Champlain College’s application has had a very special beginning to us. NPR journalist, Richard Nadworny, did a thoughtful piece on us after watching Mert Iseri at CUSP. What’s special is things seem to be coming full circle, as DFA Faculty Founder, Liz Gerber actually grew up right in this area of Burlington, VT. In Richard’s article his message was clear- a strong desire for “Design for Vermont.”
We had a great long chat with Richard and Jeff Rutenbeck– Professor and Dean of Communication and Creative Media at Champlain College and their sentiments seem to be expressed best by the word of student applicant Robin Perlah’s word reposted here:
My colleague, Rachel, and I have been running around like proverbial headless chickens, along with other classmates, in order to put together an application for Champlain College to become a Design for America studio on top of all our other projects and responsibilities. It’s been rough, truth be told, fitting a group application in at the busiest time in our semester, but in many ways, it has been a gift, conducting interviews in our community.
We have interviewed Amanda Levinson, principal of ThirdSpace Consulting, Bobby Hackney, musician, graphic designer, and youth leader, Rich Nadworny, principal of digalicious, Adam Rubin, principal of 2Revolutions and Cristy Mitchell, artist, creative facilitator of S.P.A.C.E. gallery and Associate Director of SEABA (South End Arts and Business Association), so far, with 4 more interviews to complete. The purpose of the interviews is to showcase the diversity of our community to Design for America, and to show the appetite our community has for finding design-solutions to interdisciplinary challenges faced in our community.
What I have taken away from this is that we are a community on the verge. On the verge of coming into our own, on the verge of being on the map, on the verge of being sustainable, livable, hip, edgy, happening. On the verge of…. Emerging.
Truthfully, I have always felt that way about Burlington. It’s what attracted me to this area a decade and a half ago, and it’s what has kept me here all these years. At the same time, part of my frustration with my existence here is that sense of always being on the verge of… something.
What I heard over and over in the interviews was that people live here because they want to (which as Adam Rubin pointed out, is something that can’t be said for the suburbs of New York), because it is beautiful, because it is full of good food and agriculture, because it is full of creative and innovative people. But, yet, we struggle with a lack of industry, with a high cost of living, with an average at best public education system.
I believe, as does each and every person I interviewed, that the Queen City is truly and finally on the verge of a transformation. And I believe that technology and, dare I say, Emergent Media, are going to catapult Burlington, and Vermont, as a whole, into the global scene. As the Internet comes of age, it is slowly figuring out what it does best. The first round of the Internet was dictated by old understandings of communication, as postured by libraries, databases, old ways of marketing and communication (i.e. broadcasting). But Internet 2.0 is all about creating communities, conversation and user-generated content. This is what Vermont does best- we create, connect and discuss with our neighbors and our community. Now, that the Internet has shed it’s old expectations about how it “should” behave, I look forward to seeing how our small state can use it to help Burlington emerge as a cultural, creative and innovation capital of the country, if not the world.