Sculptural Trees

Morrisville, VT

Contact Name
Tricia Follert
Project Dates
Vermont Arts Council awarded Morristown funding for the planning stage of the project in late 2014. A request for qualifications was sent out to artists and art organizations in early spring 2015. The tree was installed in September 2016
The community has asked for more trees and green spaces throughout the town, surveys going back over the course of 20 years all include the people wanting more trees, Morristown is adding sculptural trees which will add trees and so much more. Public art has the power to energize our public spaces, arouse our thinking, and transform the places where we live, work, and play into more welcoming and beautiful environments that invite interaction. This is what these sculptural trees work will do for Morristown, it will create a sense of place.
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 goal of this sculpture was to provide an aesthetic community asset which will draw a “creative class” of professional workers and innovators who want to live in a creative environment; be around other creative people--which leads to the development of a “creative economy” --Creative enterprises and individuals contribute to local and regional economies, and fuel other sectors of the economy. Selling the community on public art was a major challenge, this being a small blue collar community with no "real" public art there was a long process of understanding what art is and how it can help change the way people see the community.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goal really didn't change over time, the community came together to understand the value of public art. This sculpture brings people together, sparks community pride and creates a more vibrant town. This project is thoughtfully designed to enhance the downtown and through the process of having the community chose the artist it gave people the opportunity to be part of the process.
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 original selection committee was made up of 7 community members, artists, an architect, a librarian, Dominique Gustin; executive director of River Arts, myself; Tricia Follert, Community Development Coordinator and the head of MACC (our downtown organization).
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
November 1, 2015 a thirty million dollar truck route opened in Morristown. This route completely bypasses our downtown and we started planning 5 years ago to build our downtown stronger, to make it a place people want to go to. New zoning was implemented to allow more housing on the second floor of downtown buildings, new businesses were wined and dined to locate in the downtown and in the spring of 2016 Lamoille Valley Rail Trail opening one of the first sections of a 93 mile 4 season recreation trail which runs directly through out downtown. Building owners started sprucing up some of the old building and taking pride in how the downtown looked. Morrisville is striving to become a vibrant community where people want to live, work and play and this public art is moving the town one step forward.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
MACC (our downtown organization) started with some smaller projects over the last 6 years. Local artists painted banners which adorn our street poles, each year 25 Adirondack chairs are purchased and painted by local citizens (including 5 at the local high school as a graded project) to add public art and walkability to the downtown and then are auctioned off each fall as a fundraiser. Having the community involved in smaller projects began the process of introducing the community to public art.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
In the spring of 2014, Morristown submitted a letter of intent to Vermont Arts Council for their pilot program of the Animated Infrastructure Grant and was chosen to submit a full application for the sculptural trees. Morristown was awarded funding for the planning stage of three sculptural trees. We formed a selection committee of local residents, artists and business people and put out a public request for proposals. We had 12 applicants which the selection committee narrowed it down to 4 and then, after the presentations of all 4 artists, it was narrowed down to 2. Through a large marketing campaign, voting process and presentations to the community of the two final artists, local artist Gordon Auchincloss, a resident of Hardwick, Vermont was chosen. This process was over a 10 month span and we had over 500 community members vote. Gordon was contracted to do the engineering and planning. From here we went on to how are we going to get the funds for implementation. We presented to Community National Bank without asking for funding, just for feedback on the public art and they asked for a full proposal and funded this first sculptural tree.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
The location of the project moved a few times due to the considerations of the town street crew and public comments, the first draft of this tree changed to fit the location better and each step of the process was tweaked as we understood the process of getting public art installed. There were many steps we had not considered when we first started the process.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
FUNDING! Selling the community on public art and convincing our selectboard that this was a good project for the community.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Doing the research necessary to show the power of public art, talking to the community, having them be involved in the process. Showing them what the painted Adirondack chairs have done for our community.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Plan your project from start to finish but expect bumps along the way.
Think about the impact and sell your community on it.
Have as much community involvement as you can.
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?
This sculptural tree has started conversations, good and bad, but public art is always engaging. This public art creates a positive influence as residents begin to think about how what they want their community to be. We will be installing 2 more trees over the next two years and as each one is installed it will add to the vibrancy of our downtown. MACC (our downtown organization) has had more people attend meetings and want to be involved in the downtown.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
This has shown the residents that investing in our community and especially in public art shows a commitment to our citizens and our future. Art and culture supports community engagement, increases the potential for people to understand themselves and each other and changes how they see the world. Public art is an economic driver and Morristown will continue to strengthen with public art.
How did you measure this success or progress?
By the talk in the community.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
It was just installed this fall so I have not had any unexpected impacts.

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