Return to Previous Page

July 8th, 2002
Photography Exhibition Exploring American Communities to Open at Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia, PA– Indivisible: Stories of American Community, a documentary project focusing on the ties binding Americans to their neighbors and their communities, explores twelve places across the country where people are stepping forward every day to make a difference. Through the distinctive visions of some of the nation’s leading photographers and interviews by prominent oral historians and folklorists, Indivisible: Stories of American Community provides a firsthand look at local heroes, creating a vivid portrait of Americans moved to take action in their own unique ways. The multi-media exhibition is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from August 10 through October 6, 2002.

To convey the energy and creativity that distinguish The Village for Arts and Humanities, Reagan Louie, a Guggenheim and Fulbright fellow and professor of photography at the San Francisco Art Institute, worked with Barry Dornfeld, a documentary producer and director and associate professor of the Communication Program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Together, they captured the spirit behind the remarkable turreted stucco architecture, recycled-tire flower pots, vegetable gardens, and colorful public—mosaics, murals, and sculpture--that combine the efforts of artist Lily Yeh, James "Big Man" Maxton, guest artists, and the community— especially children.

Indivisible is a project of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in partnership with the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. Indivisible is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"We are delighted to bring this exhibition to Philadelphia," said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "At the heart of the wide ranging documentary project is a kind of inspiration that might emerge from anywhere. One of the communities sensitively documented through eloquent photography and commentary is North Philadelphia’s own Village of Arts and Humanities, which is so exemplary as a wellspring of artistic expression and renewal within a reclaimed urban landscape. It takes its compelling place in this exhibition as part of a collective portrait, reflected through artistic eyes and the poetry of oral history."

Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts, said: "One of the Trusts’ core aims is to help reconnect Americans to the communities and institutions that bind us together as a nation. 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."

Using original photographs and the voices of citizens telling their own stories, Indivisible provides a rich backdrop for the timely exploration of American identities. It documents, among others, Haitian immigrants in Delray Beach, Florida, working with local police to patrol their streets to combat drug use and crime; Alaskan fishing communities along the North Pacific Coast where innovative marine conservation efforts are having a lasting impact; migrant farm workers in Texas border towns who are learning to finance and construct their own homes; and community residents of North Philadelphia’s Village of Arts and Humanities, where more than eighty-five abandoned properties have been converted to art parks, community gardens, education facilities, and lowincome housing. As a whole, Indivisible features twelve local efforts to tackle dilemmas and problems facing many communities across the United States today, addressing housing, immigration, the environment, crime prevention, health care, youth empowerment, race relations, and economic and cultural development.

Lily Yeh, who founded the Village of Arts and Humanities as a park building project in 1986, added: "At its heart, the Village is one story of American community, and from the very beginning our vision emerged through a power that comes from within. Today, it is deeply satisfying to find ourselves within the national context of Indivisible. Being represented and presented in this way, through a fine photographer’s eye and through the eloquence of community voices reminds us of what can happen through an inspired vision and people working together with dedication and inspiration."

In addition to the documentary exhibition, the national project includes a number of other components:

A traveling exhibit that will distribute up to 3 million free postcards during its two-year tour (on display at the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia (August 10–24, 2002) and at the Fleisher Art Memorial (September 16–October 5, 2002), where it will be installed in the Suzanne Fleisher and Ralph Joel Roberts Gallery, Fleisher Memorial Center for Works on Paper, 705 Catharine Street.

Local Heroes Changing America: Indivisible, a major book published by the Center for Documentary Studies in association with W. W. Norton & Company, includes a foreword by journalist Ray Suarez. It is available in the Museum store ($29.95, clothbound), or by calling (800) 329-4856 or via the Museum’s website at www.philamuseum.org.

An extensive Web site, www.indivisible.org, dubbed by Roadside magazine "simply one of the most important and compelling works on the Web today," that presents the Indivisible photographs and interview excerpts along with resources for exploring community action.

Major research archives at the Center for Creative Photography and Duke University and sets of photographs and interview tapes for each community.

A booklet for individuals and groups that wish to conduct their own community documentary projects, titled Putting Documentary Work to Work: A Guide for Communities, Artists, and Activists.

"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, former 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."

ORGANIZERS
The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS), an interdisciplinary educational organization affiliated with Duke University, is dedicated to advancing documentary work that combines experience and creativity with education and community life. Founded in 1989, CDS connects the arts and humanities to fieldwork, drawing upon photography, filmmaking, oral history, folklore, and writing as catalysts for education and change. CDS supports the active examination of contemporary society, the recognition of collaboration as central to documentary work, and the presentation of experiences that heighten our historical and cultural awareness. CDS achieves this work through academic courses, research, oral history and other fieldwork, gallery and traveling exhibitions, annual awards, book publishing, community-based projects, and public events.

The Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona is a museum and research institution dedicated to photography as an art form and cultural record. The CCP holds more archives and individual works by 20th-century North American photographers than any other museum in the nation, including the archives of over sixty major 20th-century American photographers—Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston and Garry Winogrand among them—whose prints are the centerpiece of an art collection numbering more than sixty thousand works by two thousand photographers. The CCP has an integrated program of preservation, access, and education that celebrates the history of photography and its contemporary practice.

THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS
The Pew Charitable Trusts (www.pewtrusts.com) support nonprofit activities in the areas of culture, education, the environment, health and human services, public policy and religion. Based in Philadelphia, the Trusts make strategic investments to help organizations and citizens develop practical solutions to difficult problems. In 2001, with approximately $4.3 billion in assets, the Trusts committed over $230 million to 175 nonprofit organizations.

The Pew Charitable Trusts invest in ideas that fuel timely action and results. They focus a significant portion of their resources on supporting programs that stimulate participation in civic affairs. These include initiatives that foster a citizenry more engaged in local, regional, and national public issues and that provide information resources for the media, the public, and policymakers.

The programs supported by the Trusts address a spectrum of issues affecting the democratic impulse, especially among younger people. These include partnerships that drive public participation in local and national democratic processes; research revealing the motivations for, and impediments to, individuals becoming engaged in social action; establishing information resources for the media, public, and policymakers; and preserving original historic documents and sites that serve as touchstones for animating discussion about the rights and responsibilities that define us as Americans. The collective goal of these investments is to reinvigorate public participation in democracy and, by doing so, strengthen the fabric of community that extends from neighborhood to nationhood.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest museums in the United States, with a collection of more than 227,000 works of art and more than 200 galleries presenting painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, decorative arts, textiles, and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Its facilities include its landmark Main Building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Perelman Building, located nearby on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Rodin Museum on the 2200 block of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and two 18th-century houses in Fairmount Park, Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove. The Museum offers a wide variety of activities for public audiences, including special exhibitions, programs for children and families, lectures, concerts and films.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at pressroom@philamuseum.org. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

Return to Previous Page