Catamount Arts: More Than a Place to See a Show

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CATAMOUNTSAINT JOHNSBURY - From a film projector in the back of a pickup truck, to a large facility in downtown Saint Johnsbury, Catamount Arts has been filling the Northeast Kingdom with art, music, and talent for more than 40 years.

Ashley Van Zandt is the First Night coordinator and the Assistant to the Director, and says that the arts organization does more than just put on events for the community. They also provide help to other area arts organizations, and programs for students of surrounding schools. “We do a lot of things here at Catamount Arts.  But integrating arts into the community is our biggest focus. And we do that in a number of ways.”

With their regional box office, Catamount Arts gains the opportunity to work with other arts organizations. “We do marketing and ticket sales for more than forty organizations in Vermont and New Hampshire. And it allows us to work with other arts organizations such as; Kingdom County Productions, area chambers of commerce, and area schools.” says Van Zandt.

The organizations can do joint marketing with Catamount and put their events within their ticketing website. Van Zandt says that the other organizations have ticketing thats carried out by volunteers, so some things can fall through.  “So we help them be successful,” says Van Zandt. “It also helps us be successful because it brings people into Catamount Arts.”

Van Zandt says that they can also accumulate data to see the economic impact and to show that there is a need for arts and events in the Northeast Kingdom.

Another asset to the community is the organizations’ involvement with some of different educational institutions. (MM — What schools are they involved in?  What is the goal of connecting to the schools?  What benefit is it to them?)

“We have some student volunteers,” says Van Zandt. “It gets the kids in here.” Catamount Arts also operates a safe space for young musicians to showcase their work, with a preteen exclusive open mic night.

With their New Years eve event, First Night North, the arts organization really has the chance to share what they do with the Saint Johnsbury Community. Jay Sprout is the current president of First Night North, he has been working with the event since the very begging, since first night started in 1993. Sprout says that last year First Night North presented 101 shows in eight hours. Which included 56 groups, according to Sprout if Catamount Arts, or any First Night attendee, counting every individual artist preforming, they would’ve counted over 300 musicians preforming.

“Its remarkable how well situated Saint Johnsbury is to hold such a festival,” said Sprout.

The event is substance free and focuses on arts and culture and gives the community a chance to experience different shows and other entertainment that they may not have gone out to see otherwise.  About three thousand people are in attendance at the event. Van Zandt says it’s a large event where the roads are closed off to traffic and people are able to roam the streets.  

“Next year is going to be a big year, its our twenty-fifth year, and there’s lots of really great ideas.  It will be a Sunday so we are thinking about expanding the hours.  It takes the whole community to put it together and we are so thankful to all of the vendors and the support of the local businesses to help put this on.”  According to Van Zandt, they have a committee that meets monthly, and are always looking for volunteers until the week of the event. Sprout says the event has changed and grown since its beginning in 1994, but its a different kind of growth.
“It hasn’t grown greatly in numbers, but its certainly grown in the quality and scope in the town that we provide it.”  

The continued growth of Catamount Arts is dependent on the community. “The sky is the limit really,” says Van Zandt. “We just have to see where the community takes us.  We try to see what the community needs or wants and go from there.”