Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Sharpen you pencils, uncap your pens. Limber up your dialing finger. Dust off that keyboard. Sip some coffee; sharpen your mind.

It’s time to take action!

The House Appropriations Committee just began “mark-up;” an annual exercise in which they starting putting numbers into columns and next to names. We want the number next to our name to be increased by $103,000. Here’s why: The National Endowment for the Arts has increased its support to the Vermont Arts Council by $103,000. This increase requires a 1:1 state match. The Governor has suggested $13,000. We need $90,000 more from the legislature.

The Arts Council will spend $180,000 the combined state/federal increase as follows:$90,000 to support community projects associated with our “Art Fits” (Puzzles) statewide community arts project. $50,000 to restore community arts organization project grants support which had suffered cuts from previous years.$40,000 to support Local Arts Service Organization Grant Initiative.

All $180,000 of the grants we award will likewise require a 1:1 local/private match—making the leveraging effect of the legislature’s increased support to the Arts Council amount to 4:1 ($360,000:$90,000). (The remaining $26,000 will just cover administrative increases.)

Here’s how you can help.

Now is the crucial time for you to contact your state representative (with a cc to your state senator) indicating your wish for him or her to support the Arts Council’s request for “$90,000 over the Governor’s recommended increase of $13,000—or $103,000 total.

We strongly recommend you pick up the phone and leave a message for your legislator. If you are not comfortable doing this, snail mail directed to their home is next best—unless your legislator only responds to email (as some do!).

Tell your legislator a story about why the arts matter to you personally. Let them know, for example the impact that participating in “Palettes of Vermont “ had on you as an artist, or an educator, or as a member of your local community organization that participated in it. Let them know you really care about this effort. Let them know what a difference a small grant from us meant to your local community arts organization.

If you are going to email your legislator, PLEASE DO:Identify yourself as a constituentAsk if he/she is aware of the Arts Council’s request for additional funding totaling $103,000Remind him/her that the Arts Council funding request is in response to conditions placed upon it by an increase from its federal grantRemind him/her that all but about 12% of the requested increase will directly benefit communities all over Vermont, especially those that participate in Art Fits (Puzzles) with cash infusions that each will require a 1:1 match—for a total leveraging effect of 4:1.ASK HIM/HER to support the requested increase (and take note of his/her response and communicate it to me)THANK HIM/HER for doing such a hard job under such difficult economic conditions.
Cc your state senator(s)Cc me at

PLEASE DO NOT:Copy every member of the House/Senate Appropriations Committees, especially the Chairs (they are well aware of our request)Cut and paste this message into your own email; use your own words—they are sure to sound better!Delay. Do it right now, while the inspiration is in you!

If your local representative is on the House Appropriations Committee, he/she has already heard the pitch from me, Steve Ames (River Arts), and Peggy Kannenstine (Center for Cartoon Studies).

If your representative is NOT on the House Appropriations Committee, please ask him/her to support the Arts Council’s request in two ways:By talking with their colleagues on House Appropriations about the request and asking them to support it (this needs to be done within the next couple of days!)By voting in favor of the increase when it comes to a floor vote.

One final piece of advice—

This is a very important legislation for us. Do not argue with your legislator. Just make sure he/she understands that without their support, our federal appropriations increase could be seriously at risk, and our ability to leverage the increased state funds 4:1 to benefit communities all over Vermont would be jeopardized. Take note of their response to these points and let me know what they say.

The fun is just beginning!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


In this week’s ArtMail we ask for nominations to receive the Council’s Governor’s Award in the Arts and the Walter Cerf Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts.

Why do we do this?

Several reasons…

The most obvious is because it provides all of us with an opportunity to come together in celebration of the work of a Vermont artist who has made a lasting impact on the arts, on the state of Vermont, and on some essential aspect of our humanity. There is something viscerally pleasant about being around someone while his or her work and influence is recognized and celebrated.

An equally important, but much less tangible reason we recognize our artists is to make sure that we retain—and even sustain—our connection to them. Recently I was party to a conversation among colleagues where the subject of “elitism and the arts” was raised. It was the same old discussion in which one person argues how “art” is usually something that only highly-educated, wealthy people with leisure time on their hands are able to enjoy. The response is usually along the lines of no, art is for everyone, it is a reflection of the human condition as seen through the eyes of someone who has the facility of communicating through visual means, dance, poetry, and other art forms. Blah blah blah. But then someone else observed:

“It’s not about elitism. It’s not about wealth, or access, or leisure time. It’s not that simple. What creates a separation between “us” (the people) and “them” (the artist and their work), is a sense of reverence for what “they” are able to do with a few brush strokes, a pen, a musical instrument, or an idea.”

Humans are drawn to those expressions like moths to a candle. How an artist’s work speaks to us, we may not quite understand. However, the more I am around great art and artists, the better I understand this sense of reverence that people direct towards them. It’s not an elitism thing, it’s a “wanting-to-be-connected-to-them” thing. It’s a connection that everyone should be allowed to experience often in their lives.

A third reason we recognize our artists is because someone who labors in the arts all their life is likely to get little else in the way of tangible remuneration. I had the pleasure of chatting with Ella Fitzgerald once back in the mid-1980s. She was well into her old age, but still making public appearances and, apparently, still “singing for her supper.” She was in a crowd and when I reached her I suggested we sit because she looked a little tired. She thanked me for my concern and I led her over to a seat and after a few words of small talk, I asked her, what brings you here tonight, performing for this particular crowd? Her answer stunned me:

I still have to pay the rent.

So, on behalf of all the Ella Fitzgeralds out there, please let us know who we should be celebrating. And while you’re thinking about it, make a donation to your local arts organizations or better yet, buy a work of art, or purchase that song you just downloaded from a friend.

Then join us in celebrating our next award recipients, whoever they may be.