Art & Soul
The Art & Soul project used the arts as a catalyst for collaborative, creative explorations of the values, hopes, and fears of the Starksboro, Vermont community. The project employed art and storytelling as a means to foster and protect a local culture, and to actively engage community members in respectful civic dialogue to help plan for their common future. Through the project, the town of Starksboro began a process of identifying and protecting the people, places, and traditions that its citizens treasure. The Art & Soul project had three primary components. It began in Fall 2008, with the gathering of stories in the community around what residents value most about their connections to each other, their community, and the land. Through much of 2009, the project created art for local residents that reflected the values and aspects of Starksboro that they treasure most and wish to pass on to future generations. The final phase of the project involved putting the stories and art into action to advocate for, implement, and sustain the values identified, as part of the town’s community planning process for future growth and development. The project worked to document and present stories of Starksboro’s elders, youth, farmers, forest workers, and others. It engaged residents in the artmaking process. Staksboro youth developed a photographic exhibit that conveyed what they felt was important about their community. The project also conducted decorative painting of maple syrup sap buckets that were later auctioned off to fund community activities, the painting of community garden signs, and the creation of a community clothesline where t-shirts labeled with community-identified social problems were hung, and residents were invited to tuck in tags offering their suggestions for potential remedies. Organizations associated with this project include: Middlebury College; University of Vermont's Department of Community Development and Applied Economics; Animating Democracy; Americans for the Arts; and the Vermont Arts Council.