New project percolating at old coffee plant

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BRATTLEBORO

Victoria Heisler, executive director of In-Sight Photography Project, stopped smelling coffee beans inside 183 Main St. once construction crews started ripping down walls.

The space, formerly home to Mocha Joe's Roasting Company's roasting facility, was purchased by In-Sight on April 5.

"This fall session will be the last one in our old space," Heisler said of 45 Flat St., where In-Sight has been for 18 years. "It's pretty amazing to think about it."

The group is moving from one alleyway to another but it hopes to make the new entrance area more visible to the public with murals, signs and photography from its students.

In-Sight and its Exposures Cross-Cultural Youth Arts Program offer classes in photography to students between the ages of 11 and 18, regardless of ability to pay. Volunteer teachers, from college students to professional photographers, provide instruction. Classes also are brought to groups in the community such as the Bonnyvale Environment Education Center.

In-Sight is now "well on the way to successfully executing a $500,000 capital campaign to complete the acquisition and renovation of its brand new arts and education facility," according to a news release.

"We're at a little less than $400,000 at this point," Heisler said. "We have an amazing, supportive community of former students, parents, other photographers and also a lot of grant funding from foundations. And the Vermont Arts Council has been really helpful and instrumental in raising the money."

A renovation project estimated to cost $330,000 started this month under the supervision of Bob and Joe Fortier of GPI Construction. The work is expected to be completed by the time winter class sessions start in February.

Most of the walls were taken down to make room for a digital lab with 10 stations, which will be made with a $50,000 contribution from the Canaday Family Charitable Trust.

"That's going to be all state-of-the-art equipment," said Heisler, adding that "professional level" printers and iMac computers will be purchased.

The digital lab and the classroom will be separate from one another in the new space. A student "hangout" area with a small kitchenette will overlook the Connecticut River.

Downstairs will be designated as work space for staff. That's "really exciting because right now all the framing and mounting for show prep has to happen in the classroom," Heisler said, describing a fundraiser her group holds in October that typically features 250 to 300 pieces.

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The dark room is another essential element. Heisler said her group believes that when photographers use a 35-millimeter camera, they slow down and think about light, aperture and shutter speed — things that are fundamental to digital photography, too.

"Being able to understand that makes you a more focused, more intentional photographer," she said. "So we still like to use our dark room and film."

She said In-Sight is not only about teaching skills but the entire process, including curating and discussing work. Social justice is a big component of classes.

Heisler started working at In-Sight as a volunteer in college. She has served as its executive director since April.

"I don't know anywhere else that supports the arts so much," she said of Brattleboro. "Everyone's been incredibly encouraging."

That includes Flat Street neighbor Vermont Center for Photography, which is hosting In-Sight's fundraiser. The two groups will refer one another, said Heisler, who called the collaboration "amazing."

She said the following foundations made the relocation possible: Copper Beech Foundation, Clowes Foundation, Thomas Thompson Trust, David Greenewalt Charitable Trust, Oliver S. and Jennie R. Donaldson Charitable Trust, George W. Mergens Foundation, Vermont Arts Council and Creative Connections Art Fund. She said architect Bob Adams is doing pro bono work as well as attorney Jim Maxwell.

"We are most grateful to them for recognizing In-Sight's value and effectiveness," Ilene Todd, president of the In-Sight Board of Directors, said in the press release. "After consulting with all interested parties, most importantly our participants and their families, we learned that being downtown was of paramount importance. We conducted a pretty extensive search and then learned that Pierre and Ellen Capy, owners of Mocha Joe's, were looking to move their roasting operation from its location in the space behind A Candle in the Night. As soon as Pierre and Ellen showed us their space, we knew it would be perfect for In-Sight."

The roasting operation has moved to 35 Frost St., the former Cultural Intrigue warehouse, after purchasing it for $1 million in an auction in April.

In-Sight's Founding Director John Willis said the organization's programming will keep inspiring appreciation for "a truly diverse, socially just world."

"Without doubt, the new facility will help our staff and volunteer instructors and mentors keep our work going," he said in the press release. "The best is, indeed, yet to come!"

For more information or to donate to the Focus on the Future Campaign, visit insightphotography.org/future or call 802-251-9960.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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