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Vermonter Named to Kennedy Center Board


Published April 22, 2011 at 6:04 p.m.

Bill Stetson, a Vermont filmmaker, has been named by Pres. Barack Obama to a key committee that advises the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Steton's official title is Member, Advisory Committee on the Arts for the Kennedy Center. As part of his role, however, he will serve as the key liaison between regional artists and performing art centers and the Kennedy Center.

In short, Stetson hopes to bring a little of Vermont to the progamming of the Kennedy Center and a little bit of the Kennedy Center programming to Vermont.

Stetson is a longtime political friend of the president who helped raise millions for Obama in the 2008 election, including hosting a 2007 primary fundraiser at his and his wife's Norwich home that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. His wife, Jane Stetson, is currently the finance director for the Democratic National Committee. The couple, who have a home in Norwich, also own one in Washington, D.C.

"I plan to use my friendship with the president to really pitch to him the creative economy in Vermont, and put our state and its artists and creators on the national stage," Stetson told Seven Days. As well, Stetson will be able to help bring Kennedy Center programs to cultural centers in Vermont and New England.

"I would love to have a series of open meetings on what the arts are exactly, and how the full range of Vermont artists make a go of it -- all aspects of film and screen, fine and conceptual arts, performance, literature and more," said Stetson. "It's really quite exciting. This could be a great and interesting undertaking -- really highlighting and helping Vermont's creative economy. There is a lot of attention being paid to Vermont right now, thanks in part to our congressional delegation, and I hope to use that attention to help our economy."

In turn, Stetson hopes attention to the creative economy can dovetail with Gov. Peter Shumlin's goals of trying to create more jobs for Vermonters.

In his role as chairman of the Vermont Film Commission, Stetson has been trying to pitch the idea of the creative economy to in-state artists, particularly filmmakers who feel the commission and its current director have been ineffective.

Given Stetson's background in environmental filmmaking, he said, he wants to integrate environmental themes into his efforts. Stetson served as an adviser to the HBO movie Earth and the American Dream and has produced both narrative feature films and documentaries, including the 2002 documentary A Closer Walk, which aired on PBS.

Stetson advised former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean on media and environmental issues, established the Vermont Film Commission and served as its founding president. He currently serves on the board of Vermont Public Radio and the founding board of the Center for the Environment at Harvard University, where he received a bachelor's degree and subsequently studied at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.