Project of “First Friday” outdoor film, arts, and dining receives $18,000 grant
Friday, May 7 at —WHITE RIVER JCT—An underutilized parking lot behind the Hotel Coolidge in downtown White River Junction will become a vibrant, pandemic-safe place to eat, visit, and watch films and projection art this summer, thanks to an $18,000 grant from Vermont Community Foundation (VCF), the Agency of Commerce & Community Development (ACCD), and the Better Places partners.
The grant was obtained by a partnership centered on White River Indie Films (WRIF) and including the town of Hartford, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, CATV (Community Access Television), the Briggs Opera House, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and local businesses and film and media artists.
“Light River Junction First Fridays with WRIF” aims to revitalize White River Junction’s “First Friday” celebrations, disrupted by Covid, by attracting people of all ages back to the village through film and media arts.
From May to August, WRIF will transform downtown parking lots into an attractive forum for safe dining and cinema viewing. Film, including work by local filmmakers, will be projected in novel ways in spaces enhanced by local visual artists. The project is expected to revive social interaction and economic activity through the arts in reimagined and ongoing ways that can offer inspiration to other Vermont communities.
“The vision originated in WRIF’s experimental Light River Junction Festival of Cinema Light, a weekend of outdoor projection in downtown White River Junction,” explained WRIF board member Samantha Davidson Green. “In December 2020, we shouted out to local filmmakers, who shared their work freely for the public to enjoy safely—whether by car or through snow on foot—projected on buildings and in shop windows. Its success revealed how much the community craves the shared experience of art and the potential for re-imagining cinema and media arts events to draw people back to our hurting downtown businesses. The Better Places grant enables WRIF to partner with an amazing team of local organizations and the town of Hartford, many of whom pioneered the First Friday celebrations years ago, in our efforts to revitalize our local economy and heal our community fabric through the arts.”
The project’s main site is the parking area at 40-50 Currier St., behind the Hotel Coolidge and Gates-Briggs building, which owns the lot and supports the project. The lot is bordered on several sides by white-sided buildings that will serve as projection surfaces for cinema and moving image installation art. In addition, a portable screen will be erected in one end of the lot for screening high-resolution feature film content after dark. The site is adjacent to the Wolf Tree Bar and in walking distance from a half-dozen restaurants, making it convenient for outdoor dining.
The project also involves a number of other aspects, including community art projects and smaller film and video projections and sound installations at spots throughout downtown, with changing content by local filmmakers and sound artists.
These activities will be part of White River Junction First Fridays, which are scheduled for May 7, June 4, July 2, and Aug. 6.
The White River Junction project was one of only eight chosen from among 63 applications representing 54 communities across the state. A total of $129,275 was awarded.
“Better Places grants are an important tool in our toolbox to help revitalize our communities as we recover from the pandemic,” said Governor Phil Scott.
“Public spaces can tell a story about our communities—they bring us together when accessible or leave us isolated when they aren’t,” said Vermont Community Foundation President and CEO Dan Smith.
“First Fridays” started more than 10 years ago through the collaboration of local businesses.