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Most Read Stories on Vermont Life Digital

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Way of (Vermont) Life, Web Exclusives

Covers.inddCovers.inddAu14 Coverwin1415As we start of 2015 and reflect on the year past, we took a look at what Vermont Life Digital stories were viewed the most in 2014.

Many of our popular stories came to us via our Vermont Life Pitch Night events, which we held in collaboration with the Vermont Office of the Creative Economy. Over several months, we listened to Vermonters tell their stories in White River Junction, Brattleboro, Springfield, Montpelier and Bellows Falls. We heard from creative entrepreneurs from various sectors, including tech, renewable energy, automotive, the arts, real estate, retail, social services and more. Thanks to these pitch nights,

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Remote Possibility | Art connections drive hope in gritty St. Johnsbury

Written by Kim Asch on . Posted in Way of (Vermont) Life

Photographed by Ken Burris

A study in contrasts: St. Johnsbury is not an affluent area, but a foundation for the arts was laid with Gilded Age wealth from the Fairbanks family, whose legacy includes the St. Johnsbury Athanaeum, currently under the direction of Bob Joly.

st j athanaeum

PHOTOS ABOVE: A study in contrasts. St. Johnsbury is not an affluent area, but a foundation for the arts was laid with Gilded Age wealth from the Fairbanks family, whose legacy includes the St. Johnsbury Athanaeum, currently under the direction of Bob Joly (second photo).

By most any measure, St. Johnsbury is an unlikely cultural hub. This town of just 6,200 residents in the remote Northeast Kingdom is about 75 miles from the state’s largest city, Burlington, and almost 50 miles from affluent Stowe. St. Johnsbury is not a wealthy place either — the town’s median household income is almost $20,000 less than the state average — and it is dogged by the same woes that trouble small towns across America: the fraying of downtown, the illegal drugs, the outflow of good manufacturing jobs.

And yet, with a slow-building influx of writers, musicians, painters, filmmakers and community-builders, followed by a spurt of activity in the last few years, the town has pivoted toward the arts as a vital piece of its future. The scenario has played out in varying degrees in other former mill-and-rail towns along the Connecticut River system — White River Junction, Bellows Falls, Brattleboro — and it is playing out here.

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In St. Johnsbury, the foundation was laid in the Gilded Age, when the industrialist Fairbanks family amassed a fortune and used its wealth to build cultural institutions. Both the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium and the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, on Main Street, are quintessential specimens of Victo-
rian architecture and house impressive collections from the era. The St. Johnsbury Academy, also founded by the Fairbanks family, is a well-regarded independent high school, serving both locals and boarding students on its attractive grounds on the hill.

Today, these institutions are intertwined with a relative newcomer, Catamount Arts, a community-and-arts energizer founded in the mid-’70s by filmmaker Jay Craven. In 2008, Catamount Arts completed an ambitious reinvention project — a $1.7 million makeover of the 1912 Masonic Lodge building on Eastern Avenue, which became its new home — and that same year, Jody Fried signed on to head the organization.

A native of the Northeast Kingdom, Fried had enjoyed a lucrative career in health care administration that took him all over the United States, but he returned to his hometown of East Burke and ran several businesses, including the country store, before realizing that his passion was in community leadership. His mother had been a guidance counselor at the St. Johnsbury public school, both of his parents were civic-minded, and he was determined to raise his four children with the same kind of experience he remembered from childhood — but with more access to arts and culture. “We’ve spent five years reinventing Catamount Arts, and we really have it on an incredible path,” Fried says. “I wouldn’t want my kids growing up anywhere else.”

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Summer in Vermont Photo Contest

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Outdoor Rec and Nature, Way of (Vermont) Life, Web Exclusives

In the July edition of the Vermont Life eNews, we asked you to show us what summer in Vermont means to you. Our inbox was filled with summery scenes from across the state. Our winner was Pam Robinson of Strafford, who photographed her 13-year-old daughter, Megan, sitting with their two dogs, Duncan and Abby. “This photo shows our favorite place in my hometown of Strafford,” Pam said. “We go here each season to let out a huge sigh, and breath in the beauty of the state!” We liked the photo because it shows a view that is uniquely Vermont, and relaxing in the tall grass with friends is one of summer’s must underrated joys.

Here’s the winning photograph …

megan, duncan abby LOK for VT life

 

And here are selected runners up. Thank you to everyone who entered!

Blossom, a Simmental calf in Springfield, Vt. Photo by JoAnn Stak Bregnard.

Burlington Waterfront, photo by Marshal Distel.

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Tractor parked behind rose bush in Pawlet, photo by Ed Cleveland.

 

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