walter cerf lifetime achievement awards

State House, Monplelier

On Thursday afternoon I headed to Montpelier in the afternoon for the annual Vermont Council on the Arts presentation of the Walter Cerf Lifetime Achievement awards. Three women were being honored this year, and over the years I’ve become friends with two of them. I couldn’t miss their big day. Jane Amrose (UVM Lane Series) and Andrea Rogers (Flynn Center) are both also retiring this year, as is the third Cerf honoree, Jean Olson (Governor’s Institutes), who I had not met until that day. During her acceptance speech, Olson remarked on the womens’ 100+ years of combined service in serving the community.

The ceremony started at 4, at the end of the Council’s annual meeting. It opened with the annual State of the Arts presentation by VAC director, Alex Aldrich. He warned that the state’s arts organizations ignore marketing and promotion at their own peril, even when declining ticket sales and donation revenue mandate reduced budgets. Aldrich also outlined the three broad initiatives the Council is focusing on now in its own effort to market, promote and grow the arts in Vermont:

  • The Breaking into Business workshops: provides tools and consultation to artists in intensive 2-day sessions to help them learn how to market their own art.
  • The Routes Initiative: starting on August 1st, makes $200 grants available to teachers and arts orgs for transportation purposes. The Council created this program in response to the increasing comments it had been receiving about how difficult and prohibitively expensive it was becoming to physically get people to the events being presented.
  • A new marketing and outreach campaign to promote Vermont’s arts and culture sectors in state, and beyond.

Then the awards presentation began, including an artist showcase of dancing (Tiffany Rhynard’s Disposable Goods: What Is/Who Is?) and a preview of Upper Valley Arts forthcoming film, Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie.

As for the award recipients themselves, Ambrose, Rogers and Olson all shared a bit of their personal history, thanks to their co-workers and partners, and, words of insight. Jane Ambrose summed it up when she talked about how she was able to fulfill her vision for adventurous programming over the years: “It’s a Vermont thing. You have to trust people and when people trust you, you can do anything.”

The house chamber at the State House held many familiar faces that afternoon, as reps from arts organizations all over the state turned out for the same reason I did. The afternoon was a luminous collage of memories, friends, inspiration, laughs and a few tears.

Things are changing with the retirement of these three influential, strong arts leaders.

I’m looking forward to finding out – and being part of – wherever we go next.

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