The project speaks to the tensions between the State University and the neighborhood of Fairmount Park recently strained because of stereotypical perceptions of residents. The belief is that the neighborhood is predominantly African American, though this is not the case (it is mixed). In recent 'crime alerts' issued by WSU Campus police, incidents on campus and in the neighborhood, including robberies, assaults, and rape, are routinely associated with young African-American men who are also perceived as being residents of the neighborhood (though this narrative is also contested by residents). As a result, students avoid leaving the boundaries of the University, and residents of Fairmount Park find themselves disconnected from the WSU community. This project is about overcoming these divisions.
We, a group of seven WSU students in the School of Art and Design worked with students, community leaders, WSU Professors in various departments, WSU staff, police force, and Ulrich museum curators, to realize the project. The portraits reflect this, in that they include members from all these groups. We plan to install the portraits on two buildings located on the border of both the neighborhood and the University. The installation will be part of broader consciousness-raising events planned for next year starting in the spring with an exhibition of the work of Gordon Parks at the Ulrich museum, which will also include various panels and discussions about these issues. In the spirit of Park’s work (he was a Kansan), we would like our installation to contribute to the coming together of the communities involved. We plan to make the installation a festive event that includes all the members that we been working with since this fall.