M.I.L.E.S.Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space
The Downtown Brattleboro Alliance and Brattleboro Literary Festival recently won a National Main Street/ Edward Jones grant from the ‘Placemaking on Main Crowdfunding Challenge” grant to fund an innovative, mobile ‘mini museum’ that will host pop-up street-level exhibits on the unique literary history of Brattleboro. The grant matched up to $2,500 raised via crowdfunding on the “ioby” (In Our BackYard) platform which helps communities raise funds to create safer, greener, more livable and fun local spaces. We will continue to raise funds to complete the project.
The winning project, a Mobile, Interactive Literary Exhibition Space – dubbed MILES — was featured onsite at the Tiny House Fest Vermont on September 3, 2017.
The first exhibit will feature the remarkable life of Lucy Terry Prince, a freed slave, who lived in Guilford, Vermont in the late 1700’s. She is considered to be the first African American poet with her poem ‘Bars Fight’, written as a poem of witness when she was just 22 years old. Lucy Terry Prince and her husband, Abijah Prince, both freed slaves, owned land and raised a family in Guilford, Vermont, just south of Brattleboro. Their home served as a community gathering place for storytelling. Lucy was a gifted storyteller, and indefatigable fighter for her family’s rights. A persuasive orator, Prince also successfully negotiated a land case before the Vermont courts in the 1790s. She is believed to be the first woman to argue before the high court. Lucy’s home served as an important storytelling hub and gathering place, an atmosphere organizers aim to recreate within the unit as MILES will also encourage visitors to share stories about how one person’s voice — like Lucy’s — can make a difference.
“Lucy Speaks: Remembering early Brattleboro-area resident, Lucy Terry Prince, the first known African American poet, former slave, and eloquent advocate for equal treatment under the law,” debuts at the 16th-annual Brattleboro Literary Festival on Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15 in MILES, a ‘Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space’ or traveling museum created by and for the Words Project. MILES will roll out the exhibit in front of Key Bank on Main Street from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
“Lucy Speaks” invites visitors to walk or wheel inside the fully ADA accessible space and experience Lucy’s stirring words and her times. Lucy argued successfully before the top judicial body of …early Vermont to keep her land when harassed and challenged by white neighbors. According to Literary Festival director Sandy Rouse, “Visitors to ‘Lucy Speaks’ will be encouraged to share their own stories and learn how one person’s voice – like Lucy’s – can make a difference.”
Brattleboro-based storyteller and writer Shanta Lee will perform the Lucy Terry’s only extant poem “Bars Fight” on the hour on Saturday, October 14th, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday October, 15th at 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. engaging audiences in a dialogue on Lucy. (Students from Marlboro College will also present a performance based on Lucy’s life and times) Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, scholar and author of Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and into Legend, inspired much of the exhibit and she will be a featured speaker at the festival from 9:30 am-10:45 am on Saturday, October 14th, at the Centre Congregational Church. She will be reading with Wendy Warren, author of New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
MILES will be fully ADA accessible, can be parked on the street or in a lot, and, designed to create an immersive, multimedia experience for up to five participants at a time. It will be situated downtown during the Brattleboro Literary Festival (check the festival venue map for location).
MILES is an initial element of the “Peoples, Places, and the History of the Word in Brattleboro, Vermont” which will illuminate and share the greater Brattleboro area’s rich history of words — stories, literature, publishing, printing — to attract visitors while developing a greater pride of place for those who live, work and raise families here. In addition to MILES, Project final products will include creative audio tours and a book on the rich and little-known printing and publishing history of the area.
For more information about MILES contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. See our Facebook page at thttps://www.facebook.com/Brattleboro-Places-and-Words-1449727911993506/.)
Link to video about the MILES project
We have an amazing group of talented people who are excited to work — mostly volunteering their time — to make MILES happen AND a lot of support that shows MILES is a stand-out project nationally:
We WON a highly competititve national competition, so we have an initial $2,500 matching grant from the National Main Street Center and Edward Jones SO your contributions up to $2,500 are automatically doubled!- We have design plans in place thanks to Erin Maile O’Keefe, creative place maker and co-founder of Brattleboro’s fabulous Tiny House Fest
– We have most of the building materials donated by Foard Panel
– We have a committed leadership team comprised of the Brattleboro Lit Fest’s Director Sandy Rouse, Researcher and former Brooks Memorial Library Director Jerry Carbone, Jen Austin of Brattleboro Downtown Alliance and Lissa Weinmann, Co-owner of 118 Elliot (where MILES will be parked when not in use), who have secured multiple in-kind donations and have co-created MILES as an integral feature of a brand new, multi-year and multi-organizational humanities program called “Peoples, Places and History of the Word in Brattleboro,Vermont”
-We have begun purchasing the trailer which will serve as MILES foundation thanks to a loan from a local business to get MILES rolling…
As soon as the funds we hope you will contribute to are raised and in-hand, we will be able to:
Oct 12-15: Ribbon-cutting for MILES with local officials, artists and community members as part of Brattleboro Literary Festival! and continuous visitors to MILES all weekend long.
Oct. 16 to 30: MILES visits local schools for students to see and hear the story of how the community came together to celebrate its unique cultural history and how they can be part of that moving forward with MILES
Why we are doing this
MILES is working magic bringing different diverse groups of people in our community — historians, school kids and local families, college students, business leaders, professors, authors, artists, Rotarians, builders — together in Brattleboro around Lucy Terry, an inspirational but largely unknown figure who few locals have ever heard about. In coming together and sharing her story with the public in this fun, interactive way, we celebrate the power of one voice. We also instill a sense of pride of place in local youth — that our town is special and they are part of it; that the unique history of Brattleboro is not just for tourists but that it is part of their birthright as natives. MILES also helps bring more local people into the annual Brattleboro Literary Festival, which has become a regional tourist attraction. By encouraging people to enter Lucy’s world of storytelling and sharing their experience on how ‘one voice matters’ — stories to be further shared with the larger community — we empower both local residents and visitors to make them see how Lucy’s story is so relevant today.
Help Fund a Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space (MILES) To celebrate the life of African-American Poet and Storyteller Lucy Terry
School groups will study Lucy Terry Prince and are helping to create audio podcasts, in conjunction with Brattleboro Historical Society, as part of their ongoing curriculum in historical podcasting. Elements of these podcasts will be incorporated into MILES.
Visuals will range from work by local artists, maps depicting exact locations where history was made to looping films, and written text.
Led by the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance and the Brattleboro Literary Festival, MILES is but one element of collaborative “Peoples, Places and History of the Word in Brattleboro Vermont” led by the Brattleboro Literary Festival, the Brattleboro Historical Society, Marlboro College, Write Action, Brooks Memorial Library, 118 Elliot, WSESU and other area institutions working to combine efforts to illuminate and share the greater Brattleboro area’s rich history of words — stories, literature, publishing, printing – to attract visitors while developing a greater pride of place for those who live, work and raise families here.
Lucy Terry Prince’s story is an important one, and the first one MILES will highlight. It is also only one small piece of the literary heritage of the Brattleboro area: a town built, in many ways, on printing and publishing; drawing writers and artists to gather here, to live here, to create here. And yet, with all of this, the literary legacies of Brattleboro are often hidden. MILES will help provide a sense of place and pride, and relevance, to these stories.