Gallery Show at Bethel Gives Women a Voice

Matthew Stackowicz stands with Jacque Macharia in front of her photography, which was displayed at the gallery exhibition at Bethel College.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and for the women of St. Margaret’s House — an organization dedicated to helping women overcome challenges and become self-sufficient — their photography spoke volumes during a recent exhibition in the Great Hall of the Everest-Rohrer Chapel/Fine Arts Center at Bethel College.

“As We Rise,” showcased the work that came out of a free, two-week photography workshop conducted by Matthew Stackowicz, internship coordinator for career services at Bethel, and Sky Lohse.

It was all part of The Darkroom Project, an organization founded by Stackowicz and Lohse to empower vulnerable populations through photography.

The photos displayed at the exhibition represented pain and suffering, joy and hope, past and present, home and homelessness, self and selflessness.

“It provided a glimpse into the lives of those who often do not have a voice, but those who deserve to have their story told,” Stackowicz said.

Stackowicz chose Bethel for the venue not only because he works there, but because of the college’s mission, strong commitment to community service and the beauty of the Great Hall. “I thought it was conducive to honoring the participants and their stories,” Stackowicz said.

The exhibition was a community affair, involving collaboration from Bethel staff members Lisa Greco and Derek Null, who found donors to supply refreshments and arranged to have the artwork displayed. In addition, The Frame Factory provided complementary matting and framing, and Gene’s Camera offered a discount on developing the photographs. Several high school photographers got involved by taking pictures at the event, and all the cameras used for the workshop were donated.

During the two-week workshop, participants met with Stackowicz or Lohse at St. Margaret’s House for an hour a day, beginning by discussing a photo or quote, learning about basic photography skills, and ending with an assignment.

“The women were amazing. They picked up concepts, mastered them and took great photos,” Stackowicz said.

Angie Healy, guest services coordinator for St. Margaret’s House, says the program went over very well. “At first, I wasn’t sure how they would react and worried they might be intimidated about using the cameras or taking photos of their personal lives, but they really got into it,” she says. “Not only did the women learn about photography, but they were able to take a new look at their everyday surroundings and turn them into something beautiful, something to be proud of.”

In fact, some of the women enjoyed what they learned so much that they plan to begin a photography club.

In addition to their work with St. Margaret’s House, The Darkroom Project also conducted a workshop at Goodwill this summer, through the Beyond the Jobs and Second Chance programs. Artwork was displayed at the Natatorium/Civil Rights Center in South Bend, and debuted with a community gallery opening in July.

“We created an open space where both groups could share their stories in the classroom and in the community,” Stackowicz said.

Stackowicz and Lohse plan to take The Darkroom Project to Guatemala in November, with hopes that their curriculum may be replicated around the world.

To see photos from the events and learn more, visit TheDarkroomProject.org.

The photography of Jamien Flemming – a St. Margaret’s House participant – is displayed during the gallery exhibition at Bethel College.

“Bridge of Hope,” by Jamien Flemming features three of her children standing on a bridge, illustrating hope for their future.

“My Struggle” by Jamien Flemming depicts what she and her children have to go to just to wash their clothes — taking multiple busses with overflowing baskets of laundry to utilize the free services St. Margaret’s House provides.

2 comments on “Gallery Show at Bethel Gives Women a Voice

  1. Both ‘Bridge of Hope’ and ‘My Struggle’ are beautiful and inspirational pictures. This is an empowering process. I wish I could see more photos of this gallery show. The boundaries between art and life become blurred.

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