The Vermont Arts Exchange has transformed North Bennington into a hub for creativity
The Vermont Arts Exchange has a singular mission: “To strengthen communities and neighborhoods through the arts and to bring art, art education, exhibition and performance opportunities to people of all ages, abilities, and incomes.”
The VAE is located in historic North Bennington, Vermont. The organization fulfills its mission with its many art education programs, workshops, and exhibitions. Collectively, they showcase the talents of artists from both the local community and abroad.
VAE co-founders Matthew Perry and Patricia Pedreira transformed an abandoned industrial site into the creative hub it is today.
VAE believes in the importance of instilling a love of the arts at a young age. Firstly, the VAE is “committed to teaching creativity to young children on up to elders.”
Secondly, they “combine these groups through our Intergenerational Arts programs. Thirdly, they “allow for the arts to become a strong healing modality uniting creativity with compassion.”
The VAE team believes in art as a connection to the community. That is to say, it serves in practical ways as well as the artistic. “We believe that integrating and weaving the arts into our lives and neighborhoods. We aim to creates a strong, vibrant, healthy community and creative economy.”
In 1997, the organization cleaned the neighboring waterway. They turned the collected junk and debris into beautiful artwork. The artwork now commemorates the spirit of working together for good.
RELATED: A similar story has unfolded on a larger scale in Asheville’s River Arts District.
The VAE engages with local health care organizations, schools, and other nonprofit organizations. Above all, the goal is to bring the arts to populations that may never otherwise have exposure to them. For instance, the VAE Art Bus is a mobile art studio that takes “art to the people.”
Studio-based programs include ceramics, sculpting, painting, creative writing, music, and dance. Moreover, many programs take place outdoors, drawing inspiration from nature and the environment to inspire creativity.
All ages fun
Futhermore, VAE offers after-school sessions and art camps for children of all ages, and evening classes for teens and adults. In addition, they strive to make the arts accessible for all ages and all skill levels. In short, there is a medium for everyone—it’s just a matter of finding it.
The Vermont Arts Exchange was awarded the Biennial Preservation Award in 2003. Primarily for its contributions in preserving Vermont’s historic architecture and culture. Moreover, the Preservation Trust of Vermont presented VAE with the award. The award stated, “Combining entrepreneurial skills, a believer’s zeal, and the creativity of the arts, VAE helps define what historic preservation is all about.”
Donations are appreciated
The VAE depends on the donation of time and money from its network of supporters to continue its many programs. One popular source of support is the Send a Kid to Camp program, which invites donors to purchase a “Campership” to send a child to art camp for a week.
Lastly, visitors are welcome to stop by the bustling Vermont Arts Exchange, at 48 Main Street in North Bennington. The “doors are always open,” and art comes alive 24 hours a day.