BRATTLEBORO — Vermont Center for Photography will be welcoming visitors to its new space during Gallery Walk Friday with an exhibit featuring the works of Vaune Trachtman, who created a collaboration across time using her father’s 90-year-old negatives from the Great Depression in Philadelphia and her own cell phone images shot from windows and moving vehicles.
“Trachtman creates a feeling of collapsed-yet-expanded time,” said Josh Farr, executive director of Vermont Center for Photography in its new space in the Midtown Mall at 22 High St.
Trachtman’s “Now is Always” is the inaugural exhibit for the grand re-opening of the center.
“Two-and-a-half years ago, this didn’t seem possible,” said Chris Triebert, chairwoman of the renovation committee “The heavens were on our side to make this happen when it did.”
Finding a new space had been one of the center’s goals for more than three years, she said.
“We were ready to grow up,” Triebert said.
In 2020, High Street and Green LLC, whose principals are Tom Bodett and his wife, Rita Ramirez, purchased Midtown Mall. Bodett, who is also the co-owner of Hazel on Elliot Street, opened HatchSpace, a co-working woodshop in a warehouse on Frost Street in early 2019. HatchSpace is moving to the fourth floor of the Midtown Mall, soon to be rebranded as High Street & Green, and other spaces are filling up with artists and other creatives.
Earlier this year, Triebert heard there was space in the building, so she reached out to Bodett.
“I called him with fingers crossed,” she said. “He said it was available.”
Triebert, Farr and the board visited and they were smitten. “It has the bones of everything we need,” she said.
“VCP is a perfect fit for the High Street & Green community,” Bodett said. “We are makers and doers and curators. VCP’s long history of progressive photography, education and exhibit adds depth to our field and focus to our vision of a long and fruitful collaboration in downtown Brattleboro.”
Vermont Center for Photography will be showing off its new digs during Gallery Walk, kicking off with a talk by Trachtman at 5:30 p.m.
Having an artist talk at the old place, Triebert said, meant cramming 25 chairs into the smaller space on Flat Street. This new space can fit close to 70 people, she said.
“As much as Brattleboro loves its quirky spaces,” Farr said, “we’ve lived in it for more than two decades and we were ready to be in a slightly less quirky space.”
“We were in this little cave,” said Triebert. “No matter what we did in that space, we were always cramped.”
Bodhfit, a yoga and fitness studio, used to occupy the space.
With some “reconfiguration,” Triebert said, they’ve been able to expand Vermont Center for Photography’s gallery space, add a resource library and a conference and workshop area, a digital lab and a bigger darkroom.
“We designed the darkroom to include a film processing area that is separate from the actual darkroom,” she said. “Now our members will be able to do both without fighting over sink space.”
The darkroom itself will have five enlarger stations and a 10-foot sink.
“We’re have one of the few public darkrooms left in New England,” said Triebert. “People come up here from a good hour away to use it.”
And even though it has moved from the quirky Flat Street space it has occupied since 1998, the center will continue its mission of connecting the community to the joys of photography, she said.
“The mission of VCP has always been to engage the community around the medium of photography with education, workshops, gallery shows and community support,” Triebert said. “Keeping the medium alive and well and being a resource center for everyone who is involved in it at any level, from total beginner to advanced professional.”
Farr said during August’s Gallery Walk, he realized how much more connected to the community Vermont Center for Photography will be in its new space.
“I had a window in my old office but it faced a brick wall,” Farr said. “It was really nice to be able to look out my window here and see the community, see the food trucks and the exhibits and the performers in the Harmony Lot. These are our people.”
Triebert said Vermont Center for Photography couldn’t have made the move without all the board members who worked behind the scenes to make it happen, including Phyllis Oddessy, president of the board, Mike Smoot, treasurer, and board member Damian Lix, a marketing and communication professional who designed the new brand identity.
And Triebert said Farr has been crucial not just during the move, but for also the past 10 years.
“His talents go far beyond his job description,” she said. “His tireless work has made VCP the dynamic photo resource center that it is.”
Farr also repairs donated equipment for sale in the “PhotoThrift” showroom, sales of which help to finance Vermont Center for Photography’s operations.
“So many people have aged out or are not doing old-school photography anymore,” Triebert said. “And people doing digital work who are buying new equipment. People donate the old stuff to us.”
Triebert also thanked the many local contractors who worked to build out the space to accommodate special needs, including a new ADA bathroom.
“Especially Alex Bristol of Brunelle Construction and Joshua King of Kings Electric,” she said. “Even with all the current issues of material delays and price fluctuations, they’ve been dedicated to keeping our project on time and within budget.”
And speaking of the budget, while the center has more than 300 members who pay a membership fee, it relies on grants and community support to keep operating.
“The local photo community is very strong,” Triebert said. “And people who support the arts in general knew this was an important move for downtown. People were thrilled to hear we were coming here. The more people we bring to Main Street, the more spaces we all renovate and open up and make accessible, the better it is for everyone.”
Beginning this month, the center will host a robust slate of classes, workshops, lectures and events, including “Focus Forward,” a digital photography course offered to people in recovery in conjunction with Turning Point of Windham County.
For more information, or to donate to the “Vision 21” renovation project, visit vcphoto.org, or call director Josh Farr at 802-251-6051.
Midtown Mall has a street-level entrance on Green Street, the one-way street that runs along the building’s west side, which opens onto a common area and the Vermont Center for Photography entrance. Weather permitting, that entrance will be open on Friday night.
Trachtman’s photopolymer gravure prints were formerly on display at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Boston.
“Now is Always” is supported by the Vermont Arts Council, NEA and the Tusen Takk Foundation.
Trachtman, who lives in Brattleboro, received her M.A. from New York University and The International Center for Photography. She worked in the imaging department of TIME Inc. for many years. She is a photographer and printmaker whose work honors the methods and tones of historic processes, but without the toxic chemicals. Formerly a master printer of silver gelatin prints and asphaltum-based photogravures, she began to feel that her immune system was being compromised by those processes. Trachtman now makes gravures with little more than light and water. Her images explore the evanescence of dreams and memory.
On Saturday, Sept. 18 from 1 to 3 p.m., Trachtman will demonstrate her photogravure process in the printmaking studio of Mike Smoot, adjacent to VCP.
The Midtown Mall also houses Wheelhouse Clay Center, A Vermont Table restaurant and Corridon Bratton Catering, printmaker Mike Smoot, Malisun Boutique, the Brattleboro School of Dance, Shiatsu School of Massage, Bario-Neal Jewelry, glass blower Matthew Weill, as well as a variety of individual artists in private studios on the top floor.