You don't think about poets incurring expenses for their craft. They just sit in their studies, or maybe take meditative strolls through the woods and jot down their inspired lines, right?
Maybe sometimes. But for his next series of poems - about the "lake's inner life" - Jonesville poet Daniel Lusk is researching shipwrecks and aquatic species at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum at Basin Harbor, which means he makes a frequent 100-mile round trip. So there's mileage, never mind the time. That's why Lusk, a writing instructor at the University of Vermont, can be grateful for a recent $3000 grant from the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund.
He's but one of 29 individuals and organizations across the state that collectively received more than $100,000 last week from the endowment fund, which, along with the Concert Artists Fund, is administered by the Middlebury-based Vermont Community Foundation. And Lusk is one of two artists whose work is keyed to the theme of next year's Lake Champlain Quadricentennial - that is, the 400th anniversary of the lake's "discovery" by its namesake, Samuel de Champlain. The poet says he's not writing about lake views, but rather concentrating on what's beneath the surface. That may or may not include any fossils, but knowing he's covered for the fossil fuel he expends on this project surely helps ease the mind and enhance the concentration.
Sticking with the lake theme, Bella Voce Women's Chorus of Vermont - recipient of $5000 from the Concert Arts Fund - plans to perform original works on the theme of water. Dawn Willis, music director and founder of Bella Voce, says her group's money will enable the 45-woman chorus to commission a new composition by University of Vermont symphony orchestra conductor Michael Hopkins. The award will also help the 5-year-old choral group recruit instrumentalists to play Hopkins' piece, along with similarly inspired works, at a pair of concerts next May.
Artists' work doesn't appear by magic; it costs money and takes time. Resources like the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund, which nurtures new works and finances technical assistance through grants of up to $5000, are essential to the process. An anonymous Vermont donor established the endowment fund in 1990, with the help of a matching grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. The Concert Artists Fund supports performances of Western classical music in Chittenden County and makes awards of up to $10,000. It was endowed by the estate of Charles Goetz, who was the general manager of DBI Industries, a measuring-machine manufacturer in South Burlington.
Lest you think that creative types are getting a cushy deal, consider that there isn't nearly enough money in these and other such funds to "nurture" every Vermont artist and arts organization every year - and competition is tough. A committee consisting of individuals familiar with the state's arts scene recommends potential recipients of awards from both funds, and the Vermont Community Foundation vets the nominees. It also chooses the committee's members in consultation with the Vermont Arts Council. The list of those serving on the panel "is not something we share," says foundation spokeswoman Paige Pierson.
This year's recipients include such major institutions as the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, as well as smaller organizations including River Arts of Morrisville and Putney's Sandglass Center for Puppetry and Theater. The individual artists winning awards include a Stowe sculptor, a Bristol painter, a Burlington playwright, a Norwich filmmaker and a Middlebury choreographer.