• Initiative envisions Montpelier as film mecca
     | February 14,2013

    MONTPELIER — Organizers of a proposed media literacy program are pursuing a $150,000 grant in hopes of helping Montpelier become known as a capital for film and the arts.

    The city applied last month for a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant to help launch outreach this year for community members to engage with films. The program could allow participants to create films, have discussions with filmmakers, and bring existing resources together, such as Lost Nation Theater and local music groups like the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra.

    “This is the nexus. This can connect all of the arts organizations together,” said Terry Youk, the owner of the Savoy Theater, on Wednesday.

    The Vermont College of Fine Arts has agreed to a match worth $150,000 through facility enhancements such as a visual arts studio, new technology — like digital conferencing — and programming staff.

    Studio kits could also allow participants to have access to a camera and mobile lighting and audio equipment, said the college’s senior vice president, Bill Kaplan, on Wednesday.

    Activities would be intended to show how people can process various media — helping them understand, for instance, how a soundtrack can build tension or drama.

    After watching a clip or film at the Savoy, participants could split into multiple groups. One group could analyze how the soundtrack influences one’s mood, while another group could evaluate the issues presented, said Montpelier Community Development Specialist Kevin Casey. Other teaching techniques could include having Lost Nation Theater performers do a skit three different ways or having participants change the type of music in a movie clip.

    “The more you engage students in critical thought in the media they consume, their media literacy increases across the board,” Casey said.

    Youk said he’s seeking to model the program on a nonprofit in Pleasantville, N.Y., near New York City, called the Jacob Burns Film Center and Media Arts Lab. The center and lab encompass dozens of filmmaking and cinema studies classes for children, teenagers and adults throughout the week, including during the day, evening or on the weekend, according to its website.

    Youk said he plans to launch a media literacy education program regardless of whether the funding is received. The city and Vermont College of Fine Arts tried to obtain NEA funding for the project last year, Kaplan said.

    The city’s planning and community development director, Gwendolyn Hallsmith, said the city could hear back around May but might not get an answer until September.

    The initiative seeks to have 60 eighth-graders, 75 11th-graders and 20 to 40 senior citizens involved by the end of the first year of the program, which could begin next winter. Hallsmith said other adults could also become involved.

    david.taube @timesargus.com

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