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Photo Exhibit Eyes Mill Valley at Work

Outdoor showcase of photos debuts Sept. 1, looking at the people who serve as the backbone of our town.

One makes that turkey sandwich at that gets you through the day. Another makes sure our sewer drains are clear in advance of that impending rainstorm. A third bakes the baguette the kids can’t get enough of at the dinner table.

You may not known their names, but these are the people that serve as the backbone of our town, and rarely does the well-deserved spotlight shine their way.

Until now, that is.

and local photographer Suki Hill have teamed up on a new outdoor photo exhibit that focuses the lens squarely on people throughout Mill Valley who start their days before most of us and propel our town in ways that are easy to miss. The exhibit, centered on six large banners containing multiple black-and-white photos apiece, debuts Sept. 1 and gets an opening party as part of the on Sept. 6.

142 Throckmorton Executive Director Lucy Mercer came up with the idea earlier this year, seeing the concept as a way to dig into what Mill Valley is and go beyond demographics that tell the obvious story of wealth and a lack of diversity.

“You can see our true community on an everyday basis as you come to work downtown,” Mercer said. “This is a visual way to educate us as to the complexity of our community. There is diversity here that people don’t understand unless you all of a sudden see it.”

Hill credits Mercer with the concept as evidence of her larger vision for the Throckmorton itself.

“It’s Lucy’s mission to connect the community with the arts and the people – she has an incredibly strong vision,” Hill said.

Mercer said Hill, a 2007 recipient of a Milley Award who has chronicled the people and places of Mill Valley for years, was the perfect fit for the project. Hill’s "A Photographer's Intimate View of Mill Valley, California 1900-2001” exhibits was on display at the for nearly 10 years, and her book, Mill Valley Then and Now, pairs historic photographic scenes of Mill Valley with her contemporary photographs from the same vantage point.

“She’s very in touch with the people and the history and the changes in our town over the years,” Mercer said. “She felt a kinship to the project and went out at 6 a.m. to see who it was that opened up things in our town.”

Those early morning trips downtown gave Hill a crash course on the fabric of Mill Valley. She found that while few of the people she photographed lived in Mill Valley, they lived in places like Novato and the Canal District of San Rafael.

“But they are a vital part of our community,” she said.

Hill said she could see taking the concept elsewhere in Marin.

“That’s what I’m hoping,” she said. “Every town has this backbone that doesn’t get enough of our attention.”

The 411: Mill Valley At Work opens Sept. 1 outside 142 Throckmorton Theatre, with an opening night party Tuesday, Sept. 6, as part of the First Tuesday Artwalk, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Free.

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