Catamount Arts was founded in 1975 with a film projector in the back of a pick-up truck. The idea was to travel throughout rural Vermont and New Hampshire screening international independent films for audiences who had no other access to them. In this way, Catamount Arts began working toward a mission to enhance the cultural climate of northern Vermont and New Hampshire.
From a temporary headquarters in a rented downtown loft, Catamount Arts produced a performing arts series, a film festival, and a school arts program. In 1985, Catamount’s small staff moved into a more accessible and attractive rental space in the historic Post Office building on Eastern Avenue in St. Johnsbury. For 20 years, audiences enjoyed international independent films, live dance and theater performances, and art exhibits and classes in the converted Post Office Building.
By 2005, Catamount had outgrown the Post Office Building. In a generous gesture to benefit the entire community, the Masonic Lodge gave their largest and grandest Masonic building in the state to Catamount Arts. Catamount embarked on a major construction project to transform the building into a bigger and better Community Arts Center. The rehabilitation was designed with help and encouragement from the local community: the plans were developed after a series of public forums, and much of the work was done by the St. Johnsbury Academy Building Trades and Electricity Programs and St. Johnsbury Work Camp participants.
Since the new Community Arts Center’s ribbon cutting on October 4, 2008, Catamount’s role as the Northeast Kingdom’s primary source of arts and culture has vastly expanded. The new 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 presentations by local artists; and a gallery showcasing local and area artists’ work.
Since the advent of Catamount’s Arts Education program, which provides summer camps and classes to children and adults, Catamount has expanded the Art Center to include the Outback Artspace, an octagon-shaped annex behind the main building. This additional space houses the annual Tap Into Film 48-hour Student Film Slam, Friday Night Open Mic, and a variety of other participatory opportunities. Catamount's newest Arts Education program, EPIC Music, successfully launched in summer of 2017 and is now rolling out of its El Sistema inspired systems to schools throughout the region.
Annually, Catamount 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. Catamount produces the KCP Presents Performing Arts Series, First Night North in St. Johnsbury, Circus Smirkus St. Johnsbury and the Levitt AMP St. Johnsbury Music Series. Serving as the Regional Arts Organization for the area, one of Catamount’s key objectives is to help 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 six days per week.
Catamount partners with many outstanding arts organizations to bring world class performances throughout Vermont and New Hampshire; open eyes to different cultures; boost the local economy; and serve as the heartbeat of our community. Catamount has over twenty presenting partners throughout the region including the Haskell Opera House, Circus Smirkus, Kingdom County Productions, The Colonial Theatre, The Peacham Acoustic Music Festival, the School of Creative and Performing Arts (SOCAPA), the St. Johnsbury Players, Lyndon State College, Court Street Arts, St. Johnsbury Academy, The Vermont Children’s Theater, Lyndon Institute and the Caledonia County Fair.
With well-established neighboring institutions The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, and St. Johnsbury Academy, Catamount Arts is proud to be part of St. Johnsbury’s vibrant and storied cultural campus.