Vermont Press Releases

Catamount Arts Seeks To Engage Public In Series of ‘Courageous Conversations’

May 15, 2012 

Jody Fried, Executive Director

PHONE: 802-748-2600 ext 105
EMAIL: [email protected]



It has always been the mission of Catamount Arts to make the public aware of issues of social and community concern through its diverse presentation of films, gallery exhibits and other art forms.


Now the local arts organization hopes to engage the community directly in a series of ‘Courageous Conversations’ about some of the most important issues facing the nation in general and the Northeast Kingdom in particular.

Beginning this June, Catamount will host and present an ongoing series that focuses each month on a different topic of social concern.  A wide variety of special events with the monthly focus as its topic will be presented free of charge in the hope of creating a serious dialogue in the community about issues surrounding the highlighted subject.  These events include a Monday evening film series, a Thursday evening monthly live ‘conversation’ featuring a panel of local and state wide experts on the topic as well as other regular events such as gallery exhibits that will help bring the topic into sharp focus for the community.

“Each of these topics will be of immediate importance to our community,” said Catamount Executive Director Jody Fried in announcing the series.  “The more everyone in the community shares in these conversations, the closer we will be to understanding how best to deal with them.”

The first three topics for the series have been set, with Poverty being the focus for June, Mental Health the focus for July and Disabilities the focus for August.

During June, Catamount will host a live ‘conversation’ at 6 pm Thursday, June 14, that will bring members of the community together to discuss the far ranging implications of poverty as they relate to the Northeast Kingdom especially. 

The panelists for this important ‘conversation’ will include Melissa Bourque, of the Vermont Workers Center; Greg MacDonald, the field director for the Agency of Human Services; Joe Patrissi, the executive director of NEKCA; Pru Pease, representing Bridges Out of Poverty; Wilhemina Picard, of Vermont’s Corrections High School; and local resident Margaret Drew.  Steve Gold, the interim president of Lyndon State College and former Vermont Commissioner of Corrections, will facilitate the discussion.

Members of the audience will also be encouraged to become part of the ‘conversation’ during the evening and it is hoped that a variety of residents will be able to share their experiences and ideas.

As part of June’s focus on poverty, area artist and photographer Libby Hillhouse will also present an art exhibit of photographic portraits titled “Parallels,” which features local residents.  This exhibit will be on view for the entire month of June with a special reception from 5 pm – 7 pm Friday, June 8. 

Monday evening’s free community film screenings will also be dedicated to the topic of poverty, with PRECIOUS showing on Monday, June 4, WINTER’S BONE on Monday, June 11, AMERICAN VIOLET on Monday, June 18, and FROZEN RIVER on Monday, June 25.  Each free screening, which will begin at 7 pm, is open to the public, including those residents who are unable to attend the live ‘conversation’ on June 14.

During the month, participants in the ‘conversation’ and other interested residents will also be encouraged to create art of their own around the focus topic and exhibit it in a special display section at Catamount that will be open to the public.

While the panelists for July and August have not yet been set, the live ‘conversation’ on Mental Health will be held at 6 pm Thursday, July 12, while the ‘conversation’ concerning Disabilities will be held at 6 pm Thursday, August 9.  It is expected that the format for these events will be the same as for the June forum on Poverty.

The free community schedule for July and August has also been selected, with the  topic of Mental Health  prominent in AWAY FROM HER on Monday, July 2, GIRL, INTERRUPTED on Monday, July 9, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL on Monday, July 16, ORDINARY PEOPLE on Monday, July 23, and AS GOOD AS IT GETS on Monday, July 30.

In August, the free screenings focusing on Disabilities will include TEMPLE GRANDIN on Monday, August 6, THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY on Monday, August 13, DOOR TO DOOR on Monday, August 20, and CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD on Monday, August 27.

As a special added feature for August, Catamount will also be hosting the state wide touring art exhibit ENGAGE, which features  a wide variety of works by Vermonter’s with disabilities.  This exhibit, which just finished an extended showing at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, will be seen at Catamount from July 1 through August 31. It will be sponsored by VSA Vermont – The State Organization on Arts and Disabilities.

In the coming months, Catamount will continue this series of “Courageous Conversations” with focus on such topics as Education, Economic Conditions, Diversity, Food Systems, the Environment, Women’s Rights, the Corrections System, Politics, Health Care and others.  The specific topics for the fall will be announced soon.

Residents who wish to join the conversations on-line may do so by visiting at any time.

“We hope that these conversations will be the beginning of an on-going and positive dialogue among all of the residents in our community,” Fried said in conclusion.

For more information on this series of “Courageous Conversations,” and for details on specific events, please visit

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