Tuesday, April 7, 2009

According to my 5-second research project on Google it was Georges Santayana who first said, "those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it." This quote is on my mind these days as we get closer to the April 9th release of the report from the Council on the Future of Vermont (CFV) in the Vermont State House. For those of you are unable to attend this "pre-summit conference" please make plans to attend the May 11th day-long Summit on the Future of Vermont at the Dudley Davis Center at the University of Vermont. The April 9th pre-summit is free; the summit in May requires a registration fee, but should be well worth it.

I have had the privilege of reviewing an early draft of the CFV's report on the future of Vermont, and it is extraordinary.

It is extraordinary because of its scope and the degree to which the CFV reached out to segments of Vermont communities that rarely are heard from either by choice or by circumstance. It is extraordinary because of the breadth of experience and knowledge that the CFV members bring to bear on this huge undertaking.

It is extraordinary because of the degree to which this report seeks to engage Vermont in an ongoing dialogue about what kind of state it wants to be--an amazing, complex, messy, and ultimately rewarding civic exercise writ on a very large scale. And it is extraordinary how important decisions that were made in Vermont's past continue to resonate today.

Many of you familiar with the Arts Council know that for most of the past year we have developed a project in collaboration with Lyman Orton and in conjunction with the CFV. Called "The Art of Action," this project is designed to allow artists time, money, and "creative space" to reflect on the CFV's report findings, and--through art--respond to the report and to Vermont itself. As one member of the VCRD board put it this will be "one of many end-products that result from the CFV's two-year effort."

What will the "Art of Vermont's Future" look like?

There are so many world-class artists of all disciplines who have had a strong connection to Vermont, who have identified with its rugged, rural attributes, and its spirit of independence, you can almost feel the energy of their presence and the impact of their legacy. It's hard to imagine any artist, charged with creating work "on Vermont's future," ignoring Vermont's past. Of the 10 artists selected to participate in "Art of Action," four (David Brewster, Annemie Curlin, Curtis Hale, and Janet McKenzie) will be on hand for the April 9th event in the State House. My suspicion is that their work will definitely get us all talking about the future.

In a State where the past is of such great value to its people maybe it's time to go back to Georges Santayana's adage and amend it as follows: "those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it--except in Vermont, where the people know their history well and repeat it when they wish, and build on it with pleasure."

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On a completely different subject, Diane Scolaro, Allison Coyne Carroll and I returned last week from Washington DC where, in addition to meeting with our Congressional Delegation on a variety of arts issues, we attended the annual Nancy Hanks Lecture, this year given by Wynton Marsalis. Speaking for more than an hour without notes in front of about 2000 people at the Kennedy Center, Marsalis gave one of the great speeches of this, or any, generation. It's 90 minutes long (of which the first 10 minutes or so are an introduction) but well-worth the time.

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