Akron Art Museum

photo by Richman Haire

Akron, OH




Indivisible: Stories of American Community


This December, as part of a national documentary project, the Akron Art Museum will present Indivisible: Stories of American Community, an exhibition that offers a collective vision of local life and community involvement through the experience of twelve diverse communities and their citizens. On view from December 16, 2000 through February 25, 2001, Indivisible features the new work of leading photographers and nationally recognized interviewers who were asked to record and interpret the character of these communities and the challenges residents face. The exhibition combines the power of still photography with the directness of first-person narratives -- in the form of audio taped interviews that will be available to all museums visitors - -to show how local heroes are changing America.

The exhibition features nearly 200 original photographs by 12 distinguished photographers. Dawoud Bey, Bill Burke, Lucy Capehart, Lynn Davis, Jerry Evans, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Lauren Greenfield, Joan Liftin, Reagan Louie, Danny Lyon, Sylvia Plachy, and Eli Reed have each made original and influential contributions to social history and the art of photography. They bring their own personal vision to each community, where they spent up to thirty days documenting what they found. Often more evocative than illustrative, their powerful photographs include black-and-white portraits, landscapes and triptychs, and vibrant color interiors, photomontages, and portraits of people and the life of their community. (left: ©1999 Lauren Greenfield/Indivisible. Listener Ruth Barajas talks to her boyfriend during shift at Youthline)

Accompanying the photographs as an audio presentation are excerpts from interviews by ten noted oral historians, radio producers, folklorists, and journalists: Merle Augustin, Dan Collison, Barry Dornfeld, George King, Jack Loeffler, Jens Lund, Karen Michel, Daniel Rothenberg, Jeff Whetstone, and Joe Wood. Sometimes working alongside the photographers, and sometimes independently, they recorded first-person narratives of community members, ambient sound, local music, and events. Audio handsets, free to museum visitors, share these stories of the relationships, motivations, struggles, commitment, frustration, and accomplishment that drive local problem solving and grassroots change.

In addition to the nationally touring museum exhibition, Indivisible includes free postcard exhibitions with interactive computer stations traveling to cities across the country, a major trade book, and an extensive Web site. The postcard exhibition will be on view January 16 through February 25, 2001 at the Cleveland Playhouse. The Indivisible project also includes the formation of historically valuable research archives, an Educator's Guide for use in schools and communities, and a how-to booklet for developing a community documentary project. (left: ©1999 Eli Reed from Indivisible. Columbia Chief of Police Charles P. Austin baptises Brandon Hawkins)

Indivisible features 12 grassroots initiatives that address issues facing communities across the U.S., such as housing, immigration, the environment, crime prevention, health care, youth empowerment, race relations, and economic and cultural development. Among the many stories that unfold, photographer Lynn Davis and folklorist Jens Lund show us Alaskan fishing communities along the North Pacific Coast where innovative marine conservation efforts are having an impact; photographer Sylvia Plachy and journalist Karen Michel visit women on Long Island where midwives and doulas give support to birthing women during labor, delivery, and early postpartum stages; and photographer Danny Lyon and author Daniel Rothenberg document farm workers in Texas border towns who learn to finance and construct their own homes.

Indivisible is a project of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in partnership with the Center for Creative Photography - University of Arizona. Indivisible is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. This exhibition was organized and circulated by the Center for Creative Photography. Its presentation in Akron is made possible by a generous gift from the Akron Community Foundation.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/27/11

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