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Arts Mean Business
In some quarters, arts are still considered a luxury, nice to have but not essential. Not so. In addition to satisfying hearts and souls, the arts play a prominent role in economic development and recovery. (In Vermont, over 2000 businesses are arts-related.) To counteract the pandemic-induced beating taken by the arts community, bills are making their way through the Vermont Legislature that are designed to help communities by supporting the arts. Here is a partial synopsis from a press release from the Vermont Creative Network.
Vermont Creative Futures Act To Boost Creative Sector Recovery
MONTPELIER, VT— The Vermont Creative Network is advocating in the Vermont Legislature for an economic recovery package that invests $17.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) [link added] funds for cultural non-profits and creative businesses, a sector profoundly jeopardized by the pandemic.
Companion bills in the House and Senate, co-sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Jerome and Sen. Alison Clarkson, with an additional 27 co-signers, would support a Creative Economy Recovery Program to include:
$10 million in Creative Economy Grants for organizations and businesses that sustained substantial losses due to Covid or who continue to operate at limited capacity
$4 million to help nonprofit cultural organizations with facility adaptions, for example, to purchase air-purification systems and hand-sanitizer dispensers, assess and upgrade HVAC systems, or to expand outdoor seating
$2 million for transitional costs required to implement safe public programming, such as touchless ticketing, online sales platforms, and Covid-related health and safety protocols
The grants could reach over 200 creative businesses and cultural organizations in Vermont to help them rebuild and recover and to ensure the viability of these important community institutions. Grant recipients would include museums, theaters, galleries, studios, performing arts venues, and other cultural organizations, as well as other creative sector businesses.
The bill also addresses the possibility of revitalizing vacant retail and office spaces, providing rent to landlords while garnering the currently unused areas for arts venues.
The press release goes on to quote a Rutland VT business owner who testified about how the arts—from performances to public murals—have brought people downtown and improved the city’s economy. Closer to home, one can look at changes over the last decade or more in White River Junction as the arts community there has thrived.
At a law school reunion a few years ago, a former classmate told me that while attending Dartmouth College in his youth (likely the 1970s), he went once to White River Junction but there was no second visit. “Why would you go there?” he asked, somewhat rhetorically. My response was a long list that spoke of years of change, resulting in a growing and vital arts network: Northern Stage, JAG and We the People and other performances at the Briggs, art galleries, artists’ studios at the Tip Top Building, and all of the dining options and retail establishments that have grown up around them. He was astonished to learn that White River Junction was now home to the Center for Cartoon Studies. (Yes, I have invited him back to experience the changes.)
Soldier on, Vermont creatives! A tip of the hat to Senator Alison Clarkson (of Woodstock VT) and Representative Stephanie Jerome and the their co-signors for sponsoring this legislation.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.