement plan to allow for changes in the timeline, the communities response to the process, and the various leadership and advisory teams’ capacities.

Have clear project goals established at the outset, so you can withstand the pressure to expand the scope 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?
We are just at the beginning of the larger process of carrying out the new Public Art Master Plan. That said, we are proud of the planning process that we undertook to create the Plan and the way that it connected cross-sector stakeholders to engage in this work. Stakeholders included artists, teachers, students, council members, city staff, and local business owners, as well as the broader public. Each stakeholder w as asked about their perception of public art in Montpelier and what they believed the future impact of investment in public art could be. Each person was asked how they envisioned the growth of public art in the City, and what, specifically, the program should be in order to be what the people of Montpelier desire. Where our work was unique is in the way it engaged the community, especially through our community workshops and events, which included a pop-up museum at the Lost Nation Theater, community workshops focusing on the convergence of art in community, and series of art talks, and a panel discussion. Workshops were hands-on and engaging.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
While much work remains in the execution of the Public Art Master Plan, we believe that the planning process engaged diverse stakeholders in the process and helped us capture the essence of Montpelier's identity, such that those who are considering making art for Montpelier can use our document to become inspired by our unique qualities and add Montpelier-specific ideas into creative projects.
How did you measure this success or progress?
The Public Art Master Master was unanimously approved by the Montpelier City Council and an initial municipal allocation of $25,000 has been set. We see this as an indication that our planning process succeeded in establishing a wide base of public support for the arts.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
We were pleasantly surprised by the level of participation in our public workshops and grateful for the opportunity to involve students through a week-long residency at Main Street Middle School.
CCX Workshop Handout