By Alex Aldrich
How do you commemorate a 50th anniversary? A gift of gold? A fancy party? This is the dilemma the Arts Council faced as we discussed how to celebrate 50 years of public funding for the arts in Vermont.
In 1965 the legislature designated the Arts Council as Vermont’s official state arts agency. From that year to now funding has come from the National Endowment for the Arts, matched by the State, to the Council to serve artists, arts organizations, schools, and communities. The effect of this support is a mature arts sector that is an integral part of Vermont’s landscape. Neither gift of gold nor fancy party is adequate to pay tribute to the catalytic impact that public funding for the arts has had on the character and culture of Vermont.
Last year, the State Legislature proclaimed 2015 the “Year of the Arts,” setting the stage for a year of reflection on and amplification of the arts in Vermont. And in January, we launched “Vermont Arts 2015,” a statewide celebration of the arts.
Vermont Arts 2015 is essentially a year-long celebration that highlights the stunning array of arts activities, from concerts to exhibitions and festivals that will occur all year long across the Green Mountain State. Through Vermont Arts 2015, we want residents and visitors to think “arts” along with skiing, fall foliage, and maple syrup. We will promote Vermont Arts 2015 through marketing and public relations campaigns, with the goal of boosting arts and culture as a valued part of the Vermont brand.
This celebration, though, will not end on December 31. The Council is implementing several initiatives to keep the arts moving forward for the next 50 years. For example, a strong arts culture depends on the constant infusion of new work and new people. We must continue to advocate for arts education as a fundamental part of our school curriculum. A concerned group of leaders in the education field has already begun to identify priorities and strategies to ensure that Vermonters have the opportunity to develop their creative abilities and critical thinking skills in school. Throughout 2015, a series of forums will be held to hear from community members about how they “Envision the Future of Arts Education.”
At the same time, we are developing a Vermont Creative Network to bring together individuals, organizations, and communities to build a statewide framework to grow and sustain local arts and cultural activities. This is how Vermont Arts 2015 will turn into Vermont Arts 2016, 2017, … 2065! In other words, we want the arts to remain at the center of Vermont life, only more visibly so, for years to come.
Are you ready to get involved? Please visit VermontArtsCouncil.org to find out how to submit an event for inclusion in Vermont Arts 2015. You can also discover venues and series, excursions and festivals—maybe an event or attraction you never knew existed. You can also find out how to join the conversation about arts education or participate in the development of the Vermont Creative Network.
Many of us have been involved in the arts for years – as artists, performers, administrators, patrons, or advocates. During 2015, we want to involve everyone in honoring and valuing the creativity that proliferates in this Green Mountain State. In Vermont, the arts are everywhere. Go out and enjoy them!
Alex Aldrich is the executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, the official state arts agency. One of his principal roles is advocating for arts funding at the state and federal level.