Art and activism at Herndon Gallery
By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
This summer, the Herndon Gallery at Antioch College presents Unpacking the Archives: Frameworks for Change–Activate Now!, which will offer a connection to a time that was tumultuous not only for Yellow Springs, but for America as a whole: the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
“This idea started last fall in a conversation between Raewyn Martyn, visiting assistant professor of visual art, and Brooke Bryan, who is a cooperative education professor and has a degree in oral history,” said Dennie Eagleson, Herndon Gallery’s creative director. “Brooke has been working on collecting more stories from local folks who were involved in the Civil Rights struggle, and also helping to develop a method of access to the WYSO archives, which has a rich collection of audio files from the ’60s.”
The creation of Unpacking the Archives was founded on the interest and participation of the Yellow Springs community.
“We began meeting with numbers of people in the community who had interest in working with archives, including Jocelyn Robinson, the Digital Archivist at WYSO, various students, faculty and staff,” Eagleson said. “Raewyn spent time with students looking through the archives in Antiochiana, which holds historical documents and photographs from the Civil Rights era, and also in what we call the Alternative Library, a collection of zines, articles, documents and photographs created and collected by Antioch students over the decades focused on campus activism. The Antioch community was invited to contribute to this exhibition in whatever creative ways they could imagine. Faculty were invited to integrate the exhibition into coursework and several faculty gave students the opportunity to use the exhibition as a theme and forum for presenting their research. Kevin McGruder, assistant professor of history, built it into his U.S. Women’s History Course, and student Ryann Patrus produced a zine from her research into intersectional and disability feminism. The zine is aimed at raising awareness of ableism on campus.”
An opening reception will be held on Friday, July 11, at which Stephen Marc will give an artist talk. Marc, an Arizona State University School of Art professor and digital artist, is known in part for his narrative work that depicts the struggles connected to the Underground Railroad, emancipation and the Civil Rights movement.
“Because we didn’t know what kind of response we would have, we selected the digital composites of Stephen Marc to anchor the exhibition, and also decided to screen films by Ken Jacobs, who is a filmmaker who has worked significantly from archives in creating his work,” Eagleson said.
This summer is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and Freedom Summer, making the exhibition both timely and reverent.
“The timing felt right,” said Eagleson. “Many Antioch students were involved in Freedom Summer, and we tragically lost family members of two college alumni that summer, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. It feels pretty closely intertwined to the college history. Current students have been asking to learn from alumni about their experiences in social justice activism, and we were hoping to connect them through this interactive exhibition. We are hoping returning students will continue to add to the exhibition. It is also a great moment in the story of the college’s reopening and rebuilding, and sharing our past and present stories is an important part of sustaining that creative energy.”
In fact, Unpacking the Archives would not have come together without the attention and contribution from Antioch College’s students. Cleo Van der Veen spent time looking at archives and creating work for the exhibit, one piece of which stretches across the middle of the main level of the gallery. The piece, “1800 Harvard Street Northwest,” is a “drawing” of the original site of the Antioch Law School.
“When I started talking to Raewyn about integrating my experiences – with imagined history with real history – I had already settled on thinking about the building as an annotated floor plan where the annotations would be a mix of past and present, fact and fiction,” said Van der Veen, who is also the editor of the Antioch Scallion, a satirical publication similar to The Onion. “I really wanted to make my floor plan large scale so people could experience being ‘in’ the space just like I did. Dennie and Raewyn were very generous with giving me a lot of freedom and a lot of space to work with which facilitated me making a very large annotated floor plan on the floor of the gallery using layers of multicolored tape.”
Eagleson, whose history with Antioch College reaches back to her days as a student in the late 1960s, is handing the reigns of creative director over to Jennifer Rooks Wenker, an MFA-trained eco-artist and founder of SPARK Creative Artspace. With this exhibition, the new creative director is in the unique position to learn not only about Herndon Gallery, but also about Antioch College’s place in Yellow Springs’ history and community.
“It is a great exhibition to continue to revisit,” Eagleson said. “There are documents to read, media to watch and then there are just places that are wonderful to visit, like our installation of native plants that are being used to restore a part of the habitat in the Glen that was recently cleared of honeysuckle and other invasive plants. Or you could go on the audio tour of the town, downloading audio files by scanning a QR code where different historical events took place. Or you could come sit in an Indonesian bicycle powered transport and look at images of Indonesian people gathering in protest. Or you could visit the installation about Nonstop, and the college’s recent struggle to become independent and to reopen.”
With so much to learn and experience, you may need to plan for multiple visits to Herndon Gallery this summer!
Antioch College’s Herndon Gallery will host an opening reception and artist talk by Stephen Marc on Friday, July 11, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. for the exhibition Unpacking the Archives: Frameworks for Change–Activate Now! The exhibition will run through August 15. Herndon Gallery is located in the South Hall at Antioch College, 1 Morgan Place, Yellow Springs. For more information, please visit antiochcollege.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at JenniferHanauerLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com. To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at jennerlumpkin.com.