The Vermont Council on Culture and Innovation envisions a future in which two principles are widely understood. First, our cultural expressions and heritage are central to the fabric of each and every Vermont community. Second, they act as a powerful economic engine that inspires innovation, creates jobs, and produces revenue throughout the state.
The Vermont Council on Culture and Innovation (VCCI) was formed in response to challenges experienced by Vermont in the face of a global economy and a resulting shift away from the state’s traditional agricultural and manufacturing base. Vermonters have identified the state’s brand recognition, entrepreneurial spirit, and rich culture and heritage as assets. The question was—how to capitalize on those strengths and provide opportunities for the next generation?
To find answers, VCCI investigated the idea of the “Creative Economy” both as a national and international model and also for how Vermont communities like Bellows Falls, Brandon, and Vergennes had used this idea to build successful revitalization campaigns. How could other communities make similar progress? What are the policy implications of this model and how could state, federal, and non-profits in Vermont support community success? The VCCI’s deliberations formed the basis of a report that eventually developed, through funding by Jane’s Trust, into the Creative Communities Program, a program that stimulated thousands of people throughout Vermont to think about economy, creativity, and community in new ways—and take collective action to advance community and economic development.
VCRD defined the ‘creative economy’ as the dynamic process where creativity in the arts and technology infuses dynamism in a community and makes it an exciting center for innovative entrepreneurs to develop or locate. More than performing arts and cultural activities, the creative economy is informed by an area’s history and tradition, its strengths, and its people. In Vermont, communities defined it around its ability to leverage entrepreneurship in areas as diverse as technology, the environment, agriculture, and energy.
Some of the issues identified in public forums through VCCI echo concerns heard in other sectors: the need to market the Vermont Brand, develop a statewide education campaign, inventory assets, and receive support from state planning and financing mechanisms. Other central challenges revolved around Vermont’s downtowns; revitalizing Main Street in the wake of corporate retail and suburban expansion, creating a sense of community and civic pride, developing healthy activities for seniors and youth, building a stronger local job market and becoming an attractive place for young people to settle.
An important result of the report and the ensuing Creative Communities Program was the affirmation that creative endeavors could encompass both art and technology, and a recognition of the need to recruit professionals in high-tech industries, as well as young workers who could capitalize on the flexibility of e-commerce while living in a rural state.