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ARLINGTON — For the first time this year, artistic and community organizations from around the county will collaborate on a new festival that will celebrate Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms," their connection to the area, and the ideas and philosophies behind them.

The effort is being led by The Mill in East Arlington, which was purchased in 2014 by Dr. Joshua Sherman, who re-opened the space as a hub for building connections and collaborations between artists and creators. The Southern Vermont Arts Center and Mountain Media have already been announced as collaborating with The Mill for the Four Freedoms festival, and more organizations are expected to announce their involvement in the coming months.

Among the events that have been announced for the festival, which will take place during the weekend of July 19-21, are a state-wide bell-ringing, the premier of "Perfect Picture," a musical about the life of Rockwell, an art contest for high schoolers, a "Run 4 Freedom" between Arlington and Manchester, and more. Sherman said this week that he considers this the first annual Four Freedoms festival, and is excited to see it grow every year.

The lead-up to the festival began this week, with the commencement of the Create 4 Freedom Contest, which is open to ninth through eleventh grade students throughout Vermont and beyond. Students are encouraged to choose one of the Four Freedoms (Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, or Freedom from Fear), and create a work of art of piece of poetry that expresses how and why that freedom is relevant today. Submissions are due by 4 p.m. on Feb. 22, and finalists will be celebrated and have their works displayed at the festival.

The works will be judged by a panel of artists and professionals. According to the organizers, submissions may be humorous, satirical, or dramatic. The works will be judged on their artistry, creativity, thoughtfulness, and intelligence. The entry form and other information on the contest can be found online at www.themillvt.com/create4freedom.

The festival is based on Rockwell's four famous oil paintings which were published in 1943. They, in turn, are based on the four freedoms that President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill laid out in their June 1941 address. Rockwell moved to Arlington in 1939, and there experienced one of the scenes that inspired the series.

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"One night, Rockwell attended an Arlington Town Meeting," reads the publicity for the festival. "One of his neighbors (a very likeable farmer) stood up and spoke. Everybody in the room disagreed with the man's opinion, but no one interrupted. After all, in America, everyone has the right to freedom of speech. Norman was, once again, inspired! He decided to illustrate 'The Four Freedoms' in everyday American scenes, using his Vermont neighbors as his models."

"The very place that inspired Norman Rockwell's four iconic paintings has given birth to a creative movement uniting the generations through the arts and humanities" said Sherman.

The Mill is a non-profit organization run by a board of directors. Sherman said that the goals of The Mill, which include promoting education and historical awareness within the community of southwestern Vermont, in addition to being a hub for artistic collaboration and expression, align perfectly with the Four Freedoms Festival. "This was an amazing community and colony for artists," said Sherman of Arlington. "The goal of The Mill is to re-invent that for the 21st century."

The mission of The Mill, according to its website, is to, "foster collaborations (on both the individual and organizational levels) with the purpose of developing revolutionary ideas in the arts and humanities. These multi-disciplinary initiatives are coupled with youth education, mentorship, and supportive infrastructure." The mill building itself was built in 1764 by Remember Baker, a cousin of famed Vermonters Seth Warner and Ethan Allen.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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