New Voices Exhibition – 2009

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
– Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities)

Despite the purported incompatibility of social services and educational facilities in Over-the-Rhine, a recent event hosted by the Miami University Center for Community Engagement reinforced the assertion that a great city is defined by how it embraces juxtaposition, not by its avoidance.

On December 8, students from the Cincinnati School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) joined members of the Drop Inn Center homeless shelter’s Men’s Recovery Program for an exhibition at the Miami University Center for Community Engagement.

SCPA students in the New Voices program, led by David Rosenthal of Prairie, presented photographs taken during the course of the semester.  Students worked in pairs with the men from the Drop Inn Center, coordinated by Northern Kentucky University professor Chris Wilkey.  Writing poetry was used as a means of generating dialogue and forging a connection between the students and residents that will be neighbors when the school moves to its new Washington Park site.

At the exhibition, a video loop featured spoken word contributions by members of the men’s recovery writing program, projected on a large screen fabricated by the Miami students.  These students also used photography to capture both new, market-rate construction in the neighborhood and current conditions for homeless.

”Your collective honesty and bravery in sharing with us has inspired me”
– SCPA student in a letter to the Drop Inn Center writing group

“I got to see a side of my community I didn’t even know was there.  It shed some light on things I once ignored.”
– SCPA student in a letter to the New Voices program.

To support the New Voices exhibition, Miami students designed and fabricated steel display panels and installed lighting.  Students designed the system with flexibility in mind, so that the lightweight panels can be removed or added for custom window displays. Ronan Kirwan of Kirwan Industries in the West End graciously provided technical support during fabrication.

The installation responded to the Design-Build Studio’s semester concept of “storefront”— an instrument for inspiring a range of human interaction rather than a one-sided projection of image or brand.   During the semester and after the exhibit, passers-by stopped to investigate student proposals, sketches, and photographs, and to comment.