Manchester and its surrounding area is home to many wonderful organizations that are always working to give back and support the local community. The numerous programs which lend a helping hand, have made Manchester a wonderful place to live, visit and grow. Some programs provide monetary assistance, while others provide a platform to teach those willing to learn. Manchester’s arts and cultural initiatives have been kept alive by the support of passionate Vermonters. With all that has been accomplished, there is always work to be done to improve inclusion and diversity. Keep reading to learn more about some of the local initiatives that are fighting for equality for all.
The Southern Vermont Arts Center has always been a host to diverse artists and looks to enlighten its local and visiting audiences through special exhibitions highlighting our cultural differences and similarities. One such exhibition opening on August 20, 2022, is inspired by Ronald Takaki’s a Different Mirror. The “Many Americas” exhibition and public programming takes as a premise that we do not share a common history, and our divergent histories are the source of our troubled civic discourse. Each of the artworks in the exhibition uses history as its point of departure and speaks to present-day issues. The artworks demonstrate the multiple, sometimes competing histories of America.
The “Many Americas” exhibition, from August 20 to November 27, will feature approximately two dozen artworks and installations and a variety of audience engagement approaches including texts, guided tours, and programs that draw out the issues raised by the artwork. In doing this, we seek to demonstrate how an art museum can become a public square where people can come together and talk about important civic issues. To develop the exhibition, guest curator Ric Kasini Kadour undertook an eighteen-month-long research project funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts that examined the intersection of history and contemporary art. The collection will feature 16 works from artists around the country, as well as works from the Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Permanent Collection by Arthur S. Siegel, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Simon & Herta Moselsio, Dong Moy Chu Kingman, Luigi Lucioni, Cleade Enders, Irwin Hoffman, Gordon Samstag, Ernst Ludvig Ipsen, Leonebel Jacobs, and Horace Day.
Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, offers a provocative exhibit featuring a restored 1903 Pullman palace car and explores the complex history behind the rise of America’s Black middle class. The exhibit includes a timeline overview, ‘Many Voices’, that spans 100 years, representing the Pullman Company, its wealthy passengers, the black porters who worked on its rail cars, and the voices of those who visit. Modern-day visitors are challenged to ask questions and engage in civil civic discourse with others, an outcome that fits squarely within Hildenes’ mission, ‘Values into Action.’ “While a job as a porter was perceived by those in the Black community as one of prestige, the porters themselves knew that it was arduous work with long hours and low pay.” Pullman porters earned good wages and had an opportunity to see the wider world, but often experienced an exploitive work environment.
When Sunbeam opened to the public, the story of the Pullman porters, including their 100-year journey from freed slaves in 1863 to the March on Washington as civil rights activists in 1963, is one that is not well-known. It is one, however, that gives all of us the opportunity to begin sometimes difficult conversations with people from all walks of life across this country and from around the world. It is a story that has important lessons for today. Hildene hopes, one that is consistent with their mission, Values into Action: that civic responsibility must include civil civic discourse and that with this thought-provoking exhibit at Sunbeam — which is much more than just a beautifully restored piece of history — we can embrace the opportunity and responsibility to advance the conversation. We are certain this is a hope that is shared by many!
Taconic Music Chamber Players brings music to schools, libraries, bookstores, art galleries, veterans’ homes, senior residences, and other non-traditional venues. They offer demonstrations of all string instruments, and can also feature percussion, woodwinds, brass, guitar, harp, piano, theremin, and singers. Programs can be individually tailored to include a variety of styles from classical to rock to folk and jazz arrangements. They can focus on specific composers or time periods, and draw links between music, art, literature, science, nature, and much more.
For the past six years, Taconic Music hosts the Taconic Music Festival, which is held from mid-June through mid-July. This annual concert series consists of faculty concerts, masterclasses, open dress rehearsals, and the chamber music intensive featuring the “Young Artists” concert series.
The Manchester Music Festival (MMF) Young Artists Program is a full scholarship, five-week chamber music intensive for string players and pianists, ages 18-26. Young Artists receive daily coaching sessions by a faculty composed of world-renowned artists in preparation for public performances of full chamber works across the duration of the festival.
Each MMF Young Artist receives a scholarship that provides full tuition, free accommodations, and a weekly stipend. Scholarships are made possible by the generous contributions of individual sponsors and endowments. Young Artist sponsors have the opportunity to interact with their Young Artist and are gratefully acknowledged in MMF programs. Patrons at the full scholarship level receive two free tickets to the Young Artists Concert Series, and patrons at the half scholarship level receive one free ticket to the Young Artists Concert Series.
The Dorset Theatre Festival is dedicated to nurturing both artists and audiences through their productions that reflect the region that it serves: DIVERSE, BRILLIANT, RAW, AND ALIVE.
The Dorset Theatre Festival’s Women Artists Writing Group aims to develop and amplify the writing voices of mid-career women and non-binary theater artists. They are a member-driven group that facilitates the creation of written work across a variety of media, with a strong focus on playwriting. And they accept members regardless of gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnicity, country of origin, or religion.
Members participate in biweekly meetings utilizing the Liz Lerman Critical Response Process as well as in public sharing events, invited readings and workshops, and writing retreats.
The organization’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement can be found on its website and in the statement below. They promise to grow their own understanding along with you.
“We live in a country shaped by racist systems which perpetuate injustice against Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) every day. Especially because of the vastly white population of our home in Vermont, we have a great responsibility to name and dismantle racist systems and to work for social justice. We have long thought of our theater as a kitchen table for the community – a place where people come to laugh together, celebrate together, and learn together. Now we must all come to the table for the purpose of doing the work necessary to create change within the Festival, our community, and the nation. We commit to identifying and abolishing the ways in which our theater has contributed to the racism plaguing the United States since its founding. We commit to listening and learning in order to transform Dorset Theatre Festival into a creative haven and producer for all artists. We commit to growing along with our audience. We welcome your help and your action. Black Lives Matter”.
The Dorset Theatre has promoted local resources that are based right here in Vermont that can be used for support or to continue your own education.
Black Lives Matter– Greater Burlington (BLMGB)
The caring and passionate people of Vermont are what make it so unique, and the area’s art scene certainly reflects that. Through various programs and offerings, Vermont has been voicing support for inclusivity and equality for all. With all that has been accomplished, there is always work to be done to improve inclusion and diversity.