We're number 3 and that ain't bad
Last week we reported that Bennington was ranked third in the National Center for Arts Research's list of arts-vibrant small communities.
The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) is a nonprofit devoted to studying the state of the arts in America. It looks at population, how much art is for sale, how much gets bought, and the level of support provided by the government.
It's not some random person's "Top Ten" blog.
In the "small cities" category — That's places with an "urban core" of 10,000 to 50,000 people — we were only beat out by Breckenridge, Colo. and Summit Park, Utah.
The ranking is well-deserved. Bennington boasts OldCastle Theatre, the Vermont Arts Exchange, Jays Art Shop and Frame Gallery, Vine & Branches Gallery, Fiddlehead at Four Corners, and likely many others too numerous to list. And that's just Bennington proper. The Dorset Players in Dorset, the Southern Vermont Art Center in Manchester, and again probably too many others to count, all play a vital role in making the arts scene around here what it is, something to be proud of...and of course to market.
Occasionally when a reader calls to pitch us a good news story about Bennington they do so with an air of mild disbelief. "Can you believe something good happened in Bennington?"
Yes, we can.
Much of this undeserved negativity shows up on Facebook, which, like it or not, has joined the coffee shop and town square as a hub for community conversation. Unlike the former two, people outside Bennington can readily view what we say about ourselves on Facebook and what we say often isn't good.
When LaFlamme's furniture store at 239 Main St. brought back the locally famous "Big Chair" many of the comments were from people convinced that vandals would soon ruin it. Recently, news about the proposed "Pocket Park" near the Four Corners was met with similar reactions only this time the concern was over litter and drug users.
We also recently reported that Mount Anthony Union High School was ranked 11th among Vermont's public high schools by U.S. News and World Report. In the nation, MAU ranks 2,600th.
That last number sounded pretty bad to some, likely people who didn't know there are 26,407 public high schools in the country according to the federal Department of Education.
Not bad, MAU, not bad at all.
Likewise, whenever a store on Main Street closes its doors, the death knell for Bennington is sounded. Meanwhile, new businesses open and old ones move in or expand yet there's no accompanying cries of "hallelujah, we're saved."
The counter to all of this is that Bennington does have problems and that not calling them out leads to them getting worse.
There's a big difference between pointing out a problem in an effort to find solutions and declaring from the outset that something positive will end in failure. Too often our discussions involve why something will never work rather than how to make it successful.
It's been said before, but Bennington's biggest problem is its self-image. Fortunately, that's a problem we can solve using four words. "How can I help?"
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