The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) announced July
27 that the Vermont Community Leadership Award for 2012 will be
presented to the volunteers of the Rutland Creative Economy. The
award presentation will take place at the Merchants Row stage at
Friday Night Live! at 6 p.m., August 3.
This leadership award is given each year to an individual or
group in recognition of "dedication, integrity, and honorable
service to their community and to Vermont."
Bob Ackland, the chair of the VCRD Board of Directors, describes
the purpose of the award: "Each year we present the award to
highlight the work of community heroes who epitomize the best
spirit of local community service, who are volunteers-not paid
employees or elected officials- and who have had a transformative
effect on their community. Their work makes the community a
The Rutland Creative Economy movement originated from meetings
of over 400 Rutlanders with VCRD's Creative Communities Program
team in 2006. At that time the community established four major
priority areas to advance:
1. Rutland as a Recreation Destination; 2. Open Space; 3.
Sustainable Living; and 4. Rutland as an Arts Destination.
All these efforts remain active and successful today, and in 2010
the community added two more working groups: 5. To develop a
Children's Museum; and 6. Branding Rutland.
The Rutland Creative Economy volunteers have accomplished great
things some of which include:
1. Hosted Friday Night Live! the biggest party in Rutland County
with over 1,000 people for eight weeks in the summer-the place to
be and a real boost to the prosperity of Rutland's Downtown.
2. Worked with the Farmer's Market to close Evelyn Street
on Saturday mornings, allowing the market to double in size and
inspiring the momentum behind the soon-to-come Vermont Farmers'
3. Contributed to the strategic downtown plan especially on
the future of Evelyn Street.
4. Led in the revitalization of the Center Street Alley and
secured a $1 million earmark through the office of Senator Patrick
5. Planned and developed the bike and walking path through
the heart of Rutland City: Section 1 of the 2.1 mile path along
East Creek will be done around the end of December: the team has
led in raising nearly $1.2 million so far toward the completion of
6. Are in the final stages of developing a dog park.
7. Are building a database of all conventional and
unconventional recreation opportunities in the County.
8. Developed "Sustainable Rutland" as a non-profit which
has raised $30,000 for environmental projects, distributed 2,000
reusable canvas bags, held three "Trash 2 Art" exhibits (with its
fourth scheduled for October); worked with Casella Waste to get 12
zero-sort recycling bins downtown, sponsored the "Thanksgiving
Localvore Challenge" and worked in many other ways to advance
energy efficiency and promote sustainability in Rutland.
9. Produced 3+ years of successful Art Hop evenings in
partnership with the library, Chaffee Art Center, and local
10. Opened the Wonderfeet Children's Museum for Friday Night
Live! and during Farmers' Markets and Sidewalk Sale events. Staffed
by volunteers and working toward developing a permanent space,
Wonderfeet is currently becoming a non-profit organization.
It has built exhibits on "Energy in Motion," "Farm to Table," and
"Trashformers" attended already by 1,757 people.
11. Conducted surveys, public meetings and target interviews to
develop a marketable brand for the city: "Connected
Naturally." The Branding Rutland group is currently
working to deliver the title and logo for unified brand use in the
With all this hard work going forward, choosing the 2012 Community
Leadership Award winner was pretty straightforward, according to
Paul Costello, executive director of VCRD: "We work with
towns throughout Vermont, and today when we want to encourage town
residents to step up, work together, and line up to advance
priorities, we always point to Rutland. For us, it is a city making
great progress-the Creative Economy volunteers have changed the
momentum and built positive visibility for the City. With their
leadership Rutland is becoming a model for the state."
Paul Gallo, the chair of the Rutland Creative Economy committee,
expressed thanks from all the volunteers for the recognition, but
also pointed out that there's plenty of work in progress and still
to be done: "The transformation of Rutland is similar to a
large unfinished puzzle with many different-sized pieces of
importance that all fit together. The Creative Economy has pushed
forward many of those pieces in the community and found their fit
in making Rutland a better place to live and work. The puzzle is
incomplete but there is new-found momentum!"
The idea of the creative economy in Vermont was brought to focus
by the Council on Culture and Innovation which pointed to
communities that engaged the public, built events, rebuilt downtown
areas and advanced innovations to inspire a sense of dynamism and
attract and support entrepreneurs and young people so essential to
the future. The creative economy pointed to the conjunction of
the arts, economic innovation, and community engagement as focal
points for successful community revitalization.
Mayor Christopher Louras, an early participant in the process and a
first co-chair of the group that later became Sustainable Rutland,
praised the leadership, commitment, enthusiasm, shared vision, and
innovation of the Creative Economy working team, "As Rutland
continues on its path to reinvention, the City looks forward to
future Creative Economy success stories and congratulates all those
who have been part of this great and worthwhile organization."
Past recipients of the Vermont Community Leadership Award have
included Robert McBride and Richard Ewald for their work driving
the rebirth of downtown Bellows Falls, the Center for an
Agricultural Economy for its leadership in Hardwick's
revitalization, and Marcia and Al Perry for all that they have
contributed in support of Richford and its region in northern