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As Seen in

Getting Inspired for the Arts!

VERMONT m a g a z i n e
WWW.VERMONTMAGAZINE.COM

Catamount Arts has an inviting gallery space.

St. Johnsburys leading nonprofits are defining an Arts & Culture Campus in their Northeast Kingdom neighborhood.
Vermont Magazine Staff Report
t. jo h ns b ury, the gateway to Vermonts Northeast Kingdom off Interstates 93 and 91, comprises a downtown merchant district along Railroad Street and up hilly Eastern Avenue and an uptown district along Main Street, where three of the towns historic nonprofitsFairbanks Museum & Planetarium, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, and St. Johnsbury Academyshare the neighborhood. Just down the hill on
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Eastern Avenue sits Catamount Arts, the funky nerve center for film screenings and art exhibitions in town. Approximately a year ago, these four nonprofits got together to begin to jointly promote the combined arts-andculture resources that exist within their organizations. They also struck up ways to develop new opportunities for collaboration to enhance St. Johnsburys cultural climate and creative economy. The group,

the Arts & Culture Alliance, is recognizing their proximate area in St. Johnsbury as the Arts & Culture Campus. Along Main Street from the Fairbanks Museum to the corner of Main and Eastern Avenue at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, down to Catamount Arts and back over to St. Johnsbury Academy, we see a geographic link amid our shared traditions of arts programming and community outreach, said Jody Fried,

St. Johnsbury Academy Theatre performs Seussical: The Musical in historic Fuller Hall.

executive director of Catamount Arts, founded in the 1970s by Vermont impresario and film director Jay Craven. We view this area, which were calling the Arts & Culture Campus, as a jumping off point for arts in our town, inclusive of all of greater St. Johnsbury. People can come to town and easily circulate through this area to enjoy a concentration of fun happenings. The shared histories, largely descending from the vision and beneficence of the Fairbanks family, of Fairbanks Scales renown, and strengths in the arts of the four organizations will put a sharp focus on the rich cultural programs that St. Johnsbury offers to the public. For example, St. Johnsbury Academy, one of northern New Englands leading independent day and boarding schools with students from 25 states and 27 countries, is a melting-pot of cultural diversity, hosting student concerts, theater, and guest speakers; while at the same time the Academys historic Fuller Hall serves as one of the main venues for Kingdom County

Productions events with nationally known acts such as Trombone Shorty and LeAnn Rimes. (Catamount, by the way, handles the ticket sales for these acts. Yes, lots of synergies have formed in this Vermont town.) The Alliances logo and theme are meant to engage arts-lovers: Get InspiredSt. Johnsburys Arts & Culture Campus. Our efforts will be on coordinating events to give area residents and visitors a range of arts, culture, and educational activities, so once theyre in town they have arts and entertainment opportunities throughout a day or a weekend, says Anna Rubin, director of external relations for the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, home of the Eye on the Sky guys broadcasting the weather on Vermont Public Radio. With the local nonprofits working in collaboration, we see this as an exponential promotion of the arts in St. Johnsbury. Matthew Powers, executive director of St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, a National Historic Landmark combining an art

gallery and public library, adds, The establishment of an Arts & Culture Campus is an innovative way of utilizing the strengths and mission of each participating organization to engage the community and enhance economic development. Theres a feeling of civic momentum in St. Jthe town government is directing a renovation of the historic Pomerleau Building (which houses the Welcome Center) on Railroad Street, including a planned outdoor amphitheater space for public arts events. Renderings have been drawn up for possible development along the towns riverfront area and a recreational bike path will open this June. The St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce, the local downtown organization, offers everything from smallbusiness seminars for local merchants to an annual pet parade in June and a wealth of information for locals and visitors alike through the new website, stjchamber.com. The Arts & Culture Alliance kicked off joint promotions with First Night St. Johnsbury 2012, which was attended
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St. Johnsbury Academy Fine Arts faculty member Rodney Reis (left) points out details in a painting to his students while visiting St. Johnsbury Athenaeum.

(left to right) Matthew Powers and Mary Ellen Reis of St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, Anna Rubin of Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, Jody Fried of Catamount Arts, and Joe Healy of St. Johnsbury Academy gathered on the steps of South Congregational Church on Main Street in St. Johnsbury.

The Fairbanks Museum & Planetariums beautiful building is itself a work of art.

this year by 3,000 family revelers. The group intends to coordinate their efforts with other local arts organizations, businesses, and chambers of commerce. The St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce fully supports the efforts of this wonderful coalition of creative and cultural institutions here in St. J. Were excited by this new opportunity to help bring more attention to the creative economy in and around town, said Jeff Moore, president of the Chamber. This spring, the Alliance launched a major educational-arts effort in the form of a banner project, called Flying Colors, working with St. Johnsburys schools to produce colorful banners that reflect the communitys unique
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character. The banner artwork will highlight the distinctive architecture, rich heritage, and cultural life of the community, and will be colorful visual markers that define the arts-and-culture campus. The Alma Gibbs Donchian Foundation provided a grant to support the project and the work of the Alliance. Sharon Biddle, a former art teacher in the area and a member of the Catamount Arts Board of Directors, helped launch the community-based project. Were looking to get artwork from students of all ageskids from 1st grade to 12th grade, said the Fairbanks Museums Anna Rubin. The schools have been wonderful; its been great to get such positive feedback. And the

students are hard at work on banner art! We want to celebrate the visible icons in St. Johnsburythe things that are part of this community that we love but that many people new to the community might not see. Were hoping that all of the banners tell a story about this community, continues Anna. The group has a launch event planned for the end of May so that the banners are in place as thousands of family members and alumni arrive for St. Johnsbury Academys Reunion Weekend and Commencement on June 4, and as visitors come to town for summer events and recreation throughout the Northeast Kingdom. Jody Fried of Catamount Arts

Just the facts


St. johnSbuRy aRtS & CultuRe ContaCtS St. Johnsbury The founding nonprofitsSt. John sbury Athenaeum, Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, Catamount Arts, and St. Johnsbury Academyin the Arts & Culture Alliance share:
Rich cultural resources for visual and performing arts Full calendars of learning programs for all ages Authentic connections to the local heritage of the area Support for vibrant, dynamic, and evolving new voices and expressions Access to artistic inspiration from around the world Easy access on Main Street/Eastern Avenue campus.

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For more information: Catamount arts (802) 748-2600, catamountarts.org. Fairbanks museum & Planetarium (802) 748-2372, fairbanksmuseum.org. St. johnsbury academy (802) 7488171, stjacademy.org. St. johnsbury athenaeum (802) 748-8291, stjathenaeum.org. St. johnsbury Chamber of Commerce (802) 748-7121, stjchamber.com.

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explains, Were eager to make a visible difference in town in a way that can be enjoyed by everyone, and were excited about working with students in St. Johnsburys schools to showcase the dynamic arts scene that exists already. Joe Healy of St. Johnsbury Academy says, This is a way to highlight our cultural heritage and to call attention to the many treasures in our town. Its a great example of a community rallying to make a positive statement about who we are. Jeff Moore of the Chamber of Commerce echoes his thoughts: Were delighted to be working with this group to tap into the creative spirit of our community. Creative work is happening in St. Johnsburyits a lot to get inspired by!

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