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August 2020

Welcome indeed! The first edition of the newsletter for the Southern Zone!

We are excited to put this connection tool to work for all of us, especially during this time of the corona virus pandemic. We believe in the overarching benefit of connecting, of learning from friends and sector colleagues. Thus, this newsletter! 

We plan to publish every 4-6 weeks, featuring some of the astounding, vital work of individuals, businesses, and organizations in Vermont's Southern Zone, which includes Bennington and Windham Counties. We will hear from our legislative cohorts, at both the national and state levels, and we will point you to all sorts of resources for the creative sector. 

We remain focused on relaying important information to creatives. As we practice social distancing it is most important to get information to you that helps keep our communities connected and intact.

Please be in touch. Tell us what you would like to know more about. Pass this newsletter on to your contacts and encourage them to sign up.

Be sure to vote August 11 in the Vermont primary. Stay healthy and creative. 

Robert McBride, Southern Zone coordinator

Southern Zone Leadership Team

Robert McBride, Bellows Falls, zone agent
Maria Basescu, Putney
Sara Coffey, Guilford
Anna Drozdowski, Wilmington
Zon Eastes, Guilford
Susanna Gellert, Weston
Sarah Lang, Brattleboro
Georgianne Mora, Londonderry
Matthew Perry, Bennington
Jon Potter, Brattleboro

Newsletter drawings courtesy of Matthew Perry. Thanks, Matthew!

Feature :: Brattleboro's Handy Stations 

Hand sanitizing station in downtown Brattleboro.
Photo: Kristopher Radder, Brattleboro Reformer.
“This moment, during this pandemic, is THE moment for creative people. Art should be centered in all our decision making.” Community builder and artist Erin Maile O’Keefe is the centering force for a successful community project called Handy Stations, a vision for arts-centered hand sanitizing stations located in front of downtown businesses, first in Vermont, and then, who knows? 

When you visit a Handy Station, just outside the business door, you’ll find the familiar required bottle hand sanitizer, contextualized by creativity. Rendered by a local artist and complete with state guideline-approved protocols, the station also offers a 20-second musical interlude to delight your ear as it times your personal health care work.  

The first Handy Station, placed in front of The Void in downtown Brattleboro, was a collaboration among locals: O’Keefe as developer, a local artist, a local composer, a sound designer, a downtown business, and the state’s public safety guidelines. Seed money came from the Arts Council of Windham County while collaborative and development energy came from the Brattleboro Downtown Business Alliance. “As we safely reopen our downtowns, there is an obvious public health need. Artists can so wonderfully demonstrate what safety looks and feels like. This has been a win-win-win.” 

The prototype caught the imagination of the Brattleboro selectboard, which approved funding for three stations in downtown. Selectboard funding came with a commitment for yet another three once O’Keefe secured funding from the community. “The selectboard sought buy-in,” said O’Keefe. “You know what? We just got word that this funding is secure, for four more stations. It’s very exciting, because the project can develop still further. We are two-thirds of the way toward our goal of 15 in downtown Brattleboro. And the work is entirely local.” 

The plan is for Handy Stations to be ‘adopted’ by local businesses around town. O’Keefe explained, “While there is no advertising per se, a relationship develops between artists and businesses so that each station’s visual vocabulary tends toward compatibility with the business.” 

“I must say that the most satisfying aspect of this project has been the amplification of the various voices involved. The pandemic and the death of George Floyd have opened wide the possibilities for social justice, especially for those most marginalized. This project has been remarkably gratifying.” 

Legislative Update

Working Together and Raising our Voices for the Arts

by State Representative Sara Coffey – Windham-1/Guilford and Vernon

This pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives and has starkly revealed the inequities that exist in our society, and in our state. While we are hearing the demands for change, we are also hearing the resistance to change. COVID-19 is forcing us to adapt, re-tool and re-think the way we do things. As challenging and uncomfortable as this all is, COVID-19 is providing us with a real opportunity for transformation of our systems, our culture, and I believe that there is a tremendous role for artists and cultural organizations to play in this transformation.

Prior to becoming a Vermont State Representative, I worked for more than 25 years in the performing arts field. As an arts producer, I supported and presented artists who created issue-driven work that invited me to think and see our society in new ways. I loved working closely with artists in their creative process and finding ways to engage the community with their research and for artists to learn from my community. Often, my work in the arts looked more like community organizing than art curation.

We know that in Vermont the creative sector is an important economic driver. We also know the power of the arts as a unifier. We know that the arts will be key to the economic recovery of our downtowns and rural communities, and the role that art-making and cultural organizations will continue to play in helping to bring people together across differences.

Vermont in many areas is ahead of the curve, but when compared to other rural states, we lag behind in our cultural policy and our investments in arts and culture. I have been using my platform as a legislator to shine a light on the arts and culture and weave it into the policy conversations around economic development, education and developing Vermont’s brand. This spring I worked with few of my colleagues in the House and we were able to effectively advocate for the creative sector and secure $5 million of the corona relief funds for non-profit arts and cultural organizations. This was a heavy lift, and the experience demonstrated that there is a lot more work to be done to deepen legislators’ and state leaders’ understanding of the creative sector and the critical role that artists and cultural organizations play in our state.

This is where you all come in.

In order for legislators to advocate on your behalf, they need to understand what you do and how your work matters. Sharing an invitation to an event or a forum is as important as sharing your concerns. Stories and data that demonstrate the impact that you have on your community will give legislators the material they need to carry your voice to the State House and work on your behalf. (And it never hurts to thank your legislator for their service.) If you don’t already know who your legislators are, you can use this link to get their names and contact information.

We are in unchartered territory, and I want arts folks to know that you have a friend in the State House. I hope you will help me develop more arts allies, because now more than ever, we need artists and cultural organizations to help us with our recovery efforts and building a strong future for all of us.

Action of the Month


Take a Moment, Make a Difference :: Why the Census Makes Cents

An accurate census ensures municipalities, non-profits, and human service organizations can access a fair share of federal and state funding for programs, projects, and services. An inaccurate count could reduce resources available to our region for years to come. Hear from those organizations and towns on why the census makes cents, and how you can help promote a complete count in your community or among the people your organization serves.   
Currently Windham County is at 28% counted and Bennington County is at 34% counted. Additionally, the month of April and May is typically when enumerators go knocking door to door to fill in the gaps of those that have not been counted. Due to COVID19, that effort is not able to happen. Want to learn more about how important the census is AND how easy it is to fill out? More information.

Vermont Creative Network News

Dear Vermont artists, designers, musicians, dancers, performers, makers, and creators: 

We are STILL collecting videos from across the state so that we can tell a story about the incredible resourcefulness and resiliency of Vermont’s creatives. Will you send us a short video or photos about your work and tell us about what you’re up to?

We already have an array of awesome submissions from folks all over the Green Mountain State. However, we are asking YOU to submit a video of yourself and/or your work that specifically focuses on:

1) How Vermont benefits your work
2) How you benefit Vermont and/or your local community
3) What you would change to make it even better to work in Vermont

If you’d like to be part of this effort, please follow this Google Forms link for more information. We’re asking people to answer a few questions via home-made videos or photos. Your submissions would be included in an archive and edited into a video that would be posted to the Vermont Arts’ Council website, social media, and shared with other Vermonters, including legislators and other local and state leadership. 

Please feel free to pass this invitation along to your creative peers and colleagues. 

The video submission deadline is August 19th.

Thank you!

Brett Koslowsky, video production manager
Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Creative Network 


Sign up for the VCN Newsletter :: News from Outside the Box

If you are not yet connected to the state's creative network, we recommend that you sign up for News from Outside the Box, the Vermont Creative Network newsletter. Sign up here

Find our more about the Vermont Creative Network.



Sign up for Common Ground, a powerful connection resource for New England

We encourage every Vermont creative to learn about Creative Ground and get listed. What can you do at Creative Ground: promote yourself with targeted webspace; find potential collaborators and supporters. Sign up here

Find out more about Creative Ground.


In this section of the newsletter, you will always find links to key local, state, and national information sites for the creative sector. In addition, we will occasionally post links for right-now situation


Vermont Arts Council
Vermont Humanities
New England Foundation for the Arts 
Americans for the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts 
Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Bennington County Regional Commission 
Bennington County Industrial Corporation 
Windham Regional Commission 
Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation 
      August 4 newsletter


Black Lives Matter Resources for Action 

Here are some resources that might help raise understanding and begin to light a path to action. It is a short and imperfect list offered as a catalyst. The list comes courtesy of the VCN Chittenden County Zone. Organizations offering further information: 
Subscribe to this newsletter

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