Tuesday, January 4, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: The Hale Street Gang at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier

The Hale Street Gang: Portraits in Writing moves to the Vermont State House in January after a three-month showing at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury. Portraits in Writing features the work of Braintree photographer Jack Rowell and twelve members of the Greater Randolph Senior Center who have been writing down their life stories with the help of project leader Sara Tucker. An opening reception will be held at the State House Cafeteria on Tuesday, January 11, at 3 p.m.

Rowell’s larger-than-life black-and-white portraits of the memoirists are the focal point the exhibit, which incorporates audio of the writers reading from their works-in-progress. The project began when Rowell attended a public reading at the Greater Randolph Senior Center in the fall of 2009. Impressed with the energy and experiences of the writers, who are all in their eighties and nineties, he set up a four-day photo shoot and approached Gregory Sharrow of the Vermont Folklife Center, who recorded the writers’ voices. The multimedia exhibit debuted last fall at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury and will continue touring the state. “We’re hoping this exhibit will inspire others to start similar projects,” says Tucker. “These stories have value not only to the writers and their families, but to the community at large. And a supportive group is the best way I know of to encourage the writing down of real-life experiences.

“People respond to what these writers are doing. How many of us wish our parents or grandparents had recorded their memoirs before it was too late? My hope for this tour is that it gets people writing all over the state, giving birth to a thousand stories.”

Support for the exhibit has come from a multitude of donors, many with ties to the Randolph area. An initial grant from the Lamson Howell Foundation was followed by an online fund-raising campaign that enabled friends and family members around the country to make contributions of $10 or more via Kickstarter.com. The Corner Frame Shop in Randolph donated its services, and a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation enabled the publishing of an anthology, The Hale Street Gang: In Cahoots, as well as a series of free workshops and readings. The next of these will take place at the Chandler Gallery in Randolph on three different weekends in March.

The twelve five-minute memoirs recorded for the exhibit reflect the experiences of an eclectic group. Margaret Egerton, who finished writing down her life story shortly before she died at the age of 99, remembered the fear she felt as a child in wartime England; Loraine Chase’s reading recalls how her hardworking parents weathered the Depression; Charles Cooley wrote about the lonely summer he spent as the hired boy on a farm in East Warren after the owner broke his leg.

Hours: Mon–Fri, 8 am to 4 pm. Visitors to the State House will need a cell phone to listen to the audio portion of the exhibit. Copies of The Hale Street Gang: In Cahoots are available via the group’s website, The Hale Street Gang & Me or from Bud & Bella’s Bookshop in Randolph.

For more information, contact Sara Tucker at 802 236 9609 or saratucker@aol.com