On display at Highland Center for the Arts, Greensboro, Vermont, through December 2, 2018. For nearly fifty years, Ethan Hubbard drove the back roads of rural Vermont in search of old-time Vermonters. In barns and fields, from forest walks to kitchen tables, Ethan’s photographic portraits and audio recordings transport us to rural Vermont and to the moments he shared with the people he met there.
Vermont’s environmental movement evolved from a few early 20th century conservationists with the capacity to “purchase to protect” important natural resources—and has since moved through various phases from regulation and litigation to polarization and collaboration.
Today, while Congress is deadlocked and state governments fail to act aggressively on the most pressing issues of the day—climate change and clean energy—Vermonters are not waiting for a top-down solution and are working locally to make a difference in their own towns and communities.
Now Elizabeth Courtney, former director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council and co-author with Eric Zencey of “Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State,” raises the question:
“In the second decade of the 21st century, we ask ourselves, to what extent can local actions bring about an economy that is just and equitable, an environment that is healthy and balanced and communities prepared to weather the disruptions of climate change?”
Inspired by the book, “Greening Vermont,” this exhibition invites the viewer to ponder the answer.
"The authors don't pretend to offer a dispassionate accounting, rather their perspective is clear throughout the book: A strong commitment to conservation and environmental protection has been and is of great importance to Vermont, and we must do more to move the state further down the path to sustainability."
Text from the book, coupled with audio excerpts from interviews with environmental leaders and portraits of prominent figures in the movement by Curtis Johnson, are complemented by contributions from Middlebury College Environmental Studies Seniors working with local community partners from around the state on issues as varied as water quality, land use, energy, biodiversity, and climate change.
The book is organized into six chapters, one for each decade beginning in the 1960s. The authors characterize each of these decades with a single word: conservation, regulation, litigation, confrontation, collaboration, and localization. Although the overarching narrative of the book deals with the environment generally, there is a particular focus on land use and planning. In addition to this chronological narrative, there are a multitude of sidebars, on topics ranging from “Four Varieties of Capital” to “Rationing Retail: Who Decides?” as well as a series of interviews with leaders of the Vermont conservation move- ment over the last several decades (including, for example, the late Hub Vogelmann and Governor Madeleine May Kunin). The book is richly illustrated with graphics and photographs.
It is our hope that “Greening of Vermont: A Culture of Environmental Advocacy” will stimulate broad ranging conversations that will move our thinking forward and assist in our efforts to meet the pressing environmental challenges of our era.
We thank the fall and spring semesters’ community partners who included The Institute for Sustainable Communities, Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, Vermont Council on Rural Development, Green Mountain Power’s Energy Innovation Center, Rutland Regional Planning Commission, Marble Valley Transit District, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), the Office of the Mayor of Rutland, and the Carving Studio.
In addition to the many enthusiastic community partners listed above, I’d like to thank the Middlebury College Sustainability Director, Jack Byrne for inviting Greening Vermont into the 2013-2014 year of studies and Environmental Studies students, class of 2013.5 and 2014, faculty members, Jon Isham, Becky Gould, Cat Ashcraft and Molly Costanza-Robinson, Coordinator for Community-Based Environmental Studies Diane Munroe as well as Mason Singer of Laughing Bear
Associates, Vic Guadagno of Bright Blue EcoMedia and Greg Sharrow and Ned Castle of the Vermont Folklife Center all of whom have been working to further the goal of reaching a sustainable state.
We’d also like to thank the artists whose works appear in this exhibit, Jan Brough, Elizabeth Nelson, Ed Epstein, Gaal Shepherd, Susan Abbott, Bread and Puppet Theater, Curtis Hale, David Brewster, and James Jahrsdoerfer. The collaboration among the authors, educators, students, ethnographers and citizens taking action makes a fertile ground for the real-time content of Greening Vermont: the Search Continues.
- Elizabeth Courtney
This exhibit is available to travel! Click below to learn more about Greening Vermont as a traveling exhibition.
Among the most recent arrivals to Vermont communities are Mexican farmworkers. These workers have made harrowing and costly journeys to reach Vermont, where their labor is vital to the dairy industry and, by extension, the Vermont landscape. Yet most such workers have no formal immigration status. Risking deportation if they are seen or heard, they remain invisible. Having made an epic journey of thousands of miles, they often live in the narrow confines of a single farmhouse and milking parlor, dependent on others for basic needs.
While Vermonters have recently had some opportunities to discuss and reflect on this situation, Mexican farmworkers themselves have rarely had a voice in that conversation. Yet they have amazing stories to tell. The “Invisible Odysseys” exhibit is a collection of those stories, rendered in sculpture as well as words.
Organized over the last four years by Vermont artist and writer B. Amore and a team of volunteers, “Invisible Odysseys” is a collection of dioramas made by Mexican farmworkers here in Vermont. These tell the personal stories of their journeys, their isolated and challenging work here in Vermont, and their perspectives on two cultures. Above all, the exhibit makes visible a hidden community, and makes audible a set of voices that Vermonters have heard little of.
For “Invisible Odysseys” Amore provided farmworkers with paints, brushes, glue, and other materials, and the simple offer of a forum to express their ingenuity and voice. Beyond that, the fourteen artist-workers who participated have taken the project in their own directions, each telling their own story in their own way.
This exhibit is available to travel! Click below to learn more about Invisible Odysseys as a traveling exhibition.
Migrant Mexican farm workers began arriving on Vermont dairy farms almost seventeen years ago and continue to work here living hidden lives. Through intimate photographs and interviews, this exhibit strives to create a revealing portrait of dairy farmers and their Mexican employees and offer a glimpse into their interdependent lives—exploring who they are and what they hope for.
In 2008, there were an estimated two thousand migrant Mexican farm workers in Vermont helping to produce more than half of the state’s milk. In Addison County alone, there are about five hundred Mexican workers. They are primarily young men helping to sustain a working landscape while supporting their families in Southern Mexico. This important population has been in Vermont for almost seventeen years, yet remains mostly invisible despite contributing to communities.
The Golden Cage Project shares faces and voices of fifteen Addison County dairy farmers and migrant Mexican workers in a nonjudgmental and educational environment. The project’s goal is to provide a more human perspective on issues that are often politicized and overshadowed by law and policy.
Conceived by former Vermont Migrant Education Program tutor Chris Urban whose work teaching English brought him to farms around Addison County, the exhibit pairs photographs by Caleb Kenna with audio and text excerpts from interviews conducted by Chris Urban.
When Samuel de Champlain named the land south of the St. Lawrence River Les Verts Montagne in 1609 he was recognizing the obvious. This new land was almost entirely forested from valley floor to mountain ridge. By the mid 1800s, Vermont had been transformed into a mosaic of open land and forests—settlers with their axes and oxen having cleared nearly 80 percent of the formerly forested landscape. Today, that 80/20 ratio has been nearly reversed, testament to how quickly man and nature shape the land. Vermont, the Green Mountain State, is once again one of the most heavily forested states in the country.
Portrait of a Forest: Men and Machine documents how the forestry community continues to shape the land today and asks: What does it mean to be stewards of a working forest?
For the past decade, George Bellerose has been reading industry magazines, attending policy and program conferences and round tables, interviewing experts from the forestry community, and, above all, spending time in mill yards, on back roads, and in the forest with loggers. The relationships Bellerose built led to unique access and knowledge given from logger to photographer. Working together a portrait of the forest emerged.
our best hope
"I spent 30 years as a forester working with landowners. Being commissioner for the past three years has given me the chance to see the complete supply chain. We are making progress in understanding the role of forests and forestry, but we need greater understanding of all elements—loggers, foresters, mill owners, truckers, retailers, artisans, and the public. Forests provide clean water, the natural infrastructure for our recreational activities, the scenic backdrop for our tourism economy, and ecological resilience during flooding and climate change. I haven’t even mentioned the one billion dollars plus that wood products add to our economy. It’s a major part of our economy and foundational to our rural economy.But we take this green backdrop for granted. When I speak as the foliage guy with the tourism folks, I hammer away that foliage is not an accident. It’s because of the people who work the land.I tell them that working forests are our last best hope to keep forests as forests."
Vermont Department of Parks, Forest & Recreation
Contemporary Logging Vignettes
Forestry has shaped Vermont since settlers cleared the land for cows, crops, and homesteads. How Vermont will look in the coming decades will continue to be shaped, today and by generations to come, by those who work the land.
This exhibit is available to travel! Click below to learn more about Portrait of the Forest as a traveling exhibition.
With advances in medical techniques and increased life expectancies, many people are living longer with progressively degenerating diseases, while others are taking on the role of giving end-of-life care to someone they love. What does it mean to live with terminal illness or to become a caregiver for a family member?
“Unexpected Journeys” offers a thoughtful contemplation of these questions, pairing stunning view camera portraits with written interview excerpts and audio from women with metastatic cancer, and family caregivers, who have lived these journeys firsthand.
Photographer Susan Alancraig created this body of work in response to the final months of her parents’ lives to, in her words, “understand more about what they were going through—both to better care for them and to gain a handle on death within the context of my own life and my breaking heart.”
To that end, Susan interviewed and photographed six women with metastatic cancer. Each shared her experience of what living with an expanding cancer – sometimes after many years – had been like, and how it had changed her life.
Later, after being a primary caregiver for her parents during each of their deaths, Susan also interviewed and photographed other family caregivers in order to hear the stories of their experiences with their loved ones, families, medical community, their own identities, and with death.
Susan’s motives speak to the soul of our exhibit program, the pressing need to see, hear, and feel the experiences of others, to achieve empathy and understanding so that we may ourselves lead fuller lives while truly caring for one another. Susan’s research “subjects” were her teachers, and there is much we can learn from her work with them.
As Susan observes, “To tell our stories can be a powerful tool. It can help us gain clarity and insight into our own lives, and can serve as a means of passing on our learnings to others. Most importantly, sharing our stories can be empowering by giving voice to who we are and what we have gone through. To be heard means that we are important, that we are of value, and that we have something to offer to others.”
What does it mean when you have a terminal illness? In what ways does it affect your outlook on life? How does it change your thinking, your attitudes, your relationships with others, and your relationship to death? How does it change who you are and how you think about yourself?
These questions were often on my mind while I was in Los Angeles with my husband, caring for my parents, both of whom were ill – my father with heart problems, my mother (Helen) with metastatic breast cancer. My daily life was surrounded by my parents’ mortality, and as I came to the recognition that their lives were ending, I wanted to understand more about what they were going through – both to better care for them, and to gain a handle on death within the context of my own life and my breaking heart.
To this end, as a practicum for my graduate degree at SIT (School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont), I interviewed and photographed six women with metastatic or recurrent cancer who were members of support groups at the UCLA Medical Center.
The women came from diverse backgrounds, with differences in age, ethnicity, religion, and economic circumstances. Each opened a window into her life by offering to share her experience of what living with an expanding cancer – sometimes after many years of remission – had been like, and how it had changed her life.
A note on the interview excerpts: Locations for the interviews were chosen by each woman, and took place at their homes (occasionally outside), and in one case at a hospital during treatment. In some instances, word order has been changed for narrative flow.
To become a caregiver for someone you love is to step into another world. It might mean balancing a job or children along with giving care, waking up several times a night to give pills or change a position, learning to transfer someone from a bed to a wheelchair, fighting constant exhaustion. There may be increased expenses for medications or for modifying your home, or lower income because you work fewer hours or you leave your job. Everyday tasks can include bathing, dressing, shaving and feeding someone who can no longer do those things alone. Changing diapers. Operating medical equipment. Tracking complicated medicinal regimens. Organizing and providing transport for appointments. Taking care of finances.
With terminal illness, becoming a caregiver means watching someone you love slowly lose their abilities, despite your best efforts. It means learning to live with impending death, losing a sense of your own life, and experiencing the intensity of emotions – sadness, joy, anger, pleasure, resentment and consequent guilt – that can occur while caring for someone whose life is ending and who is becoming increasingly dependent on you.
I know this world well, as I was a primary caregiver for my parents during each of their deaths. When it came time to do a capstone research paper for my graduate degree, I chose to interview other family caregivers in order to hear the stories of their experiences with their loved ones, families, medical community, their own identities, and with death, and how their lives, like mine, had been changed.
The caregivers in this exhibit are from Bennington, Vermont, and from Washington and Saratoga counties in New York. They cared for spouses, parents and a sibling. All of their loved ones had died before the interview and photography sessions.
A note on the photographs: Caregivers were asked how they might like a photograph to represent their lives or their caregiving experience. Many of them chose to include an object belonging to, or a photograph of, their loved one.
A note on the quotations: All of the words are from interviews with the caregivers. To maintain confidentiality, quotes are not necessarily next to the photograph of the person who said them.
This exhibit is available to travel! Click below to learn more about Unexpected Journeys as a traveling exhibition.