WHAT WE DO
The Civic Standard is a new name for a project that has been developing for many years. It is a mobile cultural center that exists in various forms and places: as accessible live performance at the local opera house; a harvest celebration at the Grange; a community built carnival midway for the town fair; free soup nights run by high school volunteers; open call band practice; and much more.
Our programming is collaborative: we connect unlikely partners in order to build events that are both common and extraordinary. This is an ongoing project of participation, mutual helpfulness, construction that is never finished. Culture is made together, not packaged and delivered. If you would like to join us, you can. It's that simple.
Erica Heilman, on our origin story:
A couple years ago I made a story about Rose Friedman’s weekly free soup event in front of the East Hardwick Grange Hall. Rose is a theater maker who has produced professional work in unlikely venues around Vermont for many years as Modern Times Theater. She’s a nice person to make soup for the community, and it was good soup, but mostly she did it because she wanted to see who would show up and what they would talk about in the parking lot. This is my favorite kind of cultural event. In fact Rose’s events remind me of what I try to do with my podcast. I want to offer people intimate conversation with individuals deeply unlike themselves, until they see that we are all more alike than not.
That free soup night was also the beginning of my Rumble Strip story, Finn and the Bell. Tara Reese, Finn’s mother, was volunteering that night, and as I was leaving, she approached me in the parking lot and introduced herself. She told me that her son, Finn Rooney, had killed himself the year before. She couldn’t stop thinking about the way the Hardwick community had responded to his death, and to her it seemed important. She didn’t know exactly why, and it would take us a full year of production to figure it out.
The Civic Standard is a natural outcome of Rose’s years of cultural experiments and Tara’s incredibly insightful inquiry into the nature of her son’s death, and what she learned about the community where she lives. It’s the outcome of my own work in the making of Rumble Strip, and what we all learned from Finn Rooney. Finn was a kid who cared deeply about his town. He wanted to go to a bonfire where everyone was welcome and everyone came. I think that’s what we all want.
By the third week of Free Soup, people started showing up with their own things to give away– eggs and milk and seeds. Someone brought rubber barn mats, which was strange, and perfect. It turns out that people here, and everywhere, want to gather with their neighbors, both the ones they know and the ones they don’t yet know. The events we produce will give a wide variety of people in this area a reason to come together where they might otherwise ignore or even avoid each other. For us, this is not just ‘for fun’ (although it is)--it is also for the survival of a cultural and civic life in this unique and beautiful place. And we intend for it to be a blueprint for more Civic Standards of its kind. In your town.