ABOUT THE CHERRY COAL

Somewhere along the way I came to live and breathe the understanding that our humanity is best felt and shared through art, and that ‘art’ was a koan and ineffable token for all the beauty and compassion we could know or reveal.

My professional life has been dedicated to creating opportunities for young adults to experience the discovery of themselves by pursuing their creative passions and absorbing those of the friends and artists around them. I sound a starting gun to dare them to follow glimmering threads of curiosity; for learning to accept and value diversity in the world around them and decide confidently about personal tastes and values; and to also decide, ultimately that their voice has a resonance and purpose that no one other than themselves could have shown them. The oxygen feeding this reaction has been art, and more specifically, music.

Our modern life is complex and raw. My politics buckle socialism to libertarianism and I champion progress toward intelligent, compassionate, cooperative civilization-building. “Down with the nanny-state, up with humanity meeting its potential as a species.” I realize nothing is simple and opinions vary.

You’re the maraschino cherry coal (the match of Jerico)?
That will burn this whole madhouse down
And will not throw open like a walnut safe
More like a love that’s a bottle of exquisite stuff, yes

— Cocteau Twins, “Iceblink Luck

With all that as a background, in the course of being optimistic and making a best effort at positive change, I’ve learned that through inattention, lack of oversight, willful self-preservation, greed, and lack of ethical housekeeping, some dangerously sharp corners of Vermont arts policy are poking through the fabric of complacency. When it comes to the arts, our integrity is fading in the sun, and the readily fulfilling life I hope for, for all Vermonters, is further from their reach than it needs to be.

This blog is personal and a happy place. Consider it to be the beat-down gray basket on my front porch where things — all kinds of things — are left for or left off by neighbors; the neighbor being you. Welcome to an exploration of what’s right and what might be wrong with arts in Vermont, and have a hike with me in the direction of the (often difficult) conversations that are the threats and milestones on the adventure in the wilderness of our state’s relation to the arts.

Glad you’re here, no matter who or why. — James Lockridge

James Lockridge

Photo by Jeff Howlett, Howlermano Photography.

MY BACKGROUND

The City of Burlington is a complex civic environment, full of economic aspiration yet still facing unmet opportunities to better serve those who are vulnerable or marginalized. I have professionally built bridges between the grass roots and the highest levels of government and industry. I’ve been responsible for organizations that value everyone, of all ages and ability, and create equity among those with different backgrounds. I value solid communication and am a social entrepreneur and principled problem solver. I cross the thresholds of industries, government and community stakeholders with ease. I see over the horizon and address needs before they become a crisis.

By Matt Thorsen

AN ADMINISTRATOR, COLLABORATOR, AND LEADER

At Big Heavy World I provide executive direction to a nonprofit organization with a mission of preserving and promoting the music of Vermont. Established in 1996, it is Vermont’s independent, volunteer-run music development office. I’ve created partnerships among youth services, cultural heritage tourism interests, businesses, municipal and state government, and Vermont musicians. I continuously innovate opportunities for exposure of Vermont arts via emerging technologies and create a compelling environment for young Vermonters to gain technical, professional, and social skills. My work creates empowering resources for VT musicians including an FCC-licensed community radio station; a public listening library; an online music industry information clearinghouse; a record label; concert and educational events; and live concert broadcasts to radio, television and web. Big Heavy World is an award-winning organization that has been recognized by Vermont’s federal congressional delegation, the state legislature and municipal administrations for its cultural preservation efforts and youth program leadership.

I also direct the Youth Safety Council of Vermont, a nonprofit with a mission of coordinating, presenting and promoting youth safety demonstrations throughout Vermont. My work sustains statewide safety programs that serve thousands of youth. I administrate collaborative projects that empower others, including high schools, to create a culture of safety throughout Vermont’s student driver community. The Youth Safety Council is a member of the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance, a non-profit organization that brings together highway safety stakeholders from all over Vermont to produce the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan. In 2017 the Governor’s Highway Safety Program presented me with its ‘Lifesaver of the Year’ award for “outstanding ability to motivate others and build, nurture and support programs and partnerships within the highway safety community.”

Lifesaver Award Ceremony

As a Brigade Captain of Code for BTV, Vermont’s official Code for America Brigade, I’m part of a team of volunteers who develop, deploy, and maintain modern civic software and infrastructure for the benefit of the greater Burlington, Vermont area. The brigade facilitates sustainable collaborations between volunteer coders, designers, and organizations and works to support open data initiatives that help create healthy, prosperous, and safe communities.

I co-founded and oversee the day-to-day operations of 105.9FM WOMM-LP ‘The Radiator,’ a community radio station. The station has been a force for uniting Burlington’s creative people, bringing diverse voices and interests together into broadcast programming that celebrates the voice of a vibrant and eclectic community.

Speaking to City Council

A VOLUNTEER, ADVOCATE, AND ENGAGED CITIZEN

  • Member of the Vermont Creative Network Chittenden County Creative Zone Leadership Team: The Vermont Creative Network was established by the General Assembly in 2016 as an initiative of the Vermont Arts Council. Based on collective impact models, with Results Based Accountability as a planning and evaluation tool and with input from hundreds of Vermonters, the VCN is developing a strategic plan to ensure that Vermont’s creative sector advances quality of life and economic outcomes throughout the state. The VCN Chittenden County Creative Zone Leadership Team is one of six that inform the VCN’s strategic overview task force.
  • Member of the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership: Lake Champlain Basin Program Heritage Area Program Advisory Committee: The Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership is a designated national heritage area located in the Lake Champlain Basin, including the linked waterways of Lake Champlain, Lake George, the Champlain Canal, and the Upper Hudson River. The Lake Champlain Basin Program manages the CVNHP with advisement from the LCBP Heritage Area Program Advisory Committee (HAPAC), made up of specialists from the heritage, recreation and tourism sectors. The national heritage area designation enables the LCBP to provide financial and professional support to communities, museums and organizations that work to interpret and promote the region’s history and culture.
  • Board Member and Secretary of the The King Street Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation: KSNRC was founded in 1978 with the charitable mission to establish and maintain housing for low-income residents of the extended King Street neighborhood of Burlington. Independently, or in partnership with the Champlain Housing Trust or Burlington Housing Authority, the corporation builds, purchases and operates affordable rental housing units to preserve the historic and aesthetic qualities of the community while expanding mixed-income inclusion.
  • Founding Advisor, Rights and Democracy: RAD is a grassroots organization in Vermont and New Hampshire dedicated to organizing everyday people to advocate for paid sick leave, improved healthcare, family and medical leave, a living wage, and green jobs.
  • Delegate, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, Railyard Enterprise Project Steering Committee: The Railyard Enterprise Project was established to develop a network of multimodal transportation infrastructure improvements between the Pine Street corridor and Battery Street in Burlington, adhering to principles of Complete Streets. Goals include support of economic development and improvements to neighborhood livability. The REP follows an enhanced scoping process to accommodate requirements of the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts/Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) initiative.

In the past I’ve participated on The Burlington Skatepark Advisory Committee, contributing to the development of the city’s world class skatepark; the Vermont Coalition of Teen Centers Best Practices Committee; the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Commission Education & Interpretation Committees; Starksboro Historical Society (President); Burlington Currency Project (Board Member); Vermont Cultural Heritage Tourism Advisory Council; a Community Development Block Grant Citizens Advisory Board; and have been a Creation Grants Review Panelist for the Vermont Arts Council.

My recent advocacy has included the successful effort to secure commitment to repair of Memorial Auditorium and its continued public ownership. I’ve been a persistent and effective voice for preservation of 242 Main, the city’s historic teen center, with presentations to every Neighborhood Planning Assembly, public speaking, and an active petition that has gathered nearly 1,700 signatures. I’ve worked to restore public bulletin boards to City Hall Park, reinstating inclusive arts infrastructure that has no barrier to participation. I’ve been a champion for transparency, fairness, and representation in city commissions and advisory boards, ensuring all citizens have an equitable opportunity to participate in decisions that affect Burlington into the future.

Charles

Closer to home, my family has a long history of adopting and fostering homeless and newborn dogs and kittens and I’ve served on the board of Greyhound Rescue Vermont. I’m a motorcycle rider with Road Pitch, a group of investor and business consultant motorcyclists that tour Vermont annually to host constructive pitch sessions for startup businesses. I participate in the annual charity fundraiser Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, supporting men’s cancer and mental health causes.

DGR Riders

For a complete overview of professional experience, awards, and volunteering, visit my LinkedIn profile.

Photos: (From top): At the 2017 Above the Radar Graffiti Festival mural in Ward 3, with thanks to Anthill Collective and photographer Luke Awtry. Portrait by Matthew Thorsen, edited; Lifesaver Award ceremony, courtesy Vermont Governor’s Highway Safety Program, edited; speaking to city council by Bob LoCicero, BobLPhoto.com, edited; Charles, photo by Taylor Cook; Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride riders, photo by Sarah Delia of Obsidian Photographic.

Close
Go top