Grounds For Sculpture is pleased to present two exhibitions as part of our new Perspectives series – Local Voices: Memories, Stories, and Portraits, and Spiral Q: The Parade.
Local Voices: Memories, Stories, and Portraits is an exhibition centered on the importance, and impact, of sharing an authentic personal story. It is a person-centered exhibition giving full agency to everyone involved. It was also created in response to Grounds For Sculpture’s 2021 audience demographic survey. We wanted to better understand our current visitors and dove into this project to engage with New Jersey’s vibrant Indian community. Grounds for Sculpture (GFS) is honored to partner with Madhusmita Bora, a folk and traditional artist, teacher, and trained journalist as she gathered oral histories to present a range of diverse and uniquely personal stories from fifteen individuals whom we refer to as storytellers. This process included the creation of our own list of demographic “boxes” for potential attendees to check, including language, religion, ability, region of origin, caste, education, immigration, and sexual orientation. This was done to ensure a broad range of lived experiences, perspective and thought. These storytellers were then freed of all boxes, or labels, and asked to share a story which impacted their life. As with many great books, or heartfelt songs, the more personal the narrative the more universal are the themes of love, loss, and resilience. It’s this core of connectivity that we are seeking. This core is embedded with personal agency: Who gets to tell our stories? Who gets to define us?
Within the scope of Local Voices every storyteller was encouraged to share their truth and as a result our process and path to the creation of this exhibition shifted many times. Each shift had a ripple effect of building trust, growing possibilities, and creating community. When it came time for the Local Voices Retreat – an all-day workshop with storytelling training and a photography session – storytellers were asked to arrive in clothing which made them feel powerful and celebrated. They were also encouraged to work in partnership with their photographer to create images which spoke to who the storyteller is… sharing as much or as little as they were comfortable. They were then asked to select the final image, which are a wide range of vibrant, joy filled and powerful portraits. As everyone departed from the retreat storytellers signed up for their video session – where they share a 3–5-minute story – and left objects – items which tell another part of their story.
GFS will offer opportunities to learn more about the interview and selection process, and storytellers, with programs shared on our calendar. GFS is thrilled to work with The South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) as a preservation partner, ensuring the stories shared for this exhibition will be permanently saved for future generations.
Some of the words and terms used within this exhibition may be new to you. We invite you to research those terms, which are not familiar, so you can better understand the cultural context. We don’t want to assume who holds which norms, and all of us have space to learn. All of us also have stories. Which stories speak to you?
Co-Curated by Kathleen Ogilvie Greene, Chief Audience Officer at Grounds For Sculpture, and Quentin Williams, Founder and CEO of Dragon Tree Media Group
Local Voices: Memories, Stories, and Portraits is made possible by major support from Marjorie Ogilvie and Miller Parker (PNAA Foundation) and The Gordon and Llura Gund Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Brooke Barrie Art Fund, Drs. Umesh and Sunanda Gaur, Holman, NRG, and PSE&G. Support is provided in part by the Atlantic Foundation, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel & Tourism, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Yogesh Sharma photographed by Roshni Khatari; Ramneek Singh photographed by Roshni Khatari; Installation view of Local Voices: Memories, Stories, and Portraits, photo: Bruce M. White; Katayun K. Kapadia photographed by Erica Lee, 2023, fabric banner; Faravahar figurine and pin Courtesy of Katayun K. Kapadia, photo: Bruce M. White; Local Voices Retreat, Feb. 4, 2023, photo: Monica Herndon