BRATTLEBORO >> Laughter and conversations rise above the hum of an inkjet printer. Students are gathered around a 24-year-old table cutting matboard and talking about their day. Staff assist students coming out of the darkroom, helping them achieve their visions in black and white.
The In-Sight Photography Project is getting ready for their annual student exhibition. This year the photography project, along with its Exposures Cross-Culture Youth Arts Program, has served 130 students in 18 classes, five independent studies, and two partnerships, all of whom have been invited to share their work in this year's show.
This year, students are taking a larger role in the planning of the exhibition. Eliza Price, 15, Lucia Morey, 15, and Lucy Congleton, 15, all students at Brattleboro Union High School, and Audrey Maples, 16, a Compass School student, are volunteering their time after school to help plan and create the show. Not only are they helping to curate the show, they are learning how to frame and mat photographs as well as print the digital images and create flyers to advertise the event.
Eliza, Lucia, Lucy, and Audrey have all taken multiple classes at In-Sight. They were excited and jumped at the chance to volunteer when Programming Director Zachary Stephens asked them if they wanted to help. "He asked us and we were like, 'Yeah!' We got time to do it and we got involved," explains Lucia.
Over the past three weeks the volunteers have been meeting at In-Sight after school to create the exhibit. Usually with a few snacks and a lot of laughter they work together to learn new skills as well as utilize things they have previously been taught. Their enthusiasm is contagious. And their love of In-Sight, obvious.
"It feels like someone is giving you a hug while they are teaching you," Audrey says about the program while shuffling through submitted prints. "They are not judgemental when you get something wrong," she adds about the staff. "They are like, 'Ooh! Let's see how we can help you fix this!' They are so positive, I love it." Lucia, who is working with Katie Kohnfelder, In-Sight's Site Manager, on printing a digital image on a large inkjet printer, nods enthusiastically, "Exactly!" she exclaims.
Their hard work is paying off as over 100 prints are being readied to be hung at the Hooker-Dunham Gallery for the month of May. This year the show is being sponsored by the Vermont Country Store, Windham and Windsor Housing Trust, and the Hooker-Dunham Gallery. The opening reception will be held during gallery walk on Friday, May 6, from 5:30 to 8:30pm. Not only will the public be able to view and enjoy the work of the students, they will also be able to purchase baked goods, notes cards, and T-shirts. Images made by the students will also be available for purchase with the proceeds being shared between the student and the program.
The In-Sight Photography Project is a non-profit program aimed at empowering youth to find their creative voices and to communicate their visions through photography. Classes in photographic arts are provided regardless of ability to pay. Curriculum is guided by understanding and respect for individuals, communities, and cultures. Students are encouraged to take an active role in their art and education.
Lucy echoes the program's mission by noting, "It feels very fulfilling to have done some behind-the-scenes help with the exhibit."
The annual student exhibition will be up for the month of May and open for viewing every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information about In-Sight or the show, call 802-251-9961 or visit www.InSight-Photography.org.
Michelle Stephens is a regular contributor to the Reformer, including her twice-a-month column, "Juicebox Confession," and the wife of In-Sight Programming Director Zachary Stephens and Contact Michelle at Michelle@JuiceboxConfession.com.