In Evanston, faces of the community have become an integral part of the landscape, literally, representing a worldwide challenge from an award-winning artist.
JR, a French street artist, started taking up-close, black-and-white portraits of people and pasting enlarged versions of them in public spaces in locations around the world. His work started as an illegal project, but become known by many. In March of this year, JR was presented with the TED Prize
for innovation and creativity.
In his TED speech
, JR urged people to follow his lead; to create art for the sake of making art. Art can turn the world inside out, he explains. As TED Prize winner, he is granted one wish. His was to create a movement in which people stand up for what they care about by contributing to a large-scale, participatory art project, now known as the Inside Out Project
Locally, the Contemporary Arts Center, along with arts groups, took up the Inside Out Project initiative. In Evanston, the CAC, Xavier University’s Eigel Center for Communtiy-Engaged Learning
, Flavor of Art Studios
and artists’ collective Satellite Projects brought together community leaders to begin the project. The Evanston Group, as they call themselves, have since created a community-centered art project.
Portraits from groups like the Evanston Group are being uploaded to the Inside Out Projects website, adding to an expansive collection of portraits from around the world, all stored and showcased on one site.
The Evanston result features photos taken by Xavier students and local photographers, John Curley, Greg Rust, Alyssa Konerman and Sean Dunn. They captured images of community children, parents, teachers and leaders. Now images are posted at the Evanston Recreation Center, the Evanston Employment Resource Connection, two other locations on Montgomery Road and Dana Avenue, as well as several locations around Xavier University. One temporary billboard, at the corner of Dana and Montgomery, displays one of the portraits.
The Evanston Group began its work by asking neighbors to illustrate their value, their place in their part of the city. Throughout the course of five different photo shoots, the community of Evanston was captured, on camera and in black and white.
“There’s a story behind each picture that is fascinating,” says Sean Rhiney, director of the Xavier University’s Eigel Center for Communtiy-Engaged Learning and former Soapbox managing editor. “We asked people to bring an object that represents what the feel they bring to the community. For some people, it was their smile.”
The CAC is working with several neighborhoods around the city to participate in the Inside Out Project.
By Evan Wallis