M Gallery opens with themed photos

MIDDLEBURY — Visitors to the new M Gallery at 3 Mill Street who fail to discuss the art are missing the point.
“We want to create a community that communicates with each other,” said Cha Tori, a Middlebury College senior who helped charter the gallery.
Until Nov. 17, the M Gallery will display “Vision Obscured,” an exhibit of abstract photography by seven Middlebury students. The show opened this past Friday, and is curated by Tori.
When Tori first contacted photographers he knew at the college, he expected about eight responses. Instead, he got 25. Using the theme of abstraction as a filter, he narrowed the pool to the seven photographers displayed: Jessica Appleson, Elma Burnham, Kevin Irby, Hannah King, Emily Luan, Casey Peterson and Tori himself.
“Art exhibitions can so often be documentary,” Tori said. “I’m trying to show things with layers of visuality, where you have to look a few times of know what’s going on.”
From the responses Tori received, he said he could have just as easily put together an impressive exhibit of portraiture or travel photography.
“Maybe we’ll do those soon,” he said.
Tori, along with fellow students Lilah Leopold, Elori Kramer and Nerissa Kahn, have a broad vision for the gallery. And, though most of them don’t graduate for at least another year, they’re trying to build the gallery into a self-sustaining system. 
 “We hope this ends up as a permanent feature. That’s how we’re operating it now. We’ll have some sort of manual that we can pass down to the next generation of students,” Tori said.
The M Gallery has already shown three exhibits in the space, as well as hosted a talk by environmentalist and activist Bill McKibben. The student organizers envision more events like this, and plan to organize panel discussions on art at Middlebury. Several Middlebury professors have expressed interest in the project.
 “Art is hard to talk about,” Tori said. “Maybe by posing a leading question or two along with the art we can move above ‘I like this, I like that,’ and have some real dialogue here.”
Dialogue is the lynchpin of the gallery’s mission. A brimming box labeled “comments” features prominently at the reception table, and visitors are encouraged to sign in and give their feedback. Every exhibit kicks off with an afternoon opening, with the artists present to discuss their work.
Those who would like to become part of the conversation may visit the M Gallery at 3 Mill Street, just above the Storm Café. The gallery is open Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

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