STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
As 2020 comes to a close, Southern Vermont’s leading artistic institutions are preparing for the new year. In times of unprecedented change, it is more important than ever to support our local cultural organizations. We asked many of Southwestern Vermont’s most distinguished nonprofits focused in the Arts & Humanities to provide our readers with an inside look at their future plans and ongoing initiatives. We can’t wait for the 2021 Season – and we hope you will support these organizations now, when they need it most.
At Bennington Museum, we intend to focus on the brighter days ahead, beginning with our winter exhibition and closed-bid auction, “Vermont Utopias: Imagining the Future”. This December we also are looking forward to hosting a virtual Trivia Night Benefit, in place of our annual gala, where we can share good company, good competition, and good cheer with our resilient Museum community as we
celebrate the coming of a new year together. The Museum will be closed for the months of January, February, and March, but we will open in the spring of 2021 with a full slate of exhibitions, as well as engaging workshops and programs for all ages. As always, we want to hear from you. Please send your thoughts, advice, or encouragement to [email protected]
Bennington Performing Arts Center
Despite the challenges, 2020 has been a tremendous year of transition for Bennington Performing Arts Center––The Home of Oldcastle Theatre Company. Jennifer Jasper joined the team as Executive Director of BPAC and Nathan Stith replaced longtime Artistic Director, Eric Peterson. We’ve been hard at work throughout the year behind the scenes with a re-branding effort, new websites for both BPAC and Oldcastle, and exploring creative ways to stay connected to our audiences. 2021 looks to be a year of rebirth and renewal. We are planning for a full season of professional theatre from Oldcastle Theatre Company, more shows from our resident community theatre, Bennington Community Theatre, and a full line-up of arts programming from BPAC on the Block! Visit our new websites at bpacvt.org and oldcastletheatre.org!
Dorset Historical Society
The Dorset Historical Society’s highest priority for 2021 is to re-open our museum to the public, and to resume our active schedule of lectures and hikes. We will also continue to expand our on-line presence with videos of talks, and updated maps and databases to our entirely upgraded website in order to better serve the public unable to attend in person. Anyone can become a member, or donate, through our website DorsetVtHistory.org, or through the mail, to P.O. Box 52, Dorset VT 05251.
Dorset Theatre Festival
We are all craving the experience of sitting in the Dorset Playhouse as the lights dim on opening night. But while I am grieving the loss of all that is familiar, I am grateful for the opportunity to think deeply about what is most important moving forward. As long as the Playhouse doors are closed, we will continue to redefine what it means to produce theatre that matters in Southern Vermont. Since the pandemic began, we have supported more than 15 new works, 20 playwrights, 35 actors and directors, and we continue finding new ways to share their stories. This is an invitation to join us now in re-imagining what our future can become. I am certain of our strength as a theatre. Whether we come together in the Playhouse, on a Zoom call, through a podcast, or in a garden, we will continue to thrive because theatre and the arts are more essential now than ever before. Together, we build and craft the stories that will become the future for our community and our nation. I am deeply excited about all that is possible, and we want to see you again. Donating to the Festival at this time will allow us to be prepared to come back in any way possible in 2021.
GNAT (Greater Northshire Access Television)
GNAT-TV takes pride in serving our community and is a fundamental part of the 11 towns we serve. We have been with you, day-in and day-out for the last 25 years. People rely on us to keep them informed and connected to one another. We feel a tremendous responsibility to be there for the people we serve. During these past eight months, we worked harder than ever to stay connected to our communities. We created a dedicated web page with up-to-date information about the COVID-19 pandemic. We continued to facilitate and distribute coverage of our local town government meetings. We expanded The News Project coverage and engaged community members to produce and share their stories on our open distribution network, and we worked with local schools to live stream graduation ceremonies. As we collectively emerge from this tumultuous period, we do so as a laser-focused, highly effective organization. We will continue to innovate as we find new ways to serve our local communities. We have a remarkable staff of talented, dedicated professionals who are deeply connected to the people we serve. We want to do more, but we can’t do it without your support. Please help us continue our work by making a gift. You can give online at gnat-tv.org
Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning
Since 1996, Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning (GMALL) has been enriching the intellectual and cultural life of the community with educational programs for adults. Having navigated an unsettling year, and having responded well to the circumstances, we look ahead to 2021, our 25th anniversary. It is our hope that we will gather again, when it is deemed “safe” to do so, in lecture halls, studios, and kitchens, at bridge tables and on pickleball courts. At the same time, we realize the value of distance learning via Zoom and will maintain an online presence in addition to live in-person events. We are thinking creatively, collaboratively, and boldly to build an even better future to match the history of which we are so proud. Donor support is essential. We hope you will consider a gift to our 2020 Annual Campaign. greenmtnacademy.org
Hildene enters its 43rd year focused on its relevance to the public, the power of its educational offerings, and its commitment to giving back to the community. “The real energy behind Hildene,” commented Hildene president, Brian Keefe, “is in the passion of the people who support its mission – people who recognize the significance of Hildene’s efforts in employing President Lincoln’s values of integrity, perseverance, and civil civic discourse to engage visitors in ways that can change lives now and in the future.” To bolster its crucial annual fund efforts, Hildene trustees have pledged an additional $100,000 match for new and increased contributions. Please share in Hildene’s mission:
Manchester Community Library
With your generosity, together we stand Vermont strong—ready to welcome 2021 and the myriad of opportunities and challenges yet to unfold. In the coming year, your Library will continue to be many things to many people. We remain steadfast in our commitment to serving the most vulnerable among us while expanding access to information and knowledge for all. To that end, we have invested in our digital collection, broadening our public WiFi service, launched a new website and library catalogue, and opened our doors for browsing and public computer use. Every day is different, but we continue to learn, grow, and evolve in ways that demonstrate the relevance of our mission and organizational agility. We simply could not do this work without support from the Town of Manchester and you—for this, we are most grateful! For more information and to donate:
Manchester Historical Society
The Manchester Historical Society is deeply grateful for the generosity of all of our many supporters who have let us know this past year that they value the work we are doing. During this coming year, MHS will continue to collect evidence of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our community so that future generations will have a clear idea of how we survived during an unimaginable, worldwide disaster. We will also be working on an updated history of Manchester that will include information from the previous history completed in 1961 and incorporate new information from 1961 through 2021. For more information please visit our website:
Manchester Music Festival
For its 47th season, Manchester Music Festival plans to be back with in-person chamber music performances featuring a glittering lineup of world-renowned artists. MMF will follow the guidelines of the Vermont Dept. of Health, and precautions will be taken and protocols will be in place for all events to ensure the safety of patrons, staff, and musicians. The five-week festival runs from July 8 through August 5, 2021, at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in the Arkell Pavilion and outside on the lawn for the Thursday Mainstage Concert series; and in the Yester House galleries for the MMF Young Artist Sunday Concert series, featuring a select ensemble of accomplished string players and pianists between the ages of 18 and 26. There will also be Saturday Gallery Recitals, with solo or duo performances highlighting the talents of the professional musicians. Manchester Music Festival concerts will be live-streamed to enjoy with watch parties at home.
Visit mmfvt.org or call 802-362-1956 for more information or to purchase tickets.
In these challenging times, we continue to live in an existential crisis. We are a product-driven organization without product in our beloved Landmark Theatre. However, we have been opportunistic and nimble, building two Pop-Up Drive-In Theatres, (Rutland Fairgrounds and in Brandon, VT) bringing Family-Centric movies throughout the summer, producing two major Fireworks Extravaganzas (July 4th and Halloween night) and fashioning The STAY. STRONG. Campaign to help us meet fixed costs and to cover payroll for a diminished staff of 2 – working at greatly reduced salaries. We will return. We will rise… but we must survive on the generosity of corporations and individuals who understand and appreciate the cultural and economic impact value of a fully reconstituted Paramount. Please consider donating to The Stay. Strong. Campaign, 30 Center Street, Rutland VT 05701 Stay. Strong. Campaign, 30 Center Street, Rutland VT 05701
After 25 years of in-person festivals, SolarFest responded to the pandemic by pivoting to a free, online event with support from the Regenerative Food Network and the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College. Our mission remains essential — to explore and explain the challenges and opportunities in a healthier, carbon-free future. The 2020 virtual festival featured global thought-leaders, interactive workshops on solar & storage, electric cars, regenerative agriculture, and off-grid living, plus live music that kept the “FEST” in SolarFest. As a completely volunteer organization, every donation at SolarFest.org goes directly to continuing our unique blend of music, arts, and learning.
Southern Vermont Arts Center (SVAC)
Through these challenging times, Southern Vermont Arts Center has pivoted to provide unique, safe, engaging opportunities for our community including:
• Outdoor arts camps, classes, yoga sessions, movie nights and concerts
• Scavenger hunts and story walks in the Stroup Family Sculpture Park
• A community-based outdoor art installation
• Virtual offerings of camps, classes, and lectures
Whatever 2021 brings, we will pursue our mission to promote and nurture the arts. We will offer year-round hours, powerful exhibitions, and virtual and small scale programs in a safe environment. These initiatives are only possible with the support of our community.
The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by families-in-need in a region where 40-80% were already experiencing economic hardship. The barriers to delivering services to struggling families have become greater and more complicated. In 2020, the Stratton Foundation launched the COVID-19 Relief Fund to address the pressing needs of Vermont’s residents. The challenges of unemployment, remote schooling, and daily survival are especially difficult during these uncertain times. Recognizing and responding to the challenges of poverty benefits the entire community. In 2021, our mission is to fight generational poverty by addressing the root causes, while simultaneously connecting individuals to services and their community. Please donate to Strattonfoundation.org and help our neighbors in southern Vermont.
Taconic Music Festival
Taconic Music is a year-round resource for classical and other styles of music in Southern Vermont, the only one of its kind in Bennington County. As a relatively young organization (founded in 2016), we were hit especially hard by the pandemic shutdown. By summer, with a herculean effort in both operational and safety preparations, we presented the first-in-the-state indoor concert series, albeit for limited audiences—at no charge to the public. Near-term plans include live performances through the end of the year; ongoing instrumental lessons for area school kids; a collaboration with the Harlem Chamber Players in the spring, exploring the lasting influence of the Harlem Renaissance; and a virtual fundraising gala. By summer, we hope to see the return of our annual chamber music series (our fifth!) and month-long intensive for college-age music majors. Safety precautions remain paramount. The response to our live concerts has been overwhelming, and the response to our fall appeal has thus far been extremely heartening. That said, because our mission is to make great music accessible to all, we rely more than many on the generosity of our donors.
Vermont Arts Exchange
Vermont Arts Exchange is a non-profit community arts organization with the mission of “Bringing the Arts to People of all Ages, Abilities and Income, since 1994”. Like all of us, Covid-19 put us in a tailspin. With all of our participants and concerts in lockdown, our new audience became the community. We pivoted to providing creative solutions that met the community’s needs. We held Village Parades, built a “Words Wall” to express gratitude and hosted art exhibitions in vacant storefront windows. Going into 2021, how we teach, perform, and present culture has forced us to raise the bar on being creative! Even with the generous support this year, VAE took a big hit. We need your support and appreciate it at any level. To donate go to vtartxchange.org or we love mail! VAE P.O. Box 725 North Bennington, VT 05257. Be safe and be creative!
Weston’s family came together in 2020, providing essential support to Vermont’s oldest theater and helping us weather the crisis. We know the hardest road is still ahead. As we look to 2021, we plan a season of live and virtual art that brings us back to the simple pleasures of experiencing theater together. We will need to take great care to keep our community, artists, and audiences safe. Support from everyone who loves and values our organization will make it possible to return to the work of making great theater in our beautiful town and will ensure that live performance in Weston can grow and thrive for decades to come.
Can’t decide where to give?
Consider The Vermont Community Foundation
The Vermont Community Foundation was established in 1986 as a permanent source of support for the state. They are a family of hundreds of funds and foundations created by Vermonters to serve their charitable goals.
The Community Foundation provides the advice, investment vehicles, and back-office expertise to make giving easy and inspiring. Together, their funds and programs provide more than $25 million a year in grants in Vermont and beyond.