Catamount Arts was founded in 1975 with a mission of enhancing the cultural and economic climate of northern Vermont and New Hampshire. Integration of the arts into community life has been our guiding principle and we attempt to cultivate awareness and appreciation of the arts through a diversified schedule of film, music, theater, dance, and the visual arts.
For 20 years, Catamount Arts was located literally next door to one of the most beautiful and historically important buildings in the Northeast Kingdom. When it was opened in 1912, the Masonic Temple of St. Johnsbury was the largest and grandest Masonic building the state with more than 700 members. In the generous gesture intended to benefit the entire community, the Masonic Lodge gave this showplace building to Catamount in 2005, in return of a no-cost lease in perpetuity of the top floor, which continues to be used as the Lodge meeting place.
Catamount Arts then embarked on a major construction project to transform the lower two floors into a Community Arts Center. The rehabilitation was designed with the help and encouragement of the local community. Not only were the actual plans developed after a series of public creative forums, but much of the rehabilitation work was done by the St. Johnsbury Academy Building Trades and Electricity Programs and the St. Johnsbury Work Camp participants.
Catamount’s role as the Northeast Kingdom’s primary source of arts and culture vastly expanded with the ribbon cutting on October 4, 2008. The new Community Arts Center features two movie theaters, allowing Catamount Arts to present a regular schedule of acclaimed foreign-language and independent films; two state-of-the-art classrooms, which are used for art, computer and music education; an 80-seat performance space dedicated to regular performances by local artists; and a gallery showcasing local and area artists’ work.
Today, Catamount annual presents an extensive series of performances in the Arts center and at venues throughout Northern Vermont and New Hampshire bringing in nationally known touring artists as well as accomplished local performers. Serving as the Regional Arts Organization for the area, one of Catamount’s key objectives is to assist local performers and arts organizations expand their administrative, marketing and promotional capacity.
Catamount operates a Regional Box Office, which offers online ticketing services (www.catamounTIX.com) twenty-four hours per day and in-person/phone customer service seven days per week. Catamount partners with over forty (40) outstanding arts organization to bring world-class performances throughout the region, open eyes to different cultures, boost the local economy and serve as the heart-beat of our community.
Additionally, each year Catamount produces a huge number of marquee events including the Tap Into Film 48hr Student Film Slam, Circus Smirkus St. Johnsbury, Levitt AMP St. Johnsbury Music Series, St. Johnsbury Bluegrass Festival, KCP Presents Performing Arts Series and First Night North St. Johnsbury.
Catamount’s arts education programs reach all the schools throughout the region with a combination of in/after school classes, options at the Arts Center and school-time performances in larger venues that students get bussed to. Catamount runs a substance-free teen Open Mic on Friday nights to provide at-risk youth a creative outlet and alternative in their community and EPIC Music, an El Sistema inspired string program from Venezuela that is designed to lift children out of poverty through intensive violin training and ensemble opportunities. Catamount works with Northern Vermont University and always has a large team of interns who are gaining on-the-job experience working within the organization. Catamount literally engages thousands upon thousands of students each year with creative opportunities.
In the past five years, Catamount’s visual arts program have become one of the most respected in all of New England. The Fried Family Gallery exhibits works from artists across the country and regularly draws an audience from all around New England.
Catamount’s production team assists organizations across the region to present their own events. Utilizing the Stageline SL100 mobile stage and a full audio and lighting system, the team works with local communities to produce events that celebrate their own unique qualities. This place-making tool will be a valuable tool as the region tries to differentiate itself in the future in an ever-intensifying destination-driven economy.
In addition to these productions, educational opportunities, and services for arts and culture organizations, Catamount Arts has stepped forward to lead the creative sector in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Catamount Arts is the designated NEK Creative Zone Agent for the Vermont Creative Network, which was established by the Vermont Legislature in May 2016 as a broad collective of organizations, businesses, and individuals—all sharing a goal to advance Vermont’s creative sector and creative economy.
In 2018, Catamount took a leadership role in both the NEK Collaborative’s Tri-Sector Taskforce (read the report here: https://www.nekcollaborative.org/about/priorities/), and the Vermont Creative Network’s Creative Sector Study (read the report here: http://vermontcreativenetwork.org/). The results of both of these initiatives create a strong foundation of support for Catamount’s strategic plan—both identified the creation of community hubs as a high priority initiative for the region, understanding that the advancement of the arts and culture in our small towns and villages has a major positive impact on the vitality (social, economic, etc.) of our rural communities.
In 2019, based on the recommendations made in the above initiatives, Catamount Arts has launched the Creative Sector Hub Development project in order to build vibrant and place-based creative hubs throughout the region. Working with area partners in communities throughout the Northern Vermont and New Hampshire, the team will develop and implement plans to enhance the unique creative assets in each, thereby advancing the arts sector in each of the rural towns and villages targeted, with ancillary benefits to the wider regional creative economy. The implementation of these plans could produce results that, for example: tie together arts and recreational assets in East Burke; boost attendance and community engagement with the Wednesdays on the Waterfront concert series in Newport; create joint marketing and promotion initiatives for museums and other cultural assets in Glover; and more. Each hub will produce a culminating event or performance to both celebrate and demonstrate the work they have completed, and to build residents’ long-term engagement with their community’s creative sector. The culminating events will both showcase the extraordinary talent of the local artists and artisans in their midst and feature nationally-recognized performers to act as a draw for wider community engagement.
In conclusion, Catamount is deeply woven into the social, esoteric and economic fabric of our local community and is uniquely positioned to have a positive impact on the health of this region. An investment in Catamount is an investment in the NEK.