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By Gary Eckhart
While driving home a few nights ago I happened upon a conversation taking place on National Public Radio. To summarize the conversation – funding for the sciences and technology at institutions of higher education has been consistently rising while support for the arts and humanities has dropped to an all-time low and, in certain areas, has disappeared completely. Similar situations can also be found in public schools where classes in industrial arts, fine arts and music are disappearing on a yearly basis.
Attendance at museums, concert halls, theaters and galleries is at an all-time high, yet per capita funding for the same is heading for an all-time low. Museums are struggling simply to maintain current collections yet alone adding new works while regional orchestras, theaters, opera companies and galleries are folding and closing their doors.
What does this say about us as a modern civilization? What legacy will we be leaving if we are no longer willing to support the arts? As Waitsfield author Jim Tabor succinctly stated, "We will be leaving (future generations) a cultural desert."
Here in the Mad River Valley we are blessed with a profusion of artisans and here I am including everyone from performers to chefs, glass blowers to potters, artists to photographers – anyone who enriches our lives. The Valley Arts Foundation has been working diligently to bring recognition to these talented individuals and has recently moved from a one-event (Vermont Festival of the Arts) to a multi-event, year-round operation.
What can one individual do to assist our local artisans and the Valley Arts Foundation in bucking the national trend, to keep The Valley from becoming a "cultural desert"? There are many options and they don't all require parting with vast sums of money:
• Volunteer for Arts Foundation events and activities
• Attend gallery openings, enjoy the theaters, participate in workshops
• Purchase a piece of art
• Become a member of the Arts Foundation
• Create an award for the Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition
• Create/sponsor an art event – any time of the year or during the Festival of the Arts
• Invite friends to the Festival Picnic, the Great Vermont Plein-Air Paint-Out or the Country Christmas Paint-In
• Savor the multitude of culinary creations at the new Taste of the Valley
• Visit the more than 15 galleries throughout The Valley and the list goes on.
Our mantra at the Valley Arts Foundation is "to make the Mad River Valley the center for the arts in Vermont." Working together, this is not an impossibility.
Eckhart lives in Warren and is president of the Valley Arts Foundation.