Thursday night’s forum at the Vermont Granite Museum was not only just a show of support for the facility at the entrance to the city, it was yet another indicator that the momentum that has built in Barre over the last few years is rolling at full steam.
Museum and city officials who called the meeting were overwhelmed by the show of support. Nearly 100 people turned out (on a night when politics and baseball could have kept folks at home) to offer ideas on how to best make the museum the hallmark of Barre’s rich story and an economic engine for the region.
Even when board member Bob Pope asked the crowd to offer criticisms or raise concerns about the museum, which has been used sporadically over the last 10 years, the audience instead offered constructive criticism. They urged the board not to give up on the city’s dream to have a museum in the old Jones Brothers shed. They advised them to raise money in order to hire a staff to chase grants, solicit investors and market and promote the museum. They urged the board and the city to pursue partnerships across the board – with schools, other museums, social clubs, communities and the business community – to push forward on ways to promote and market “Barre’s story” and the Stone Arts School, which remains the most active part of the restored structure, which now is on the National Register of Historic Places.
They even encouraged museum leaders to figure out tangible ways to use the open space adjacent to the museum to draw citizens and visitors to the area, either through a bike path, a walking area, a sculpture garden and other outdoor uses. The museum is the largest land owner along the proposed bike path for the city.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the crowd reminded city and museum leaders that the museum fits perfectly into the long list of assets already gracing the Granite City. In fact it is key, they said. With the right push, the right plan to get the museum up and sustainable, Barre could easily be a destination location built on granite.
Tourism experts say you need 10 things to make your community a destination. Barre can list off 15 or more without breaking a sweat. All of them have ties to the heritage, uniqueness and history of our city. The Vermont Granite Museum, with continued support and encouragement, can be the showplace and the showpiece for all of the assets we know, love and appreciate.
Barre’s momentum is commendable. Discussions, like the one Thursday night, signal greatness, optimism, generosity and resilience. Clearly, despite bumps, hardships and economic factors that have been out of most people’s control, citizens here are no longer feeling down on their city. They are once again holding their heads high, and taking the utmost pride in where they come from, what they do, and where they are going.
When the museum opens year-round, and tour buses and school buses are lining the parking lot, and visitors are coming from across the globe to see how granite built a community and that community left its mark across the world, the renaissance of Barre and its citizens’ strength of character will be part of that story we must tell.
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