Notes From Outside the Box
January 2017   
Network Update: Four items

1. How many Vermont towns include the arts, culture, creativity, and innovation in their planning? The Network will invest in research to answer that question. Working with advice from the state's regional planning commission association, the Network will scan town plans for the inclusion of creative sector language. Once we develop this information baseline, there will come opportunities for model creating model language and the creation of a tool kit for towns seeking to learn more.
2. A bit of background: Prior to the establishment of the Farm to Plate (F2P) Network in 2011, the Vermont Community Foundation (VCF) convened a group of funders, called the Food Funders Network, to explore the Vermont food landscape. That group continues to meet today, now five years after the establishment of F2P, and holds a seat on the Farm to Plate Steering Committee.

The Vermont Community Foundation has offered a similar gesture for Vermont's creative sector. In March, VCF will gather a group of funders with commitments to the arts, culture, and creativity for an exploratory gathering. For this meeting, VCF will partner with the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont office of USDA.
3. Is there a creative sector system of inter-related actions and reactions? The Creative Network Steering Team earlier appointed a small task force for strategic planning. One clear next step for the network is developing: a systems approach for the network. While the task force team's final planning report is expected in June, and among large-scale issues under consideration, we take this moment to point to the notion of systems thinking - viewing the entire creative sector, with its elements, revealed as a single, complex system. Several Vermont networks currently base overall planning on a systems map (e.g., food and agriculture, Vermont energy).
4. At the November convening of the Creative Network, presenter Ellen Kahler brought up one slide, a triangle. She chuckled and assured the audience that when she works with people to develop a network ,  she remembers the triangle. Continuing, she described that, in developing new ways of working, there are inevitably those who seek RESULTS (now!), there are those who want to PROCESS (a bit more planning!), and there are those who want to build RELATIONSHIPS (sprea
d the success). All three are at play in any process, and all three are important to development. Ellen alerted everyone to the provocative challenge of finding the best balance to achieve best outcomes.   
Creative Zones in Motion

The Vermont Creative Network zones are developing personalities. Leaders are getting acquainted, patterns are emerging, and ideas are beginning to sprout. When the Steering Team met in January, we heard updates about these topics:
  • the value of taking time to learn about each other and available assets
  • identifying regional creative sector energies, and creating project opportunities
  • building on existing community alliances to move regional agendas
  • researching town plans for inclusion of the arts, culture, and creativity
  • viewing other networking models
  • addressing potential demographic and geographic barriers to strong conversation
 The Creative Zones serve as the entry point to collectively advance the creative sector. To learn more about, or get engaged in the work in your region, contact the Agent in your creative zone.
Our Creative Roots
In Governor Phil Scott's recent inaugural address, he emphasized the necessity of revitalizing Vermont's economy by attracting young people and other able workers to the state. Due to increasing rural-to-urban migration, rural communities face particular challenges for rebuilding their sluggish economies. Increasing migration raises particular challenges for rebuilding sluggish economies in outlying areas.
The arts can help. In the first of a five-part blog series called "Our Creative Roots: Thoughts on Measuring a Community's Creative Vitality," Patrick Overton, Ph.D. posits that now may be the right time to "expand the measurement to include the role of art in promoting individual and community capacity building by/for/of the community." But "looking at economic statistics relating to arts jobs created and tickets sold to arts events doesn't fully take into account the impact this has on the people who live in these communities."
Rural areas face additional challenges when it comes to measuring the impact of the arts. One measure of success, however, is increased interest in Creative Placemaking, in Vermont and across the nation. A meeting was recently held in Montpelier, Vermont, with nearly 40 attendees. "Participants from a wide variety of sectors expressed excitement about the positive impact that creative placemaking can have on community vibrancy, health, and economic development," reports Michele Bailey, senior program director at the Vermont Arts Council.

In "Our Creative Roots," Overton mentions the Next Generation/ Rural Creative Placemaking Summit held in October in Iowa City. "The interest in and success of this event confirms it is time for us to be more intentional about identifying the value of the arts in communities of every size in our country. Then and only then we will be able make a full and complete and compelling argument for the arts being essential to the lives of every citizen in our country, regardless of where they live," writes Overton. To read this article and continue the series, visit

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, 
addresses an aspect of the roadmap.  
The Funding Question Arises
Federal and state government investments form one tributary of the creative sector's funding stream. With January's change in the U.S. administration, potential trouble has arisen about this support for arts and cultural institutions.

Complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been suggested. While this is unsettling, the longer view advises that these discussions have been hashed through before (some may recall the national conversation of the 1990s, resulting in dramatic budget reductions for some national cultural organizations. This thorough historical review was published in 1998.)

Americans for the Arts (AFTA) -- the nation's chief advocacy agency in our sector -- is prepared to lead the charge. Over the years, AFTA has created important and influential alliances. The Arts Council stays in regular touch with AFTA and generally seeks to align with their well-developed and strong advocacy positions. AFTA CEO Robert Lynch recently presented  this view. Our understanding is that once Congress approves a continuation of the current budget year, funding is scheduled to be secure through September 2018. Strategies are currently being developed to address funding in the next budget cycle.

In Vermont, the legislature traditionally provides level-funded appropriations to four nonprofits: PBS Vermont, the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Humanities Council, and the Vermont Symphony. For now, each has been included in the Governor's FY2018 budget proposal. Testifying before House and Senate Appropriations Committees as well as other legislative committees will be the next step.

The Vermont Arts Council advocates for the creative sector at the state and national levels.

--information provided by Zon Eastes, Director of Outreach and Advancement at the Vermont Arts Council.
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