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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Along St. Claude, an exhibit at The Front, opens this weekend with a rebroadcast of the documentary that inspired it

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2015 at 1:48 PM

click to enlarge Dan Eaglin, a subject of Eve Abrams' Along Saint Claude audio documentary. - JONATHAN TRAVIESA
  • JONATHAN TRAVIESA
  • Dan Eaglin, a subject of Eve Abrams' Along Saint Claude audio documentary.

It's been a little over a year since local NPR station WWNO 89.9 aired independent radio producer Eve Abrams' seven-part radio documentary Along St. Claude. Tonight, in anticipation of an interactive opening at The Front Gallery this weekend that features 33 portraits of people interviewed for the project, the documentary will air again, from 7 to 8 p.m.

The gallery opening is Saturday, June 13 at 5:30 p.m. and will feature portraits by Jonathan Traviesa. In addition to the photos, there will be a map and other artifacts to commemorate the project, all aimed at bringing together different voices and opinions to talk about real, significant changes in the areas surrounding St. Claude Avenue between Poland and St. Bernard Avenues. 

"The photography came on really at the very end," Abrams tells Gambit. "I was talking about the project with a friend and she said, 'You know, I want to see these people. I want to know what they look like.' She actually suggested that I work with Jonathan, who I've known for years, and I love his work. He does a lot of different things and one project that he's been working on for about 15 years is taking portraits of people in their personal outdoor environments."

For an entire year, Abrams interviewed several dozen people who live or have lived along St. Claude about their neighborhoods and the ways they've changed. Because the neighborhoods have continued to change even after the documentary aired last year, Abrams says there's very little that's irrelevant or outdated in the re-broadcast.

"Gentrification is a word that's new, but i don't think anxiety about change is at all new," says Abrams. "That's why I took such a long historical view, was to help put that in perspective. I think it's really normal for everybody to be caught up in what's going on right in front of you, and I think a little more context can be really helpful. It definitely hasn't disappeared as a topic and as a very visceral concern for people."

One thing the documentary did, Abrams says, was help bring people who have very different opinions about change together to talk about it. She hopes the exhibit will do the same thing. 

"One thing that happens a lot is we assume we know how other people feel about something, and I don't think that we do," Abrams says. "I think you have to really listen to people and give them space to understand what they think and I really hope that the show can help facilitate that. I hope the documentary helped facilitate that. We're all in this together, quite frankly, and the more we can listen to each other and understand each other and hold each other, not literally, but figuratively, I think the farther we'll go." 

Abrams says the positive feedback she's gotten from the documentary has been overwhelming, but she's most excited to have another opportunity to bring people together over a topic that really matters, and to experience that sense of togetherness again and to share it with visitors to the gallery. 

"I haven't seen the final prints yet...but a few weeks ago we laid out all the portraits that [Jonathan] had taken so far and I just welled up with tears," says Abrams. "I just thought, this is our city, and here we are, all of us, together. It was a really nice feeling and I hope that other people have a similar reaction. Negative reactions are fine too. It's just a good opportunity, even though people have different feelings about this topic, it's a way to be together with that topic."

You can listen to the documentary on the radio tonight, and you can also listen to it any time online. If you miss Saturday's opening, the show will be up until July 5, and the Front's hours are noon to 5 p.m., Saturday-Sunday. 

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