Rock Work, a Stone’s Throw Away

Rock Work, a Stone’s Throw Away

Rock Work, a Stone’s Throw Away

The Slate Valley Museum opens a news exhibit celebrating the slate industry. Here, Fred Williams III is shown working at Hilltop Slate Company. Photo by Chuck Helfer.

The Slate Valley Museum opens a news exhibit celebrating the slate industry.
Here, Fred Williams III is shown working at Hilltop Slate Company. Photo by Chuck Helfer.

Rock Work, an exhibit opening at the Slate Valley Museum (SVM) on First Friday, April 7, from 7 to 9 p.m., is a modern photo survey of what it is like to work in the slate industry today. Photos include incredible portraiture of people working in the quarries and mills and breathtaking landscapes of the massive quarries themselves. The photographs were shot by local photographer Chuck Helfer and two Green Mountain College students, Macaulay Lerman and Maggie Parson.

“The photographs in the Rock Work show are strong, powerful, and beautiful at the same time. They highlight the amazing men and women proudly working in the slate industry. It is an important body of work to add to our museum’s collection,” says Krista Rupe, SVM executive director.

Inspired by SVM’s vast collection of famed Americana photographer Neil Rappaport’s quarry photos taken from the mid-60s through the mid-90s, the artistic scope for ‘Rock Work’ is as ambitious as the photographs, which were taken at 13 area slate companies.

“Being a lifelong member of the slate working community I am extremely proud to be included in this amazingly documented pictorial illustration of the Slate Quarry business. My heartfelt thanks to the Slate Valley Museum and the photographers that put this beautiful piece of work together,” said quarry owner Paul Labas.

“The people in the slate industry make it what it is. In spite of all the mechanization that has taken place, at its heart is still a person with a hammer and chisel producing workable slates, a feature that is unchanged in over 200 years,” says Helfer, who has lived in Poultney, for 13 years after retiring as a federal employee with national service programs such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. Since living in Vermont, Helfer has been an active photographer for nonprofit and governmental agencies such as The Nature Conservancy, Vermont State Historical Parks and the National Park Service.

Lerman is a senior at GMC working towards a Fine Art degree with a focus in photography. His work has been displayed in local galleries, including the Photo Center of Troy New York. In addition to the Slate Valley Museum he also works with the Vermont Folklife Center. Parson is also a senior at GMC studying art and philosophy. She works in a variety of artistic mediums including analog photography. Her work has recently been shown at Stone Valley Arts.

The exhibit was co-curated by Rupe and Jonathan Taylor, Poultney-based artist, art teacher at Mill River High School, and adjunct professor at GMC. The show is sponsored by Vermont State Quarry Association and Fred’s Pharmacy, and will be up through the third week in May. SVM is located at 17 Water Street in Granville, N.Y. To learn more, call 518-642-1417 or visit slatevalleymuseum.org.

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