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Fantastic Wantastiquet: Brattleboro Celebrates People and Place!


‘Fantastic Wantastiquet’, a new multi-disciplinary arts and cultural festival, will take place annually beginning in 2017 during the ‘Fall Foliage’ season; from September 1 through mid-to-late October. This year, major events and activities of the Festival will extend from Friday, September 1 through Monday, October 8, allowing for the possibility that some events may occur later in October as well.

The festival’s purpose and mission is to draw together existing arts and cultural events and activities in Brattleboro and in nearby areas of Windham County, VT, Cheshire County, NH, and Franklin County, MA.  We will create a common schedule and calendar, and share marketing, publicity, and promotional efforts. We also hope to eventually create an annual grant program to assist new jointly-produced productions, works, and special events.

[Image: 'From the Artist's Studio in Autumn' by Brattleboro artist William Hays, depicting the Connecticut River at the foot of Mt. Wantastiquet, near where the Wantastiquet (West) River flows into the Connecticut River.] 

This year, Fantastic Wantastiquet is particularly important, in part because on Monday, October 8, by unanimous local vote, this is the first time Brattleboro (or any other major Town in the region) will observe ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ in lieu of ‘Columbus Day’. Since this festival also reclaims and restores the first nations’ (Abenaki) name for our West River, and because Wantastiquet is also recognized as the archaic and original place-name for what is now called Brattleboro (named after a British colonel who was never here), Fantastic Wantastiquet leaps to mind as the most graceful possible way to help celebrate a form of Restorative Justice, and to celebrate people and place, which is its first purpose.

Vermont Independent Media has agreed in principle to publish a multi-page supplement to The Commons newspaper in late August describing the Festival and providing a guide to the coming weeks’ events.

Fantastic Wantastiquet was envisioned in April of 2015 by John VanDyke Wilmerding as “the annual Fall Foliage multi-disciplinary arts, crafts, and cultural festival for the Wantastiquet region: Brattleboro, Vermont, the West River, and environs.”

Moreover, it was seen as a response to the Arts Council of Windham County’s perceived need to open doors to  expanding arts and cultural promotional and joint-production activities:
(1) more comprehensively throughout Windham County;
(2) to collaborations with Arts and Cultural organizations in Franklin County, MA (i.e. Greenfield), and in Cheshire County, NH (i.e. City of Keene).

Fantastic Wantastiquet is intended to include performing arts events, shows, exhibits, tours, seasonal or annual expositions, and other festival activities. Shared scheduling / calendar, publicity, branding, regional positioning of the tri-state area – will center at Brattleboro, VT and the confluence of the Wantastiquet (West) and Connecticut Rivers as an arts and cultural 'mecca' and geographic focal-point. As such, the Festival should also be considered as a significant economic development project.

Fantastic Wantastiquet will take place annually beginning in 2017 during the ‘Fall Foliage’ season; from September 1 through mid-to-late October.The Festival intentionally carries the original name of the West River, ‘Wantastiquet’, speaking to common natural features of both Cheshire and Windham Counties; a form of ‘creative and restorative placemaking’ serving not only to enhance Brattleboro’s identification and relationships with the wider area, but increasing the Festival’s geographic range as well.

Each year’s festival will have a stated theme (in addition to nature and the fall foliage). The first theme, which was intended for the abortive first festival in 2015, was ‘The Better Angels of our Nature’. So this year, we will offer that theme again as a prompt for our artists, performers, artistic directors, etc. However, we also offer the theme ‘Celebration of People and Place’, which will be an ongoing annual theme as well.

Founder’s Statement of Interest

John VanDyke Wilmerding began residing seasonally in Halifax, VT in the 1960s, and relocated to Brattleboro permanently in 1991 to become General Manager of the Brattleboro Music Center and the New England Bach Festival. Since that time he has played active roles in envisioning our community’s future centering around the arts and culture, convening a first ‘visioning’ around this potential with Mara Williams and Jack Davidson in 1991, assisting the original Fine Arts Center exploratory project by proposing the vision of the downtown itself as a fine arts center, and initially exploring the fine arts center potential of the Latchis with Elizabeth Latchis and the late Leo Berman. He also contributed original and formative ideas which helped lead to the inception of the Transportation Center and the Robert H. Gibson River Garden.

John also initially organized all of Brattleboro’s first Restorative Justice programs, now administered by the Brattleboro Community Justice Center (whose establishment he called for in a journal-published paper in 1996). He also organized a five-day Restorative Justice program, largely with first nations men (and funded by the White House), in 2004 at the United States ‘flagship’ maximum security prison at Leavenworth, KS, and was the convener of the Restorative Justice sub-conference of the last semi-annual National Conference on Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution in Phoenix, Arizona in 1999.

John, who holds an M.B.A. degree in non-profit arts administration, raised his three sons in Wantastiquet (Brattleboro), served many years as an elected Town representative (5 years on the Town of Brattleboro Finance Committee), a year on the public art working group of the Town Arts Committee, and seven years in the 1990s as a Trustee of the Arts Council of Windham County. In 1981, he was the first graduate student in arts administration ever to intern with the International Music Council (IMC-UNESCO), and in 1996-97 was the Charter Secretary of the United Nations Working Party on Restorative Justice. John is also a classically-trained tenor, folksinger, songwriter, guitarist, and poet, and In 1985, wrote a significant and relevant song, ‘River Blue’, honoring folksinger Pete Seeger and the Hudson River Sloop ‘Clearwater’.

Statement of Community Involvement

'Fantastic Wantastiquet' will create a community-wide enterprise whose diverse popular and expansive aesthetic appeal, and ‘bandwagon effect’, will be almost irresistible. We are convening a ethnically diverse and inter-generational governing board from among the community’s established leaders and energetic youth, and will expand it from an initial handful of dynamic 'doers' to 15-20 ‘workers’. We will build upon success in 2017 to generate a plan for 'major donor' philanthropic support. Our growth and modes of operation will intentionally follow the precedents of Gallery Walk (comprehensive stakeholder involvement), the Strolling of the Heifers (rapid growth based around bold vision) and other local success stories. From the beginning, we will enlist leadership and cooperation from Brattleboro’s existing and established arts organizations and ‘players’.

[Any funds raised during this first Festival will be ‘passed through’ the all-volunteer steering committee, with the priority of supporting artist and presentation expenses.]

CONTACT INFORMATION

John VanDyke Wilmerding
802-254-2826 landline
802-257-3367 mobile
@fantasticwantastiquet
wilmerding@myfairpoint.net
http://www.facebook.com/john.wilmerding
http://www.facebook.com/fantasticwantastiquet

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