If you live in Burlington, Montpelier or Rutland, you’re going to be seeing some new public art around town: evocative, large-scale photographs courtesy of the HighLow Project Street Exhibit. Secured with wheat paste on blank building exteriors, the images will be on view through October, and are meant to portray experiences of at-risk and homeless youth. And the visuals don’t come alone; via a toll-free cellphone number, you can hear the story behind each photo.
Over the past couple of years, Burlington photographer Ned Castle, 27, has worked with the Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP) to create this audio-visual glimpse into the lives of the youth involved. The title of the project refers to high (e.g., graduation) and low (addiction) moments in their lives. An indoor exhibit of the 22 photos — two each for 11 teens — debuted in May 2010 in Burlington, then traveled to a number of other sites around the state.
When the exhibit was at the Vermont Supreme Court, Castle had a conversation with a Montpelier high school outreach worker about access — specifically, noting that the show mainly reached the “people accustomed to going to an art opening on a Friday night,” he recalls. “The 16 - to 18-year-olds weren’t wandering into the exhibits.” The idea of open-to-all outdoor images grew from there, Castle explains, and he solicited permissions from building owners in the three cities. In Rutland and Burlington, the youth in the photos will contribute additional content: their answers to the question “What do you wish the community understood about you that they don’t?” The photos are already up in Montpelier; they’ll be installed in Rutland this Wednesday, August 24, and Thursday in Burlington. Hope it doesn’t rain.