Arts accolades for Bennington and Brattleboro

The Southern Vermont Art & Craft Festival in Bennington.

The Southern Vermont Art & Craft Festival in Bennington.

Bennington among top small vibrant arts communities

Bennington’s local color and character have been recognized for the second time by a prominent clearinghouse for arts research, trailing only that of Breckenridge, Colo., and Summit Park, Utah, in rankings for small arts-vibrant communities.

The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR), an extension of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, has heaped praise on the Bennington micro-area, which includes Manchester.

NCAR notes the region boasts vital arts and entertainment venues such as the Bennington Museum, Dorset Playhouse, Vermont Arts Exchange, and Southern Vermont Arts Center.

A spokesperson for the Bennington Downtown Alliance says the BDA hopes that Bennington’s high rank on the NCAR Top Arts-Vibrant Small Communities list will continue to boost tourism, an industry on which both Bennington and Manchester rely heavily.

NCAR’s most recent arts-vibrancy index is its third annual ranking. The index covers the country and aims to recognize arts vibrancy “in all of its innumerable iterations.”

In announcing the ranking, Zannie Giraud Voss, director of NCAR, notes that “In the current climate, it is more important than ever to recognize the vital role that the arts play in creating dynamic places to live, work, and visit. The index helps us understand what factors contribute to making an urban area artistically vibrant and culturally rich, and illustrates how vibrancy manifests in a wide variety of forms that are often tied to that community’s unique identity.”

On its website [], NCAR notes it provides a toolkit of evidence-based insights into the health of arts and cultural organizations in America.

Brattleboro polls high in crafts

Art sign at Brattleboro's monthly first-Friday Gallery Walk event.

Art sign at Brattleboro’s monthly first-Friday Gallery Walk event.

Meanwhile, Brattleboro recently ranked sixth on an American Craft Week poll of America’s favorite places to enjoy a vibrant craft scene.

Others on the list included No. 1 Seagrove, N.C., No. 2 Gatlinburg, Tenn., No. 3 Berea, K.Y., No. 4 Cumberland Valley, Penn., and No. 5 Asheville, N.C.

American Craft Week is a project of Craft Retailers & Artists for Tomorrow (CRAFT), a nonprofit trade organization.

See for yourself why the polls place Brattleboro so highly. Downtown boasts the venerable Vermont Artisan Designs, a fixture here for more than 35 years. This classic American craft store, at 106 Main St., represents the best of 350 American craftspeople—and in particular a large collection produced by the many craftspeople living and working in Vermont.

Unique jewelry, blown glass, pottery, wrought iron, pewter, turned wood, and clocks and chimes fill the first floor.

Upstairs, in Gallery 2, visitors discover a remarkable variety of paintings and sculpture.

Store owner Greg Worden says he, like so many who’ve visited Brattleboro only to fall in love with the place, just gets Brattleboro’s appeal:

“I came to visit and the first time I walked down Main Street I felt at home.”

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