In Praise of the Commuity Bulletin Board
If the eyes are the window to the soul, the humble community bulletin board is the window into the soul of a place.
Most people have probably never given a second thought about bulletin boards. In the years I’ve been running arts non-profits, I’ve come to understand them as an indicator of the social and creative vitality of a region. If the eyes are the window to the soul, the humble community bulletin board is the window into the soul of a place.
Perennially chock-full of event flyers and announcements, these boards serve as a village forum. But, unlike online forums, they can only be accessed as a pedestrian out in the world. No one is obliged to look at a board. A bulletin board is simply there, and present for people to pause and graze over the offerings. For a fleeting moment on the way to the next thing one might scan for something to connect with and muse, “Is it time to enroll in that yoga or pottery class, go to that festival, learn about herbal remedies, or buy a ticket to benefit a cause?”
People who post their flyers pin thier hopes and aspirations in an act not unlike a prayer. Who knows if it will be seen or responded to? These ever-morphing fountains of ideas and initiatives - hyper local, low-budget, and personal - are spontaneous points of connection upon which lives pivot and a community knits itself together.
Like a garden, with each day passing, a board cycles through seasons of events. Some stand neglected, overgrown and weedy, with layers of out of date flyers receding like compost beneath newer, more current layers. Other boards are meticulously curated, straight edged, colorful and exciting, each flyer beckons to the passer-by as its expiration date approaches. Invariably, each event - ephemeral as it is - blooms then fades until some shopkeeper deadheads it to the recycle bin.
Some really good, dynamic, community bulletin boards can be found in this part of central Vermont. My rounds promoting concerts used to be a chore before something clicked and I slowed down enough to get into the rhythm of it. Every route has become a mini-tour of the landscape where I keep tabs with how things look: the streets of Montpelier, St. Johnsbury or Hardwick, the dirt road labyrinth of Calais, the northern beauty of Craftsbury and Greensboro. With every flyer posted I began tending the boards - tidying them up, removing outdated ones, moving them around just so to accommodate the new ones. Wishing success to each event I come across. I began seeing the calendar in my mind’s eye, and realized, wow… there is so much more going on here than any sane person could ever do.
Author’s Website: https://www.robinsongs.com
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