Arts director scores state award

Photo by Madeline Hughes
Allison Coyne Carroll of Hinesburg won the Vermont Arts Council Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy.


Allison Coyne Carroll’s work comes with many rewards.

Sometimes the reward is seeing students and faculty from China overjoyed as they hear live music from their homeland played in Vermont, on the other side of the world.

Another time, it might be when a Lithuanian student gets to speak in her native language, thousands of miles from home, with a Lithuanian musician after a performance.

These rewards are the result of Coyne Carroll’s hours of logistics to secure artists in her role as Middlebury College’s Performing Arts Series director.

“For students studying a culture, or students from a different culture, the performances we bring in compliment their learning experience,” the Hinesburg resident said.

Coyne Carroll spends her days listening to music, booking performers, working out travel logistics with artists’ agents, and pairing visiting performers with classes and community groups for educational workshops at Middlebury College.

Last week, Coyne Carroll got word of yet another reward in the form of an annual statewide arts award. The Vermont Arts Council and Gov. Phil Scott announced the recipients of the 2018 Governor’s Arts Awards which will be given out at a Statehouse ceremony in November.

The annual awards recognize individual and organizational contributions to the arts, singling out educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers and scholars.

Coyne Carroll, who has managed Middlebury College’s performing arts program for 19 of her 21 years at the college, will receive the Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy from the Vermont Arts Council for her work.

The honor was a surprise that now draws attention Coyne Carrol’s work. “It’s giving me a chance to advocate more,” she said.

Part of Coyne Carroll’s job is to guide visiting artists through the cumbersome visa process, a thorny but worthwhile exercise, she said.

“When artists visit they share their cultural experiences and have a cultural exchange, which is so important in this time where there is so much miscommunication,” she said, referring to current U.S. foreign policies that are not consistently welcoming to individuals from other nations.

Along the way, Carroll Coyne has become a national advocate for improving the process.

Unlike a typical tourist, a Montreal artist bound for a performance engagement at Middlebury College can’t merely drive across the border, she explained.

The visa process is expensive and lengthy for artists and the college. Artists need a special visa that they can only apply for six months before a performance. That process often comes down to the wire because of backups at American consulates around the world.

Sometimes, that even means an artist can’t make the show.

Coyne Carroll has attended the Arts Advocacy Days in Washington D.C. four times, where she has been able to meet with legislators and advocate for these visa issues.

“There was a distinct shift after 9/11. The process was much more cumbersome and much more monitored,” she said. Even the taxation of foreign artists has gotten more complicated, she said.

She made the trip once during the Bush administration, and again during the Obama administration. She attended again last year, she said, “because the artist visa climate was deteriorating so fast.”

Thankfully, Vermont’s Congressional delegation is supportive of the arts and Carroll Coyne said it’s like preaching to the choir when asking for funding. That allows her to advocate on behalf of other issues.

Bringing performing artists to the college is vital to the college’s liberal arts curriculum, she said. “There are so many ways arts can reach into the greater curriculum.” For example, a string quartet helps students visualize sound waves, and a composer can help literature students realize poetry cycles are similar to song cycles.

“There is a newer generation of artists and arts faculty that share the understanding of the artists as citizens. The artists are very open to education and outreach,” Coyne Carroll said. Earlier in her tenure, “artists would come preform then leave,” she said. “Now an audience and the artist wants to build a strong connection with one another.”

Middlebury College is currently in its 99th season of its performing arts series. The college also received the Community Achievement award last week from the Addison County Chamber of Commerce for its 25th anniversary series celebrating the Mahaney Center for the Arts.

“There is such a tremendous amount of art-making around New England and Vermont,” Carroll Coyne said, added that she is thankful she can be part of bringing the arts to Middlebury.

Art education also brought her to Hinesburg. Her 13-year old son Aiden enjoys the arts curriculum at Hinesburg Community School, where he learned how to play piano, currently plays the French horn, and also auditioned for the school play.

“For a small state, we are very, very lucky,” Coyne Carroll said.

Other Award Recipients

The other recipients of the Governor’s Arts Awards to be honored on Nov. 14 are:

• Stone sculptors Chris Miller of Calais, and Jerry Williams of Johnson, for the top honor, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

• Cartoonist Alison Bechdel of Bolton, for the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

• Photographer and professor John Willis of Dummerston, for the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education.

• Poet and teacher Judith Chalmer of Burlington, for the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

“In different ways, these awardees have dedicated their careers to reaching out to people whose voices are not always heard. They have given us the gift of their own unique visions and at the same time, enabled others to discover and express their creative spirit,” said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman.

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