Terra Museum of American Art

Chicago, IL



Indivisible: Stories of American Community


A national museum exhibition, Indivisible: Stories of American Community, which explores community life and grassroots action in America as viewed by some of the country's most accomplished photographers, oral historians and folklorists, will continue through Nov. 26, 2000.

Dramatic black-and-white images, vibrant color prints and photo montages comprise the 200 photographs featured in the exhibition Twelve distinguished photographers, along with documentary interviewers, were asked to capture the character of community initiatives at work, confronting issues such as housing, immigration, youth empowerment, race relations, and economic and cultural development, among others. The photographers are Dawoud Bey, Bill Burke, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Lucy Capehart, Lynn Davis, Terry Evans, Lauren Greenfield, Joan Liftin, Reagan Louie, Danny Lyon, Sylvia Plachy, and Eli Reed. (left: Joan Liftin, Haitian Church Outing, Delray Beach, Florida, 1999)

"Community organizing has been a powerful antidote to the powerlessness people feel facing problems in their neighborhoods," said John Hallmark Neff; Terra Museum Director. "This exhibition reveals people who are tapping into the tremendous power that comes with connecting to society and helping others."

Indivisible is a project of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, the University of Arizona. Indivisible is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. This exhibition was organized and circulated by the Center for Creative Photography. Additional support to increase access and educational opportunities was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

An "audio montage" of American voices, with an introduction narrated by noted journalist Ray Suarez, accompanies the major traveling exhibition, and is available free to museum visitors through audio guides. The project also includes a traveling postcard exhibition which will premiere at a local venue in Chicago; an interactive Web site launched concurrently with the Chicago opening and a 285-page book, published by W.W. Norton & Company/Lyndhurst Books, entitled Local Heroes Changing America. Indivisible includes educators' materials for use in schools and communities and the creation of major research archives to be housed at the two Universities. (left: Lucy Capehart, Tony Venderver, Al Largo's stepfather, in the Venderver home near Haystack: Mountain, New Mexico, 1999)

"From the onset, Indivisible was envisioned as a collaboration that would cross many conventional boundaries and be embraced by the public," Neff said. "Indivisible, with its thousands of citizens working towards local initiatives, presents a cumulative portrait of our country, showing individuals who are succeeding at shaping their own destinies."

Among the 12 urban and rural areas featured is the Chicago nonprofit organization, the Southwest Youth Collaborative, which works with community residents from West Englewood, Chicago Lawn, Gage Park, West Lawn and Elsdon. Founded in 1991, the organization provides services to youths and families from a range of racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.

Dawoud Bey, a professor of photography at Columbia College-Chicago, photographed members of the Southwest Youth Collaborative with his distinctive and sensitive style of portraiture. The dramatic portrayals reveal a dichotomy of the struggles and the hopes of neighborhood residents. Bey's photographs have been exhibited extensively, at institutions including the Walker Art Center, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and were included in this year's Whitney Biennial. (left: Dawoud Bey, Danyale Sims, West Englewood Youth and Teen Center, Chicago, Illinois, 1999)

Dan Collison, a regular contributor to National Public Radio, conducted the interview portion of the project at the Southwest Youth Collaborative. Comments and stories from the Collaborative are featured along with the photographs in the accompanying book, Local Heroes Changing America and on the audio montage.

Another of the participating photographers - noted landscape photographer Terry Evans - recently had a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, and currently resides in Chicago. Her photographs, taken of a forest community in Yaak Valley, Montana, reflect her longtime interest in environmental concerns. (left: Terry Evans, Haakon, Aaron and Shirley Karuzas, Yaak Valley, Montana, 1999)

"Indivisible is a unique project matching documentary expression with committed grassroots community action. The creative work of project photographers and fieldworkers provides powerful testimony to personal efforts, encouraging dialogue about the importance of the individual in community life," said project co-director Tom Rankin, Director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. "By amplifying the stories of local people and places, Indivisible affirms the value of`community and illustrates the potential gain that comes from recognizing mutual interests and interdependence."

"The photographers, twelve distinct interpreters of American life, have given us a wealth of imagery that speaks to the texture and character of diverse communities across the country," said project co-director Trudy Wilner Stack, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the Center for Creative Photography. "These artists powerfully reveal places that define our nation and people who inspire us in the search for a renewed commitment to working democracy."

"One of the Trusts' core aims is to help reconnect Americans to the communities and institutions that bind us together as a nation," said Rebecca W. Rimel, President and CEO of the Pew Charitable Trusts. "Indivisible portrays the struggle to build our democracy at the ground level - connecting our everyday lives with our civic lives - and documents how, with hard work, it can be done."

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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