Vermont Arts Organizations Awarded $500,000 for Pandemic Recovery | Arts News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vermont Arts Organizations Awarded $500,000 for Pandemic Recovery


Published January 28, 2022 at 6:57 p.m.
Updated February 2, 2022 at 10:02 a.m.

KeruBo at Hurly Burly - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • KeruBo at Hurly Burly
Six Vermont arts organizations received a total of $500,000 in federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. The awards were announced Thursday by the National Endowment for the Arts, which  granted the money.

In total, the NEA awarded $57 million to 567 arts organizations in every state, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. More than 7,500 groups applied for grants. The number of applicants per state is unavailable, according to the NEA. But in a joint statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)  called the grants “highly competitive.”

In Burlington, Burlington City Arts  and the Flynn Center each received $100,000. The Craft Emergency Relief Fund in Montpelier and Stowe Story Labs also received $100,000 apiece.  Vermont Stage, based in Burlington, and Community Engagement Lab of Montpelier were each awarded $50,000.

The funding is to be used to “save jobs, and to fund operations and facilities, health and safety supplies, and marketing and promotional efforts to encourage attendance and participation,” according to the NEA.

Doreen Kraft, executive director of  BCA, called the grant "extraordinary" and said it will be "tremendously helpful" as the organization emerges from the pandemic. The money will allow BCA "to re-establish a full of  year of programming that involves all of the festivals and events that are part of our repertoire," she said.  "This really allows us to put back into motion many of the things that we had to curtail."
At the Flynn, executive director Jay Wahl said the NEA was particularly generous in granting an award that allows the Flynn take a risk as it "re-thinks the way [we] do programming."

The grant will fund a new position, associate director of produced events, whose role will include guiding the Flynn as it presents performances in new and different kinds of spaces, according to Wahl.

"More and more, we're discovering that performance in public spaces is an area the Flynn should be going in," he said.
The Flynn-produced 2021 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival was presented almost entirely outside. It followed the success of the nonprofit's Hurly Burly series, which debuted in 2020 and featured popup performances by local musicians in unconventional outdoor spaces around the city.

The NEA money will allow the presenting arts organization "to recenter our mission to be about serving our community, and not necessarily always at the building," Wahl said.
Paul Gambill, executive director of the Community Engagement Lab, said the grant will support salaries and the “contractual personnel” who work with the nonprofit. The lab helps teachers and teaching artists design and implement school and community-based arts projects.

“A gift like this really relieves some immediate funding pressure,” Gambill told Seven Days. “Especially since these grants don’t have to be matched.”

Karen Mittelman is executive director of the Vermont Arts Council and former director of the division of public programs for the National Endowment for the Humanities. She said Vermont’s share of the pot — $500,000 out of $57 million — was noteworthy for a state of its size. (The VAC had no involvement with the grant-making process.)

“I’m proud that for a small rural state, we punch above our weight in so many areas,” Mittelman said. “And arts and culture is one of those.”

She attributes that to two factors: A roster of “very strong, impressive arts organizations” across the state that Mittelman calls "anchor organizations.”
These arts groups are central to the identity and character of their towns, she said. “They’re economic, social and cultural anchors,” Mittelman said.

In addition, Vermont attracts creative and artistic people from across the nation who choose to come here to make their work.

“I hear this again and again,” Mittelman said. "[Creatives] come to Vermont because they feel that they have the freedom here to pursue their own creative practice, or explore something new, in a way that they wouldn’t have if they were in a major art market like Chicago, Manhattan or L.A.”

The half million dollars in federal funds will help support arts organizations in Vermont as they recover from pandemic losses, she said.

“Every dollar that you invest in the Flynn, or any one of those grantees, is going to help the organization to keep jobs, to support its operations, and to help an audience come back safely,” Mittelman said.

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