January 4, 2010
Time Well Spent is a traveling exhibit launched in 2006 from Johnson State College. It has been shown at venues throughout Vermont, including Copley Hospital in Morrisville and the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury, where it was the featured exhibit in the summer of 2008.
This project was coordinated by photographer John Miller, professor and chair of the Fine Arts Department at JSC. In addition to teaching, Miller has produced many exhibitions of his work and authored two books, Deer Camp: Last Light in the Northeast Kingdom and Granite and Cedar.
In the spring of 2006, Advanced Photography and Digital Media students at Johnson State College (JSC) partnered with the Craftsbury Community Care Center, a senior living environment whose residents range from independent to minimally assisted, to create the works in this exhibit. Students interacted weekly with the elders. Their new relationships helped students understand the nature of aging and, if only for a semester, bring companionship and joy to an appreciative group of people. During their visits, the students told stories and listened to stories, joined seniors in art projects and Scrabble games, and enjoyed an evening of dancing and entertainment in Craftsbury during the week of Mardi Gras.
During their time at the Center, the JSC students photographed residents individually and in groups, documenting various aspects of the elders' lives. This led to the final and most well developed component of the service-learning project: a framed, traveling exhibition, accompanied by reflective statements written by the students as the project progressed. This exhibit opened at the end of the 2006 spring semester at the Craftsbury Community Care Center to the delight of the residents, staff and the students involved. The exhibit truly was a gift to the residents from the students. As the exhibit continued at the Center for the next three months, visitors expressed their appreciation not only for the beautiful photographs, but for the positive impact the photographs had on their loved ones - giving them a sense of pride, identity and belonging.
Introducing a service-learning component to this course made the course far more demanding in terms of teaching. It also challenged the students, who found the project quite daunting until they began to develop a connection with a senior. Over time, the students came to appreciate that hard work and persistence, coupled with confronting even uncomfortable challenges, can lead to the creation of something that is meaningful for themselves and others.
For more information about this exhibit, contact Professor Miller at email@example.com. To learn more about this and other service-learning collaborations between JSC students and community members, contact Dan Regan, academic dean, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This exhibit is funded in part by the President's Fund for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Johnson State.