Please allow me to be the first to call for increased support for Vermont’s cultural institutions through H.3, a bill currently before the Vermont House Appropriations Committe. While needed capital improvements to cultural facilities has been generously supported in recent years through the Capital Bill, my concern is now on how to maintain the vibrancy of our core cultural institutions in towns and villages throughout the state.
H.3 would provide additional funds to our local constituents that provide programs and services in the public interest. Their work is crucial to maintaining our communities as wonderful places to raise families, start businesses, visit (often), and educate our children not just because they exist, but because they are involved in educating our children and providing key social and health care services to our citizens. Cultural institutions are an essential element of the glue that binds the Creative Economy into a powerful force for improving our local quality of life.
Imagine the Chandler Center in Randolph without its community theater programs and concerts by Midori. Imagine Stowe without Helen Day Arts Center, Shelburne Farms without the Mozart Festival, or Rutland without the Chaffee Center or the Paramount Theater. Imagine Burlington without the Flynn, the Fleming, or the South End Art Hop. Imagine Dorset, Bennington, or Weston without the Dorset Playhouse, Oldcastle Theater, or the Weston Playhouse. Imagine Brattleboro without the Museum or the Music Center; Marlboro without the Music Festival, Putney without the Yellow Barn or Sandglass Theater, or Glover without Bread and Puppet. What if Craftsbury offered no chamber music, or White River Junction no Briggs Opera House or Cartoon School? St. Johnsbury without the Athenaeum; Vergennes without the Opera House? Inconceivable! This list goes on and on. For now, Vermont is blessed with these wonderful assets. But what if these entities started to disappear from Vermont’s cultural landscape? Vermont would be like a ski resort with no snow; nice to look at, but not much to do.
It is ironic that at the same time the Creative Economy movement is infusing new life and new leadership into the community economic development activities of our towns and villages through, in large measure, the engagement of the arts community in core civic activities like planning, education, social services, and health care, that these very entities on which the Creative Economy depends for sustenance, inspiration, and leadership are, themselves, struggling to survive.
In Vermont the Arts have never been the sole property of wealthy patrons who can afford any luxury they want. Don’t let it start happening now. Please support the passage of H.3 for the benefit of all Vermonters.