Where do the arts, affordable housing, local transportation and programs involving weatherization and micro-business all come together?
Welcome to Project Space 9 Bellows Falls 05101, a gallery space located in the Exner Block in downtown Bellows Falls is showcasing a variety of initiatives developed by Connecticut River Transit, Rockingham Area Community Land Trust, Southeastern Vermont Community Action and the Rockingham Arts and Museum Project (RAMP).
The idea for Project Space 9 and the current exhibition were coordinated by Robert McBride, founding director of RAMP. "It has consistently been RAMP's mission to demonstrate how artists and the arts contribute to the community's social and economic vitality. By reaching out to the other exhibiting organizations, which are not necessarily thought of in connection with the arts, demonstrates that we are all collaborators in maintaining a healthy community in the broadest sense."
McBride also wanted to make sure that residents and visitors understand that despite the global economic down turn, in our rural community there are social, economic and cultural organizations that are working and developing creative effective strategies to carry on and enhance our quality of life.
Gary Fox, executive director of Connecticut River Transit (CRT), was enthusiastic when approached about participating in Project Space 9; he saw the potential for offering CRT to tell its story to a larger community. CRT connects communities along the Connecticut River in Windsor and Windham Counties serving people of all ages and their needs, getting them where they need to go.
Rockingham Area Community Land Trust (RACLT), for over twenty-five years has helped build the community by providing affordable quality housing, sometimes developing new buildings and more often renovating buildings bringing them up to code, supplying well designed, safe housing at affordable rents. Russ Brink who is the current director of RACLT, shares their story through a renovation of buildings on William Street in Bellows Falls. On the Square in downtown Bellows Falls, the Howard and Exner Blocks are shining examples of RACLT contribution to the renovation of the downtown, stepping forward at a time when private development was not an option. When you visit Project Space 9 in the Exner Block look around you and notice the fine attention that was paid to the renovation, the pressed tin inside and outside is a unique architectural feature. The Exner Block provides ten affordable live/work spaces for artists and six retail spaces with a focus on the arts.
Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) is a regional organization with a tall order to fill in its mission "to enable people to ... create sustainable self-sufficiency... SEVCA gives people the knowledge, tools and support to break the cycle of dependence and works to find solutions to the deep seated problems....by empowering and collaborating with those whose lives are affected..."
Steven Geller, executive director shares the story of two of their programs involving weatherization and micro-business and the short, mid and long term positive impacts that they have.
There are many more stories to tell of organizations and buildings: the renovation of the Hotel Windham, the inter-modal center and Waypoint Visitor's Center, the moving of the power station in downtown Bellows, and a variety of initiatives supported by Windham Regional Commission, Smart Growth VT and the Connecticut River National Byway to mention a few. The flexible nature of Project
Space 9 allows for the integration of these other stories into the exhibit before it ends in May.
Project Space 9, opens Thursday, February 26, 5-7 PM at the Exner Block, #9 Canal Street off the square in downtown Bellows Falls. The public is invited and encouraged to come meet the executive directors of these vibrant programs. The windows of Project Space 9 will be changed regularly and will be lighted at night in order to highlight the projects. So walk by and take a look. The gallery will be open seven days a week 10-5 PM. The gallery is wheel chair accessible. For more information contact RAMP, 802-463-3252, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ramp-vt.org.