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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

To Take Photos And Build Confidence, Women Venture To Montreal

Kayla Kizer
This photo, called "Slow in Motion," is one of the shots on display in the exhibit "Through Our Lens," showcasing a variety of photos local women took while on a trip to Montreal.

A group of women from Vermont ventured north to Montreal this winter, some for the first time, to take photos of the city and build confidence through the creative process.

An exhibit titled “Through Our Lens” showcases the women’s photos from the trip and is on display at the River Arts Community Center in Morrisville. It's the culmination of a six-week workshop that was designed to help young mothers find confidence and build job skills through the artistic process.

Stowe-based photographer Kelly Holt ran the workshop. Rather than focus on the technical aspects of photography, she wanted it to be more about the discovery of a new environment. “The trip was about the experience of something completely new for the group and just responding to it through the lens of their camera,” she says.

Holt explains that she tried to take the artists out of their comfort zone with the trip, forcing them to experience a different language, culture and country. “This workshop really grew from an interest in art and identity, building a sense of self confidence through the actual process of art making, making discoveries and questioning those discoveries, and then coming to a new place with yourself and with your work,” she says.

Credit Kayla Kizer
Kayla Kizer says the trip to Montreal took her out of her comfort zone, as she had never been so far away from her daughter before.

Kayla Kizer says the workshop did just that – it took her way out of her comfort zone. “My daughter is 19 months, and she was in daycare … I had never been so far away from her. She is my first child, so it has definitely been one of those things where it was a big step for us,” she says.

Despite this, Kizer says, “We all survived and we were all laughing, having a blast.”

"My theme was just shoot for whatever spoke to me,” Kizer says. “Go for what I felt was an awesome photo and time to capture it.”

The workshop is part of the Families Working Together program, which is offered by the Lamoille Family Center. “Their goal is to support children and families in our community,” Holt says. “They help young parents and children get off to a healthy start.”

The program has helped Kizer earn her high school diploma this year. “I’m 27 years old and I’ve finally found a place where I can graduate from high school. They are actually going to help me get into college, too,” she says. Kizer explains that she can she bring her daughter to the center to work with her when she isn’t able to attend daycare. “The whole place is family-oriented and they don’t just mean that as a slogan or anything. When you come in, it’s actually a family. They are a second family to us all,” she says.

“The whole place is family-oriented and they don’t just mean that as a slogan or anything. When you come in, it’s actually a family. They are a second family to us all." - Kayla Kizer

So what brought Kizer to finally get her degree? “My daughter,” she says. “That was a big thing. I wanted to have an opportunity to give her, and have a career and change my life.”

Kizer points to one of the photos that is being showcased in the exhibit “Through Our Lens.” It’s of a man sleeping on a cardboard box, “curled up as far as he can to stay warm.” It moves her. “Homelessness is a huge problem and it seems like people will shut their ears when it comes time to talk about it, and I’ve almost been there. So, for me it’s like – how did he come to that?” She says. She explains she is working to get a homeless shelter built in Morrisville.

Credit Kayla Kizer
Kayla Kizer's photo, titled "How," portrays a homeless man in Montreal. She's hoping others will be moved by the photo as much as she is.

On displaying such a vulnerable photo in public, Kizer says it affected her so much she felt like she had to share it. “It was very moving to me any way I looked at it, and it was one of those things where I was like, ‘wow, if it’s really affecting me in that way, then I don’t think I should just hold it back,’” she says. “I’m hoping others get the same emotions.”

“Through our Lens” is on display at the River Arts Community Art Center in Morrisville through Monday, March 2.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Amanda Shepard was a digital producer for VPR.
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