Somewhere Between Place & Home

Somewhere Between Place & Home

On display at our Vision & Voice Gallery in Middlebury, VT beginning September 30, 2019.

Ice Shanties is an exhibition about the structures, people and culture of ice fishing seen through the lens of Vermont-based Colombian photographer Federico Pardo - with audio reflections from the shanty owners drawn from interviews conducted by the Vermont Folklife Center.

Driving the Back Roads: In Search of Old-Time Vermonters

Driving the Back Roads: In Search of Old-Time Vermonters

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. 

Up Home: Hand-Colored Photographs by Susanne and Neil Rappaport

Up Home: Hand-Colored Photographs by Susanne and Neil Rappaport

Exhibit on Display at the Pawlet Town Hall June 22, 2019 through July 28, 2019. Exhibit times vary. See the link for full schedule.

After Minnie Griswold passed away in 1952, her sons locked up their mother’s house in Pawlet, Vermont and left all her belongings in place, unaltered. Thirty years later, Pawlet documentarians Susanne and Neil Rappaport would enter the home at the invitation of one of the brothers, Charlie, and go on to produce a collection of hand-colored photographs of Minnie’s home.

The LAST of the HILL FARMS: Photographs by Richard Brown

The LAST of the HILL FARMS: Photographs by Richard Brown

Exhibit on display a the Saint Albans Museum July 17, 2019 through October 4, 2019.

Richard Brown’s recently published retrospective—The Last of the Hill Farms: Echoes of Vermont’s Past—showcases the photographer’s most cherished subject: Vermont’s hill farmers. This exhibition, which bears the same name, offers the chance to experience the Vermont that Richard entered and began to photograph in the 1970s. 

Delsie Hoyt: Re-imagine the Braided Rug

Delsie Hoyt: Re-imagine the Braided Rug

West Fairlee rug braider Delsie Hoyt was inspired by the unique creative vision that her Great-Grandmother, Annette “Nettie” Nelson, of Ryegate, Vermont, brought to the craft over a century ago. “I seek to challenge conventional notions of what a braided rug can be through experimental designs that range from swirling galaxies to pastoral Vermont landscapes,” explains Hoyt.

Discovering Community: Storytelling by Young Vermonters

Discovering Community proudly presents a showcase of documentary media pieces produced by students working in collaboration with our educational outreach programs locally and internationally. Let us celebrate their accomplishments with an opportunity to view their work and learn from the young minds behind the projects.

Completed during classes, workshops and after-school programs at schools and non-profit organizations around the state—and beyond—the array of projects in Vermont span from documentary films and photography, to podcasts, and artwork made by students from elementary to undergraduate levels. Stories gathered by youth nationally and internationally enter the conversation through our collaborative working partnerships with the World Story Exchange, Conversations from the Open Road, Stories of Hope, and the Freedom and Unity project.

The Vermont Folklife Center’s Discovering Community model gets students out of the classroom to learn from their diverse communities—using media-making tools to document and ultimately share their experiences. The program supports educators in providing the context for students to achieve required proficiencies through real-life learning, and holds the potential to promote personal growth by deepening students’ understanding of themselves and others. It can also enhance students’ sense of identification with, and caring for, their home community and help to ensure their future involvement in its civic life.

Discovering Community Education Sponsors / Bay and Paul Foundations, Victoria and Courtney Buffum Family Foundation, Jane’s Trust Foundation, Walter Cerf Foundation, Orton Family Fund, Robin Foundation, and private contributions of our many members. 

Exhibit underwriters / Cabot of Vermont, Rotary Club of Middlebury, VT, Vermont Community Foundation, and the Vermont Arts Council.


The Golden Cage

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. 


This exhibit is available to travel! Click below to learn more about the Golden Cage as a traveling exhibition.


In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words is a collection of personal histories from refugees who are living in Vermont. These narratives offer a glimpse into the remarkable diversity of life experiences that refugees bring to our community. While most Vermonters will never know how it feels to be a refugee, there is value in trying to consider perspectives that differ greatly from our own. These individuals have offered to share their lives as a way to deepen public understanding of a group of Vermonters that is growing every day.

Pairing photographs and interview excerpts, In Their Own Words profiles the experience of families and individuals whose lives have been disrupted by warfare, political violence, or discrimination and have come to Vermont as refugees. They hail from places as diverse as Somalia, Bosnia, Burundi, Rwanda, Vietnam, Sudan, and Uzbekistan and share the common challenge of starting new lives in a very different cultural setting.

The exhibit consists of thirteen groups of images, each featuring a different family or individual. The focal point of each set is a photographic portrait, which is accompanied by interview text presenting an important aspect of this person’s experience. Two additional photographs are the joint creation of photographer and subject adding another layer of visual information to the story.

The photographs in this exhibit were all created in 2007 and began when photographer Ned Castle met two brothers from Rwanda. As Ned’s friendship with these young men deepened, he was drawn into their stories and created a pairing of image and text to honor them. Working with the assistance of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, Ned’s network of connections expanded and the photographic project grew from there.

Educational Resources:

   Educational Guide: Full Version
   Educational Guide: Supplementary Materials ONLY
   Exhibition Excerpt Text
   Unabridged Personal History Text

The educational materials designed around the exhibit focus on three primary questions for students and teachers to explore: what does it mean to be a refugee; what does it mean to be a Vermonter; and what kinds of stories can photographs tell? The educational guide is designed to aid teachers by providing discussion questions and activities that can be used prior to, during, and following a field trip to see the exhibit. These materials are merely a guidepost and teachers are encouraged to personalize these materials to fit the needs of their class.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some of the written content of the exhibit contains information that should be approached carefully with younger students. Educational materials have been prepared for all age ranges (including PreK-4); however, teachers should take care when approaching concepts and learning experiences that are more naturally suited for older audiences.


Portrait of a Forest: Men and Machine

My hope is that this documentation will help everyone better understand the challenges facing the industry today and appreciate its role in preserving a healthy forest
— George Bellerose

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?

This project is an essential part of the Vermont Folklife Center’s mission to help people become visible to one another, George Bellerose’s photography opens a powerful window into the lives and work of loggers in Vermont.
— Greg Sharrow

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.


Unlike Vermonters of the past, many of us no longer have a direct connection to the working landscape. We see logging trucks and the occasional roadside log collection, but rarely do we have contact with loggers or fully understand their importance to the state.
— George Bellerose

The Present

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." 

Michael Snyder
Vermont Department of Parks, Forest & Recreation

Contemporary Logging Vignettes

The Future

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.


Unexpected Journeys: Life, Illness and Loss

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. 

Losing my sense of self while taking care of my mother wasn’t something I realized was going on until after she had died.
People have this taboo about talking about death. They can talk about birth – that’s all over the place – but when it comes to dying, nobody wants to talk about it. And it’s such an important time. It’s such a spiritual time. It can be as beautiful as birth, if people can pull together and make it happen that way.

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. 

Seeing him diminish, having to lose the person I loved and relearn how to love the person who was coming up was the hardest. And not having time to grieve who I lost because I was busy caring for his immediate needs. So my lover, my best friend, the man that I married, was no longer there.

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. 

Our lives became filled with doctor’s appointments and treatments. . . Sometimes it just seemed like we had no time for ourselves. It took us much longer to do things, like just to get out of bed and get her dressed and get her ready to go someplace. Sometimes it took well over one hour, sometimes two hours. . . Our days were just consumed with all this medical stuff.

This exhibit is available to travel! Click below to learn more about Unexpected Journeys as a traveling exhibition.