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 Vermont Festival of the Arts was created 18 years ago as a way to bring tourists to the Mad River Valley during what was considered an "off season" (versus the winter). Its specific goals was to give tourists a reason to visit and stay in the Mad River Valley during the summer. It was recognized that there were a number of arts-related events that took place during August, and by marketing them together under the mantle of a "festival," everyone would benefit. A keystone event was created - the Big Red Barn Art Show - to anchor the Festival. Other events at that time included a summer stock theater production, a culinary event, a photography show, and various workshops (all still exist today). Originally the Festival was two weekends and the week between them (10 days). Overtime, the Festival has grown to it current form -- 120+ events that take place during the entire month of August (ending Labor Day). The Festival promotes the Valley, its artists and its businesses for the benefit of everyone.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals have not changed significantly overtime. However, in 2011 Hurricane Irene hit during the third week of the Festival, effectively canceling the remaining events in August and significantly damaging the region (our "arts district" was under water). After the storm, the Valley Arts Foundation decided to expand its focus to a year-round organization and hired a full-time Executive Director to put on the Festival - ensuring its success for the future. Over time the community has rallied around the Festival, creating special events specifically for the Festival.
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):
There are over 100 project partners and stakeholders involved in the Vermont Festival of the Arts. They include: Sugarbush Resort, Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, Green Mountain Cultural Center, Artisans’ Gallery, Lareau Farm Inn home of American Flatbread, Mad River Valley Craft Fair, Valley Players, MRV Television, Mad River Valley Rotary, the Commons Group, the Vermont Playwrights Society, the Vermont Poetry Society, Joslin Memorial Library, Waitsfield United Church, Warren United Church, and the Historic Waitsfield Village business group. These non-profit, community and business entities represent the entire cross section of business and cultural activities, from a ski area that supports year-round arts performances to a 50-year old theater group. These groups create and host festival events, provide financial sponsorships, and provide access to additional marketing tools. In addition, we partner with state-wide organizations such as the State Department of Tourism and Marketing, the State of Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Crafts Council, Vermont Watercolor Society, and the Vermont Pastel Society. We work closely with all our partners to produce a spectacular Festival each year.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
The Mad River Valley Planning District recently completed an Economic Study (Spring 2014) which was presented to the community at an Economic Summit in June. Five economic sectors were noted as important to the future of the region: Tourism/Recreation, Agriculture/Food System, Professional Services, Arts/Creative Economy and Manufacturing/Incubation. The Vermont Festival of the Arts and the work of the Valley Arts Foundation were highlighted as successful representations of the Arts/Creative Economy sector.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
As this project began 18 years ago, I was not involved in the original inspiration of the Festival. However, the Valley Arts Foundation believes that the goal of the Festival and the Foundation is to support the interests of the Mad River Valley, including small businesses, restaurants, inns, shops, stores, etc. We wish to breakdown the barriers between the arts and people so that they can enjoy all of the arts. The Valley Arts Foundation recognizes the importance of the Arts for everyone. People should have equal opportunities to experience and participate in the arts throughout their lives.