Thursday, May 5, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: Tanya Schmid at Vermont Arts Exchange’s Mill Gallery in North Bennington

More than a Number:
Photographs of a Contaminated Community in Chile
On View at Vermont Arts Exchange

Bennington College student Tanya Schmid exhibits More Than a Number, her senior project in photography and Spanish, at the Vermont Arts Exchange's Mill Gallery. The show opens with a reception on Wednesday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m., and runs through June 21.

More Than a Number portrays the story of a struggling neighborhood in Northern Chile contaminated with arsenic, lead and 14 other toxic minerals dumped there by a foreign company 20 years ago. The toxic minerals were left, unprotected for years, until the residents developed illnesses and wondered if the environment was the cause of their problems. Twenty years later, the residents still have not been moved away from their homes nor have they received adequate assistance from the government terms of in health care, compensation or education.

As the subjects of More Than a Number, the affected families tell the story from their perspectives through the portraits and accompanying testimonies. The photographs—shot in color and black and white—are printed large, demanding a presence in the space and reaction from the viewer. Although the show focuses on a specific community, it also speaks to greater global issues of human rights and environmental awareness.

"My objective in this project has been to create more consciousness about the problem," says Schmid, who began the project while studying abroad in Chile with the School for International Training (SIT). "And, hopefully, to help give the contaminated families a voice, so they can be recognized as more than a number, as real human beings who have the right to be heard and the right to live a dignified, healthy, secure life."

The opening reception on May 18 features an artist talk by Schmid followed by a short question-&-answer session at 7:30 p.m. The show is on view through June 21; school groups are welcome by making arrangements with VAE. Any donations made will go toward bringing the show back to Chile for exhibition in three large cities there.

For more information about Vermont Arts Exchange, exhibits, classes and workshops, contact VAE at 802-442-5549 or visit

Image: Fernanda by Tanya Schmid