VCN Newsletter | May 2016  

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This newsletter needs a better name. We are hosting a low-key, friendly naming contest. Email your ideas and we will select the newsletter's new name. The winner will get a $25 gift certificate to a coffee spot in (or near) his/her community. Entries may be submitted until midnight on Wednesday, June 8.

Advocacy Update:
Creative Network Established, Council to Fund in Part

On May 6, the Vermont legislature passed a comprehensive omnibus bill aimed at catalyzing Vermont's economic development. The bill, H. 868, runs to 149 pages and includes language to establish the Vermont Creative Network (beginning on page 134).

Thanks to Rep. Bill Botzow, Pownal, who shepherded the bill from submission to completion.

The original bill included a one-time request for $50,000; the final bill passed (on the last day of the session) with no funding attached. The legislature amended the bill to direct the Arts Council, as network facilitator, to budget a portion of its 2017 appropriation for the ongoing development of the Vermont Creative Network.

This legislative acknowledgement will increase advocacy and development opportunities for the Network. Thank your legislator for supporting passage of H. 868. (Use the Arts Council's Action Center to locate your legislators' contact info. Select "Find Officials.")

As the Network Develops, How Can I Stay Involved?

Since the earliest days, when the Vermont Creative Network was just a concept, we've connected with hundreds of Vermonters.

We appreciate the critical roles that creatives have played in the Network's evolution. Developing any sort of network takes time and requires patience. From last year's listening tour, to the online survey, to the Summit in November, we have not forgotten!

Currently the bones of the Network are under construction: the Network Steering Team and the grassroots Creative Zones. 

Here's what you can do while the system that will drive the Network takes shape:
NEK Creative Zone Opens for Business

Seven creative leaders will gather at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum on May 24 for the inaugural meeting of the Northeast Kingdom Creative Zone Leadership Team. Similar to the team group now working in southern Vermont, this team will be one of six leadership teams statewide supported by Vermont Arts Council (Network facilitator) and the Network Steering Team (Network oversight group). Each zone team will develop an annual plan to advance creative sector issues. Together, the six regional plans will aggregate into a statewide course of action.

Each zone's work plan will be informed by the Network's Action Roadmap: Communication, Education, Funding, Leadership, Technical Resources, and Visibility.

Members of the NEK Leadership Team:
Ceilidh Galloway-Cane / The Art House, Hardwick
Jody Fried / Catamount Arts, St. Johnsbury
Karen Geraghty / Northern Vermont Development Association, Newport
Robby Gilbert / Lyndon State College, Lyndonville
Bob Joly / St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
Ed LeClair / Circus Smirkus, Greensboro
Mack Varnum / The Foundry, Lyndon Center

The Network building cycle calls for an inaugural team meeting for the east central Vermont zone in June. Then, on to the three remaining zones on the western side of the state.
Spotlight: Vermont Community Development Association

On May 17, the Vermont Community Development Association hosted The Entrepreneurial Pipeline: The Role of Maker Spaces, Co-Working Spaces, and Incubators. Sixty regional and town planners, funders, and entrepreneurs gathered in Waterbury to explore Vermont's innovation pipeline for creatively expanding ideas and products.

Networks play an important role in strengthening opportunities for business and product development. Lars Torres from The Generator in Burlington, Dimitri Gardner from The Lightning Jar in Bennington and Jim Schenck from The Foundry in Lyndon Center spoke about space incubation, shared development models, and offered potential pathways to success.

In the afternoon, a discussion about the challenges and opportunities in incubating food processing businesses in rural Vermont was led by Robin Morris from the Mad River Food Hub in Waitsfield, Sarah Waring from the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, Joe Buley from Joe's Kitchen in Montpelier, and Tom Taylor from Burke Mountain Confectionery in Burke discussed the different phases of incubation and acceleration in the value-added food sector and shared strategies about how process and product can work to mutual benefit.

Vermont Creative Network Action Roadmap
Community | Education | Funding
Leadership | Technical Resources | Visibility

The work of the Vermont Creative Network comprises six aspects.
The following article, submitted by a guest writer, 
addresses an aspect of the roadmap.

Swanton on the Move

The arts are alive and growing in this small Franklin County town.

In the first two months of 2015, the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) had the privilege of working with the Swanton community through the Community Visit Program. In an initial public forum, facilitated by Alex Aldrich of the Vermont Arts Council, it became clear that there was a strong desire to grow an arts presence in the town. The conversation led to the idea of creating an arts council. The founding members of the Swanton Arts Council took it from there.

Already having grown from a four-member founding board to 130 current members, the Swanton Arts Council is well positioned to achieve their mission, to "establish an artistic presence and develop the artistic community in Swanton." Since early 2015, the Council has created three public art walls that have become a point of public pride, held community events (including a youth art show), developed a large Facebook following and web presence, and has grown its recognition among local artists and businesses.

"Where once there were no art events, meetings, or gatherings in Swanton, we now have multiple opportunities for arts every week," says Swanton Arts Council co-chair Judy Paxman. "Now, our biggest challenge is keeping up with all the interest in art - a great challenge to have!"

--Jenna Whitson, Community and Policy Manager of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, 802.225.6091,

The Vermont Council on Rural Development is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of the locally defined progress of Vermont's rural communities.
Vermont Creative Network
Vermont Arts Council
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