- About Us
- In our words, in our community
In our words, in our community
In our words, in our community is a collaborative, public arts and humanities exhibit created by Vermont Folklife and photographer Macaulay Lerman, in partnership with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, that amplifies the voices of our neighbors experiencing the complex dynamics of homelessness, food insecurity, and economic challenges. This exhibit is guided by direct input from a group of Vermonters and the social service workers who aim to address their daily needs.
In our words, in our community opens a window into the wide range of lived experiences in our region.
Click images below to learn more.
Vermont has the second-highest per capita rate of people experiencing homelessness in the United States. This statistic reflects a painful and difficult fact–as Vermonters we all face economic injustice because we are one community. None of us succeed until we all succeed. Through In our words, in our community we work to challenge well-worn narratives about poverty, and to foster a deeper understanding of the experiences and perspectives of those who are often overlooked.
The work that underlies the exhibit is rooted in the research practice of collaborative ethnography, a method that engages the individuals whose lives are being documented in both shaping the research process and in determining how their experiences are shared with the public. Through this process the people featured throughout In our words, in our community have guided how their voices and portraits are presented.
This project began over two years ago through the work of Aylie Baker, a volunteer who piloted a series of interviews with a small group of staff members from the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO). Her efforts formed the basis of the approach taken by Vermont Folklife for their larger project, which began in the fall of 2021. Aylie is a beloved friend of Vermont Folklife–she has worked with the organization as a Research Fellow and an intern. Vermont Folklife thanks Aylie for laying such excellent groundwork and allowing the organization to follow in her footsteps.
Over the last two years, Vermont Folklife staff interviewed 31 people connected to CVOEO, including 19 clients and 12 staff members. Interviewers met clients through CVOEO programs and via staff referrals. Clients were paid for their participation. When requested, names of interviewees were anonymized and restrictions placed on the use of their interviews.
Staff members interviewed for the project are involved in many different facets of CVOEO, including the Community Action Network, with representatives from Franklin and Grand Isle Community Action, Chittenden Community Action, and Community Outreach and Resource Advocacy (CORA), as well as Feeding Chittenden, Samaritan House, statewide Housing Advocacy Programs, and administration. Vermont Folklife regrets that, due to space limitations, all of these dedicated and caring people could not be included in the final exhibit.
Please note: As work on the project progressed, many of the clients who took part in interviews and sat for photographs became, for a variety of reasons, unreachable. Vermont Folklife believes strongly that the people represented through their work must have a central role in shaping how their experiences are presented to the public. As a result, the voices and images of individuals whom Vermont Folklife was unable to contact have not been included in this exhibit.
Vermont Folklife is profoundly grateful to the following people for their willingness to take part in interviews:
Clients - AJ, Anna, Annette, Chelsea, David, James, Jamie, Jenn, Jeffrey, Josie, Julie, Monique, Nicole, Norma, Rabbit, Robert, Sean, Taylor, and Wendy.
Staff - Adam, Anna, Ben, Corrine, Elizabeth, Jess, Midhat, Paul, Rebecca, Toni, Taylor, Travis, and Trudy.
Vermont Folklife also thanks the CVOEO Advisory Committee: Corrine, Joan, Toni, Trudy, and Wendy.
In addition, Vermont Folklife gives heartfelt thanks to CVOEO’s Addie Chris, Jason Rouse, and Paul Dragon who oversaw the effort. We also thank Joan White for her role in making this project possible.
When permissions allow, interviews and photographs with clients and staff members can be accessed by researchers via the Vermont Folklife Archive.
As a final note, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermont Folklife conducted their earliest interviews remotely, resulting in several audio recordings with reduced sound quality. The project partners all felt the importance of the content outweighed the limitations of the sound fidelity, and therefore chose to include these materials in the final exhibit.
Saturday, May 13
11:00AM – 3:00PM
City Hall Park
Saturday, June 10
11:00AM – 4:00PM
Thursday, July 20
3:30PM – 7:30PM
Middlebury Town Green
Sunday, August 20
10:00AM – 2:00PM
Village Green Park
Friday, September 15
1:00PM – 6:00PM
Alburgh Public Library
Friday, October 13
11:00AM – 2:00PM
Champlain Street Park