Request For Qualifications – Cultural Plan

Specialist Consultant Services for Arts and Culture Visioning and Planning
Bennington and Manchester, Vermont
January 26, 2018
RFQ Due on February 23, 2018

Bennington County will develop a cultural plan for adoption into Town Plans in order to strengthen, leverage, and coordinate artistic and cultural resources to address community needs and opportunities.

Context and Background
The step to formulate a county-wide cultural plan takes place in concert with the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) process underway in Southern Vermont. CEDS underscores the importance of regional collaboration and coordination in addressing the economic and cultural challenges posed by the region’s declining workforce and population. Drawing on state- and national-level studies, such as the Economic Footprint of the Arts in Vermont (2010) and Creative Placemaking (2010), which highlight the value of the creative economy to community revitalization, both the Bennington Strategic Economic Development Plan (2015) and the Northshire Economic Development Strategy (2016) underscore the importance of mapping, better coordinating, and strengthening art and cultural assets in Bennington County. The County boasts top tier art and cultural institutions, as well as individual artists, craftspeople, and performers. Bennington was named #3 on the National Center for Arts Research Arts Vibrancy Index; Manchester boasts award-winning, international performers every year at the Manchester Music Festival; and the Dorset Theatre Festival premieres Tony Award-winning and new plays that go on to national acclaim every summer. Furthermore, over the past several years, many arts organizations have come together in collaborative models such as the Hills Alive Festival of the Arts to maximize impact regionally in the southern part of the state.

However, a lack of capacity to establish collaborative structures in the arts also presents an immediate obstacle for the regional economy, and prevents the arts as a collective force in the region to build momentum which can impact the economy in positive ways. Both institutions and individuals, as well as official planning documents in the county all recognize that increased coordination and collaboration will allow those in the creative economy to better leverage the available resources and ease the burden, as well as to attract necessary additional resources. The County-Wide Cultural Plan will thus: 1) synthesize the studies that have been done and the many collective conversations that have been occurring within the arts and civic/business sectors in the region; 2) facilitate new collective conversations where necessary; 3) develop a strategic plan that will allow for the implementation of impactful measures where they are concerned.

A total of $35,000 is available for consultant services from the Municipal Planning Grant Program administered by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, in addition to $10,000 worth of Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC) Staff time.

Work Plan

  1. Assemble a Steering Committee to guide the work of the Bennington County Cultural Plan. The Steering Committee will comprise individuals involved in arts and culture, local officials, and other community leaders from both the northern and southern parts of the county to generate a broader understanding of the issues and opportunities across the region.
  2. Review, analyze, and synthesize information hitherto developed by arts and culture professionals in the county, as well as other existing planning documents (such as, but not limited to, Bennington Strategic Economic Development Plan and NEDS) to develop a comprehensive list of the current assets in the region, including current cultural planning and collaborative groups or resources working independently to promote the arts in the region, as well structures, individuals, or practices that can allow for greater collaboration, modeling national successful trends in creative placemaking.
  3. Facilitate up to three public meetings that foster creative and constructive dialogue with the community about current practices in and future vision for the arts and culture. Special attention should be paid towards securing the participation and buy-in of artsrelated entities in the region.
  4. Identify local artists to collaborate in the creation of a multimedia/audio-visual map of Bennington County’s artistic and cultural assets.
  5. Research and summarize pertinent cultural planning documents from other communities. Best effort will be made to source plans from communities of similar size and demographics, or asset base similar to Bennington County.
  6. Work with the Steering Committee to identify a vision for Bennington County’s cultural future, and to establish goals and measures likely to bring this future to bear.
  7. Utilizing the vision and goals listed above, the consultant and Steering Committee will develop a series of strategies (including identifying funding sources) for each goal area, and identify existing or new groups, organizations, or individuals that can be charged with and funded for the implementation of these strategies.
  8. Consolidate Tasks 2-7 of the Work Plan into a Cultural Plan for Bennington County and share the plan with the community at a final public meeting.

Ideally, work will begin in April 2018 and be completed within a year. All reporting materials and deliverables must be completed by May 2019.


  1. Utilizing the vision and goals developed through Task 6, the consultant and Steering Committee will develop a series of strategies for each goal area (see Task 7).
  2. A Cultural Plan for Bennington County (see Task 8).
  3. Presentation of Cultural Plan at a final public meeting, as described in Task 8.

All responses to the RFQ shall include the following information:

1.Cover Letter
– A letter of interest for the project.
2.Statement of Qualifications and Staffing
– Provide a qualifications profile of the lead consultant and sub-consultants, including indication of the lead consultant, the proposed role of each consultant on the team. Also provide detailed information on each consultant, including the name of the firm, year established, and contact information.
3.Summaries of relevant projects– Describe relevant experience on similar projects for each firm and list the work experience of the individuals expected to be involved in the project. Include a minimum of three (3) professional references for whom a similar project has been completed within the last ten (10) years.
4.Page Limit – The proposal, encompassing items 1-3 above, shall not exceed 15 double-sided pages (30 total pages) including cover letter, project lists, and contacts.
All information submitted becomes property of the Towns of Bennington and Manchester upon submission.
The Towns of Bennington and Manchester reserve the right to issue supplemental information or guidelines relating to the RFQ as well as make modifications to the RFQ or withdraw the RFQ.

Submission Requirements
Respondents should submit one (1) digital copy (PDF) and 5 printed copies of the proposal by Friday, February 23 to:

Zirwat Chowdhury
Director of Community Development, Town of Bennington
205 South Street
Bennington, VT 05201 802.445.1330.

Please expect a confirmation email upon receipt of the qualifications by the Towns of Bennington and Manchester. If you have any questions about this project or the RFQ, please address them in writing either via U.S. mail or email to  Zirwat Chowdhury. We will respond to all questions in writing within 3 business days. Both the question and response will be shared with the other consultants.

Selection Process
Qualifications will be reviewed by a selection committee comprising:
Pauline Moore, Economic Development Office, Town of Manchester
Dina Janis, Artistic Director, Dorset Theater Festival
Matthew Perry, Executive Director, Vermont Arts Exchange
Zirwat Chowdhury, Director of Community Development, Town of Bennington

A short-list of consultants will be selected to submit detailed proposals for the project, including project approach, scope of services, schedule, and budget, and additional details on staffing, hourly costs, and overhead. Proposals will be presented by the consultants at interviews.

RFQ Schedule Summary:
Qualifications due by Friday, February 23.
Consultants selected for short-list on Friday, March 2.
Proposals due on Monday, March 19.
Consultant selection by Friday, March 30.
Project work to begin on Monday, April 16.
Complete project by May 31, 2019.

Evaluation of Qualifications
Respondents will be evaluated according to the following factors:
1.Consultant Qualifications (experience with similar projects, ability to work with municipalities and arts organizations to attain desired outcomes, and knowledge of the topic)
a. Experience with arts and cultural planning. – 35%
b. Proven ability to facilitate community forums and dialogue creatively and innovatively. – 20%
c. Knowledge and understanding of creative placemaking. – 15%
d. Availability to begin work on project start date. – 20%
2. Quality, completeness, and clarity of submission – 10%

Interview Framework

The Towns of Manchester and Bennington reserve the right to select the top two to three highly scored consultants and invite them for an interview. Interviews may be conducted by video conference, if necessary. In this process, the selection committee may ask the respondents to give an oral presentation of their respective proposals. The purpose of this oral presentation is to provide an in-depth analysis of qualifications, experience in performing similar services, and an opportunity for the consultant to clarify or elaborate on their qualifications without restating the proposal.

The interview and presentation is merely to present facts and explanation to the review committee and allow the selection committee to ask targeted questions of the consultant team. The interview and presentation, if deemed necessary by the review committee, will be held at the Town Office in Manchester, Vermont. The day and time will be notified to the respondents at least 10 days prior to the meeting. All costs and expenses incurred in traveling for the purpose of interview and presentation shall be the responsibility of the consultant.

Final Consultant Selection

Following the selection process, one team will be selected to negotiate a final contract for services. The final scope of work with specified deliverables may be modified through negotiation of the final contract. The final project team may also be modified through negotiation of the final contract. Any expenses resulting from the interview and proposal process will be the sole responsibility of the consultant.

Contract Requirements

The consultant contract will be subject to the terms of Attachment D of the Municipal Planning Grant Agreement (Procurement Procedures and Other Grant Requirements). A sample contract meeting
these requirements is available at: