Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Room with Many Views

The good news first: if you're still abed as you read this, dire predictions about yesterday's election results to the contrary, today is here with sunrise at 6:31 and sunset at 4:38. Everything else that happens, or doesn't, is pretty much in our control. As is always the case during elections, we had various visions offered of who we are and where we're going, both as a nation and here in Norwich as a city. This is when visions should turn to action.

While many of our neighbors went door to door this weekend for a particular candidate or position on a ballot initiative, Saturday morning I set off with purpose (I used to use a porpoise but the Mystic Aquarium demanded I stop) for the Otis Library, a bright spot in an often cloudy downtown Norwich. With its variety of programs and activities, the Otis Library is actually the community center Norwich residents always say they want. If we could just convince people the card catalog is really a swimming pool, we'd have it made. If they could just hire one lifeguard instead of another librarian....

Actually what Otis does have which opened last week and runs through the end of the year, upstairs in the community room is an exhibit entitled "An Instant in Our Time: Norwich through the Eyes of Young Photographers.” Saturday morning Otis was buzzing with a half-dozen different projects to include, I think, a Native American story hour downstairs that drew a nice crowd, leaving me alone to visit with a few dozen images.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it is more than fitting this display is in the library because words are not enough to convey the magic and majesty of the richness of the slices of Norwich life that very young, and terribly talented visual artists have created and crafted.

Inspired by documentary photography first practiced in the Great Depression, the four contributing photographers worked with volunteer mentors and helping hands, to cover the walls with familiar sights and scenes of our city but taken from less than familiar perspectives and with clear and unblinking eyes that are better able to not only see the objects depicted but their deeper and more subtle meanings.

To be clear: this is NOT the Norwich we speak of as we struggle to work together on a variety of projects we consider to be 'for the good of the city' or insist 'will move Norwich forward.' A full array of superlative and thoughtful visuals awaits you at the Otis Library offering an instant in your time that may well excite and incite you as a resident of a city that too often is convinced its best days have already been.

There are pictures on every wall and every picture tells a story. And the story the pictures all tell is the story of us, young and old, rich and poor, life-long resident or a recent arrival. Their photographs bring us face to face with ourselves.

What these talented, young photographers have to say is not only visually stimulating, it is quite often stunning and emotionally arresting. They are, in many respects the very people to whom we should dedicate our efforts to revive this city as they are not only our hope for better days, but proof of them. 

The purpose of art is to conceal art and their artful expressions of everyday life as they find it here in The Rose of New England will cause you to stop and think about where we  come from and how we live. And to realize no matter how far apart we grow from one another and no matter what paths the separate journeys of our lives have been, this depiction of that same small town in each of us bears witness to how we became who we are.

Sometimes those of us who purport to be adults in the work-a-day world lose sight of our city. It takes younger eyes, sometimes, more sensitive to nuance and shades of subtle change to help us see the whole and different picture. The young people who shared their time and talents for this exhibit did so for their own reasons, creating a mirror reflecting our city and also a window to see what we can be, to enjoy and experience at our own rate and pace.

It serves as another reminder that home is where your heart is and as New England's own Robert Frost offered 'where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.' Welcome to our hometown.
-bill kenny

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