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Vermont Public announces 2023 Made Here Fund recipients

A collage of the Made Here Fund recipients
Photos: Courtesy; Illustration: Laura Nakasaka
Local content creators will receive a total of $100,000 from Vermont Public’s Made Here Fund.

Vermont Public has announced the first recipients of its Made Here Fund, an initiative to broaden and diversify storytelling in Vermont.

Ten projects by content creators representing six Vermont counties will receive a total of $100,000 to produce pieces including short documentary and animated films, digital shorts and audio series.

The fund was launched in 2022 to broaden and diversify Vermont storytelling. Makers from across the state were invited to apply for special funding, provided by supporters including current and former members of Vermont Public’s board of directors.

“The Made Here Fund helps us reach a broader and more diverse audience by supporting talented storytellers throughout our region,” said Scott Finn, Vermont Public president & CEO.

Projects were reviewed by a panel of Vermont Public employees and community members and prioritized applications from creators of color, rural and youth residents to advance equity in public media.

"I'm incredibly excited about the projects that received funding this year,” said Eric Ford, director of content partnership at Vermont Public. “They represent a broad spectrum of voices in Vermont – voices that you might not typically hear – and Vermonters will be able to connect with these stories in many ways.”

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This year’s recipients include:

Bira Vanara, Middlebury
Project: Biraland, short/digital video series
Funding: $15,000
An educational musical comedy series that explores the relationship of humans to nature through the lens of natural history, sustainable agriculture, and traditional craft.

Vermont Folklife, Middlebury
Project: The Arts That Shape Us, audio/podcast series
Funding: $8,000
A collaboration with a Tibetan musician, two Abenaki fiber artists, and a group of Afghan artists in southern Vermont to produce a 3-part audio series about traditional cultural practices.

Willow O'Feral and Brad Heck, Guilford
Project: Untitled Asylum Seekers Project, a short documentary film
Funding: $10,000
A short 20-minute documentary exploring asylum seekers' experiences and the Community Asylum Seekers Project (CASP) based in Brattleboro, Vermont

Rocket, White River Junction
Project: Small VT Businesses in Small VT Towns, a short/digital video series
Funding: $15,000
Engaging, upbeat videos featuring small businesses that anchor rural Vermont communities, bringing
Vermonters together around our common interests of food, community, history, and culture.

Onel Salazar Umanzor, Cabot
Project: 7 Years in Vermont, a short video
Funding: $10,000
Reflections on how the changing seasons impact people who live in Vermont from the perspective of an immigrant.

Cedar O’Dowd, White River Junction
Project: I Have Something To Get Off My Chest, a short, animated film
Funding: $2,745
A short film about trans magic and recovering from gender affirming surgery that blends live action scenes and experimental cyanotype animations.

MacPherson Christopher, Guilford, Paul Rosenfeld, Burlington and Tik Root, Burlington
Project: La Liga, a short documentary film
Funding: $15,000
In rural Vermont, migrant dairy farm workers endure harsh working conditions and the threat of ICE while forging community, solidarity, and resistance through soccer leagues.

Jennifer Sutton and Elissa Pine, Brattleboro
Project: The Afghan Women of Brattleboro, an audio series
Funding: $12,000
Following Afghan women as they settle in Vermont and stake a claim in their new hometown —deepening Vermonters’ understanding of their new neighbors.

Malcolm Silver-Van Meter & Yueyao Wang, Thetford
Project: The Balloonist, a short documentary film
Funding: $8,000
The Balloonist introduces viewers to the life and legacy of Brian Boland, folk artist and hot air balloonist
from Thetford, Vermont.

Travis Van Alstyne, South Burlington
Project: Love of the Land, a short, animated film
Funding: $4,100
A film based on the true and tragic story of Vermont farmer Romaine Tenney, narrated by George Woodard.

“I’d like to express my sincerest thanks to Vermont Public and all the founding donors of the Made Here Fund. Being honored as one of the recipients of this novel fund has buoyed both my confidence and capacity to make Biraland,” said recipient Bira Vanara. “I am already increasing my production value across all aspects of the show, from audio and video equipment to wardrobe costs, to research materials to daily production expenses, the support and resilience this fund provides is nothing short of profound. Thank you all so much for this amazing honor and opportunity, and I look forward to sharing my work in collaboration with this organization I’ve so long been a fan of."

“Thank you so much for your support of Vermont artists,” said recipient Cedar O’Dowd. “Receiving this grant means that I can finish my short film about top surgery recovery and magic, I Have Something To Get Off My Chest, the way I want to. As an independent filmmaker, my budget sometimes falls heartbreakingly short of my creative vision. I am excited to be able to compensate post-production collaborators fairly and to be able to acquire the supplies I need to create beautiful stop motion animations.”

Projects will be completed between April 2023 and early 2025. Vermont Public will work with the recipients to distribute and promote the projects after they are completed. Photos and more information are available at vermontpublic.org/madeherefund.

Michelle leads the team that oversees station branding and marketing, communications, audience services, events and audience engagement initiatives. She joined Vermont Public in 2002 as an administrative associate and has worn many hats in the areas of audience services, membership, marketing and communications.
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