By ANDREA SUOZZO
MIDDLEBURY — There is a new venue for art in downtown Middlebury. The PhotoPlace gallery, which opened June 20, displays themed exhibitions featuring work by photographers from all over the country. The gallery is part of the Vermont Photography Workplace, an initiative headed up by husband and wife Rick Clark and Kirsten Hoving.
Work in the gallery’s first show — a collection of images of the natural world that is titled “Nature’s Whispers, Nature’s Shouts” — fills the newly renovated space at 3 Park St.
“Our walls just couldn’t hold any more photographs,” Hoving said with a laugh.
Hoving, who teaches art history at Middlebury College, is helping to curate artwork at the gallery this summer before returning to work when classes resume in September. She explained that the gallery arose from her and Clark’s desire to create opportunities for photographers to display their works. A few of the photographers in the gallery are professionals, but most of them, said Hoving, are skilled amateurs.
“It fills a need,” she said. “Many people don’t have a place to show their photos — they show them to their family, and that’s all.”
According to Hoving, the gallery is Clark’s brainchild. Though he is not a photographer himself, he has an eye for photographs, she said, and a desire to share his interest with others in the community.
Though the focus of the gallery is the paintings, the room itself is also on display. The gallery has a ground floor space in a building constructed at the end of the 18th century, and Clark, a former carpenter, did the renovations on the room himself. The finished gallery space emphasizes the raw beams, which emerge from the white plaster of the wall.
“Nature’s Whispers, Nature’s Shouts” will be on view until July 11 in Middlebury. There are 72 pieces in the exhibition by artists from as far away as California. Because of limited space, only half of the images are on display in Middlebury; the other half are being shown at the WalkOver Gallery in Bristol through July 10.
Clark and Hoving put out a call for submissions on the gallery’s Web site, through other photography galleries and by word of mouth. Entrants were asked to submit an application fee of $25, a price that Hoving says is cheaper than most entry fees for juried exhibitions. For this fee, applicants were allowed to submit up to five photographs.
The gallery received more than 500 submissions for the first exhibition. Hoving was the juror for the show. She was so impressed by the submissions that she and Clark arranged to display more photographs at the WalkOver gallery.
Hoving expects future exhibitions to be smaller. The next show, titled “Water” and opening July 17, includes around 40 photographs. To accommodate the smaller number of photographs chosen, Hoving is also compiling a portfolio to display additional photographs that did not make it into the exhibition.
Clark and Hoving have nine future exhibits in the works, which will carry them through March of 2010. Hoving said they have had a great deal of luck finding guest jurors for the shows.
The PhotoPlace proprietors hope to capitalize on the art community’s recent upsurge in Middlebury, which has been signaled by the opening of the Town Hall Theater’s gallery and the Art House gallery in Marble Works, as well as the commencement of the Middlebury Arts Walk, which take place on the second Friday of each month this summer. PhotoPlace opened for a preview during June’s Arts Walk, which Hoving said drove a great deal of foot traffic to the gallery. She and Clark have planned their upcoming exhibitions to coincide with future Arts Walks, and Hoving hopes that they will continue to be so successful.
Although the primary goal is to give people an opportunity to display their work, PhotoPlace also sells prints of the photographs at the artist’s request. The goal of the gallery, however, is not financial profit. According to Hoving, she and Clark are simply hoping it breaks even.
“Our motto is, ‘When the economy tanks, open an art gallery,’” Clark said.
For more information about the Vermont Photography Workplace and the PhotoPlace Gallery, and to see photographs from the show, visit www.vtphotoworkplace.com, or stop by the gallery at 3 Park St. in Middlebury.