Humans of Vermont Shines Spotlight on Locals

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Humans of Vermont Shines Spotlight on Locals

By Wendy Walcoff

Last spring, three Middlebury seniors started Humans of Vermont, an independent study modeled after the popular Humans of New York, created in 2010  by Brandon Stanton.

Traveling to different parts of the state, these students began to collect the stories and photos of various Vermonters and posted them on Facebook. As the desire to drive beyond Middlebury College and listen to the people of Vermont grew, the page quickly accumulated ‘likes’. This year, the project is run by Wendy Walcoff ’16.5, Olivia Wiggins ’18.5, Emily Robinson ’18.5, and Grace Levin ’18.5.

Each weekend, they make their way to a new destination; a harvest fair, an apple orchard, a small town’s main street. With questions ranging from, “What is a moment in your life you would like to return to?” to “What is something that you have learned recently?” or even “Have you ever been in love?” the conversations begin beneath the surface for both listener and speaker. As it turns out, people want to be heard.

At a recent harvest fair in Bristol, Vermont, Humans of Vermont spoke with a blacksmith, a local band, a fireman, a family of four, a jeweler and many other attendees. ​One woman, Ellen Spring, a print maker and mother of two teenage girls, opened up immediately upon being asked about her artwork.

“I say, somewhat facetiously, that I’m kind of doing what I’ve been doing since I was eight years old,” Ellen laughed, pointing to her colorful shirts with vegetable block-prints. Without much prompting, she began speaking of her passion, her family and the ideas that ground her.

“It hasn’t always been incredibly clear to me what my path should be,” She articulated. “It was just that choices were made easier because I felt like it was okay to choose happiness.  When I first got out of art school it was kind of like..ah I guess I have to go to New York because that’s where artists go. But I didn’t really want to go to New York. And then I thought: ‘Oh, I don’t have to!’”
Ellen recalled her decisions with ease, and her words spoke directly to the eager ears of those college students persisting under the pressure of the job hunt.

“It’s okay to choose to follow your heart.  I didn’t go into this thinking ‘I’m gonna be rich.’ But it’s a living, and I’ve been doing it for 30 something years now. And I still love it.  That’s kind of what has always kept me going: that I feel really lucky to get up every morning and do something I love.”

As the collection of stories builds, The Campus will feature excerpts from the people and places gathered by Humans of Vermont.  A reminder to share, to listen, and that sometimes all you have to do is ask.

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