Shanta Lee Gander has been in our community for about 10 years. You may have seen her photography, on Facebook or at an exhibit. Maybe you’ve heard her on Vermont Public Radio. She says that she had intended to join the Brattleboro Food Co-op earlier, and finally did so in December of 2019, simultaneously with joining the Board of Directors in January, 2020.
This is what she has to tell us about herself:
1. When and why did you come to this community?
Long story. I like to make the joke that I was tricked. Honestly, the bigger question is why have I stayed given that I do not feel like my community is hyper-local. And by that, I mean that I continue to do work and think about ways that Vermont, specifically the southern region, can leverage its position in collaborating with/attracting individuals from other states and across the state. I am also more connected to the overall landscape of the state itself and some areas do catch my attention more than others.
- What do you do for a living?
Would it be wrong to just say I create, everything I do is always a mouthful! I suppose it all goes back to storytelling through my photography and across my genres of writing. I engage in journalism – interviews with artists for Vermont Public Radio and Art New England – in a way that feeds my curiosity. And for certain kinds of stories, I become a conduit for revealing what is beneath the surface.
- How do you spend your time?
Right now, I am adding to the Dark Goddess exhibition, filling in the gaps that will also include exploring some archival items. When I am not doing that, I love to break into abandoned places (yes, yes, I know. Totally illegal!) and exploring myths, legends and fairy tales. I am highly passionate about trying to see the connections between things that on the surface do not look like they are connected.
- What interested you about joining the Co-op Board? Was the experience what you expected and hoped it to be?
I was interested in joining the Brattleboro Food Co-Op board because I was already familiar with the ways that they have seen themselves as collaborators within the region. When I was managing and coordinating the Slow Living Summit, the Brattleboro Food Co-Op joined panels that included national and international speakers. Any time there was anything else being arranged within the community in terms of events or forums, the Co-Op always had an open door in the way they participated.
Because of that, I felt like it was perfect as an opportunity to add more to how they engage with the community, including those who do not yet have a personal connection with the Co-Op.
- You’re leaving the Co-op Board before the end of your term. Why?
There have been some unexpected (in a good way) things in relation to getting my art out into the world requiring me to make a choice. I also started teaching a course at The Putney School (YAY!) on Media Studies. For some backstory on the other creative stuff, I found out in July, just before finishing with my MFA, that my second book of poetry is getting published. Also, my exhibition, Dark Goddess, is taking on a life and going to another spot in Vermont. I can’t say where yet, but I will keep everyone posted!
- What did you learn from your time as a member of the Co-op Board, that would be good for others to know?
As a board, we are not afraid to tango with challenging issues and open to attempting to explore our blindspots. Also, the board is full of individuals who are deeply passionate about the goals of the Brattleboro Food Co-Op.
- Knowing what you know now, would you run for the Co-op Board again in the future?
If time opens up, absolutely. I really enjoyed chairing the Community Engagement Committee given the work that we are undertaking to get a better understanding of all within our community across the range of diversities.
- Do you have any parting reflections for us?
Continue in the spirit of the inquiry internally and within the work being done to engage shareholders, and all within our community. Also, continue to listen and find ways to be flexible especially during moments when it would be easiest to be inflexible or maintain the usual way of doing things. If this moment has reminded us of anything, it is that our outlook on what is normal or expected never was