The View from my Place: Art matters

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Art; it's what defines a civilized society. Today, on the other side of the globe, the world's most evil and uncivilized people are destroying ancient art and artifacts in an attempt to erase history.

Offsetting this small minority of hateful people are the rest of us; people who believe in doing good; people who create verses destroy. Every single one of us enjoys and benefits from the arts. For sure there is some art that even the most open-minded might find offensive. Even then there will be some that will see beauty. Art is enjoyable and provocative, sometimes simultaneously.

The heroes of the world are those who have received the gift of creating art. The superheroes of the world are those who not only create art, but provide opportunities for others who wish to hone their artistic skills. Such a superhero resides in my hometown of Dorset, Vermont. Her name is Danielle Epstein and she owns the former home of Ed & Charlotte Lefevre known as the Marble House. With her partner, Dina Schapiro, she has transitioned this magnificent home into a 501-c-3 artist residency organization now known as the "Marble House Project". Here is the website: www.marblehouseproject.org. Here is the Mission Statement:

Through artist residencies, sustainable agriculture and community engagement, Marble House Project fosters an exchange of ideas and nurtures the imaginative spirit.

"So what does this have to do with me?" you ask. Throughout the summer months for the past two years the Marble House Project has introduced artists, poets, writers, musicians, photographers, improvisational comedians and a host of other incredibly talented people to our community. Every Tuesday evening the residents get to share what they are working on with those who choose to attend. There is no charge to attend. That's right, folks, it's FREE. It's also free to the residents who are accepted to attend a three-week residency. The program exists through contributions and grant funding. The artists are in our area long enough for many locals to not only meet them, but come to know them and their work.

Now I want you to stop and ponder on what is happening here. One woman; an artist, made a decision one day to do something more than create her own work. She decided that the way for her to truly make a difference, to make a positive change in the world in which she lives was to create opportunities for others. Who thinks like that? Not many of us, but more of us should.

Danielle Epstein has made a substantial investment in the community. In addition to the Marble House she also owns the Marble West Inn. After the Tuesday night events the public is invited to stop by the historic inn for some amazing food, drinks and to meet the artists (as well as their neighbors). Alison and I have attended as many of these events as possible and I can attest to this program's success.

Not only are we introduced to some very interesting art and artists, but we've reunited with friends we've not seen in a while. Art brings people together in a most civil and wonderful way. Artists make our world a much better place to live and work. Artists have vision, but not all artists have the drive to take it to the next level.

We are very fortunate to have the Marble House Project in our community and in our lives. The 2015 residency program has sadly come to a close, but it will begin again in 2016. This is a non-profit organization that is making a difference. It's changing the lives of the artists who come here and it's changing the lives of those who live here. If the arts are important to you then you should feel free to make a contribution to the Marble House Project, because its founders sure have made a huge contribution to Vermont.

— In addition to being a former lobbyist, a columnist, an author and a musician, Bob Stannard is also vice chair of the Vermont Arts Council


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