The Conception
The Plan
Shooting the Project
The Controversy
The Media
The Media
The Participants and Project Photographs
Final Notes
The Project Poster
 
crunch time

With the shooting complete, it was time to sit down and go through the hundreds of images and put the exhibit together. We had about a week and a half before the project would be hung. While Kimberly Ann offered to help, this was something only I could do and she realized this.

Actually, selecting the images was not all that difficult. There was always an image that set itself apart from the others whether it was an expression or body position. While the frustrations I experienced early on had abated, there was still a concern whether I had a decent collection of photographs or not. After the selections were made, I started to look at the images as a "collection" as oppose to individual images, I realized for the first time after many weeks that we may actually have something that didn't suck too badly. Coming to this conclusion, I gave Kimberly Ann a call telling her...."we may actually pull this off after all". Over the next week I would have a lot of final processing and graphic work to do. Additionally, I would still have to print the exhibit.

Late on the Sunday evening before the Wednesday pre-opening, Kimberly Ann and I laid out the order of the images. In all reality, it was Kimberly Ann who laid out project. She was less tired and more functioning then I was. At this stage, after perhaps 14 straight hours in front of a computer, my mind was pure mush. I just wanted to get an order of shots so I could start building the "film". I was certainly not up for the task of laying out the image order at this stage. I simply watched as she started laying the 2x3 pics out on the conference room table at my office only to make a comment here and there. After the order was set, I could do the graphic work for our "film" and subsequently print the exhibit. I did continue to work through the night.

On Tuesday evening, Kimberly Ann had a crew ready to help hang the show. I was busy with the final printing so the hanging of the project was all on Kimberly Ann and her crew. She came by my office to pick up the first segments of the "film". I had two or three segments ready (out of a total of eight). When she arrived, I rolled them out on the floor for her to see. This was her first time seeing what the "film" idea would actually look like. It had all been conceptual up to this point. Her eyes went wide open and she simply had a big smile of delight on her face. That was all I needed to see. I could tell that I exceeded all her expectations by that initial reaction she had. Many over the coming days would have this same reaction of "delight".

Later in the evening, I took a break from printing and went down to Kimberly Ann's shop to see what was going on. They had four of the segments already hung. This was my first opportunity to see how the segments would look once hung on Randy Haase's creation. Well my expectations were exceeded at this stage and everything looked great. I had some small talk with the crew there and then went back to my office to complete the other segments. The next morning (Wednesday), I delivered the final two segments around 11:30 AM. Once everything was in place, Kimberly Ann would cover the entire exhibit for the remainder of the day until that evening when it would be first unveiled to the participants and invited guests at the pre-opening. A great deal of stress was finally lifted. The project was printed and delivered.

the pre-opening

We had planned far in advance to have a pre-opening for the participants and selected guests. We had this on Wednesday, May 12th. This was an important evening for me. The participants would see their images and the collection for the first time. They had trusted me throughout the process. Their reaction to project was far more important to me then the eventual reaction of the general public. I did not want any regrets about participating in this project.

Bringing beverages and food, the folks started to gather. Many of them had seen the images quickly flash by during the WTVR spot but despite this; I do not think this diminished the reaction they had once the project was actually unveiled. There was some nervousness that night. I was nervous over the participant's reaction and of course, many of the participants were nervous as well for obvious reasons. We did have a photographer and reporter from the Progress-Index there and later on, "Virginia Currents" would also come for some more interviews and additional footage. As a side note, the Progress-Index photographer couldn't have taken a less flattering picture of me if his life depended on it.

At this stage, I was working on perhaps 10 hours sleep from the previous Saturday night/Sunday morning but this lack of sleep was all worth it once I saw the excitement and expressions of delight when the sheets came down to "expose" the project for the first time. I just sat back and observed the reactions.

I found it simply amazing to watch this diverse crowd of people interact and simply have fun together. In many cases, you had people who never met before instantly become friends. I was observing right in front of me exactly what I wanted capture in "Old Towne Exposed". I was observing a microcosm of how the diversity of people who do live and work in "Old Towne" works in such a phenomenal way. It is a culture that is welcoming. It is a culture that embraces all types of people without any pretensions or political motivations.

Kimberly Ann would cover the show up again until Friday.

the opening

The evening has finally arrived. Would the work live up to all the hype that neither Kimberly Ann nor I caused? Would people feel cheated in some way and complain that there wasn't enough skin being shown? I wasn't worried that people would think the exhibit was offensive in any way. My worry was centered around whether people thought the photography was interesting.

Earlier in the week, we did have a media source tell us that a group did apply for a permit to protest the exhibit. To be honest, if this became a reality, it would simply be icing on the cake. There would perhaps be even more media attention on the project and "Old Towne" with the reporting of the protest. I had even decided to bring my camera with me that evening to capture the protesters at work and include it in the project just like I had the petition. It would only make the organizers of the petition/protest look even sillier. The protest never did occur but these additional people weren't missed because of the amazing number of people who did come down to see project.

I had plans to go eat a leisurely early dinner and perhaps get down to Kimberly Ann's store at around 6:00 PM or 6:30 PM; a time frame I thought people would start to filter through. I got a call from Kimberly Ann while I was getting gas at the Wawa across the bridge around 5:15 PM frantically asking "Where are you? People are here and want to see you." I finished getting gas and made my way down to "Old Towne".

It was uncommon for people to come down to "Old Towne" this early for "Friday for the Arts". I had trouble finding parking. Some venues aren't even open until 6:30 PM or 7:00 PM. When I arrived around 5:30 PM, there was an unusual amount of people out on the streets already. There was a great early crowd in Kimberly Ann's already but come around 6:00 PM or 6:15 PM, the crowd grew and stayed constant throughout the evening.

Unlike any exhibit I have ever seen, people weren't coming and milling around for a while to socialize and visit. The way the display was set up, a natural line formed and people would make their way around the exhibit and once they would see it, they would move on out. There simply wasn't room for any milling around and the person behind would keep the person in front of them moving along. Some would remark later that they felt pushed along and that is why they came back to see the exhibit over the coming days. To our amazement, the crowd was constant and kept on overturning. In simple terms, we were "slammed".

Typically, there are lulls in the action when it comes to "Friday for the Arts". I had planned on sneaking out during these lulls and go by some other openings around town. Well this never happened. Once I was there at 5:30 PM there was no chance of sneaking out because the crowd remained constant. The number of wonderful comments I receive from complete strangers was overwhelming. This told me that even though the hype may have gotten people down to see the project; once they got there, they enjoyed the project as well.

Because I was stuck in a corner inside Kimberly Ann's building from 5:30 PM on, I had no feeling for what was going on outside. I got reports from friends how downtown was absolutely packed. I also got an ego boost from them telling me that there was a LOT positive chatter about the project going on in the other venues with a remark that "everybody is talking about it all around town". We also had some very excited participants who would come by throughout the evening as well.

Later in the evening, Russ (an OTE participant) had some food delivered from his restaurant (The Bistro At Market And Grove) to Kimberly Ann's store. This was simply a wonderfully kind thing for him to do. We were all starving since we had been trapped in the store all evening.

Kimberly Ann had originally planned to close the store at 10:00 PM. She ended up closing her doors at 11:00 PM. Even at this late hour, she still had to tell people that it was time to go. All through the night, we would simply remark to each other "can you believe this?". We were both exhausted.

the immediate aftermath

After Kimberly Ann closed down her shop, we decided to make our way over to Wabi Sabi for a drink. Along the way, we were stopped on the street by people congratulating us and making many kind remarks about the project.

We finally got to Wabi Sabi and it was packed with people. We were treated somewhat like celebrities upon our arrival. I had complete strangers coming up and giving me their compliments about the show. We also ran into participants who still were very pumped over the whole evening.

While I hoped we would have a decent crowd for the opening, my wildest imagination would not ever have conjured up the reality of what did happen but then again, I am a pessimist by nature. Even the proverbial optimism of Kimberly Ann did not anticipate the reality of what ultimately did occur.

The next day I went down to Kimberly Ann's shop and she had a good size crowd there shopping and looking at the exhibit. We were still both somewhat in a state of shell shock from the evening before. A local restaurant owner came by to see the project since of course she was running her business the night before. I did ask her how the previous evening turned out business wise for her. She stated that they had perhaps the best night in a couple of years. I did encounter another shop owner and asked her about her evening. She told me how great it was but what was even better was that there were a lot of new faces that came by her store. I was flattered when she simply stated that "everybody is crediting you and Kim getting people down here". I would get similar such statements from other business owners about that Friday evening.

A young lady came into the store and remarked how she saw the exhibit the evening before after seeing the WTVR newscast. Neither Kimberly Ann nor I knew her. She was a resident who lived out in Walnut Hill but never been down to "Friday for the Arts" nor really explored "Old Towne". She stood there telling Kimberly and I how much fun she and her husband had that evening going around and exploring "Old Towne" after seeing the exhibit. Not only was this a living and breathing example of what we were trying to achieve with the exhibit, the City Manager just happened to be there at the same time listening to what she was saying.

I did receive some phone calls from those people who couldn't make it down asking me how things went. I would simply preface my comments with "I know what I am about to tell you will sound like I am bragging but to simply say that we had a successful night would be an understatement" and then I would go on and tell them what had happened. People who know me realize that I tend to downplay things. We would hear many similar stories over the coming weeks.

The bottom line is that the project did get people down to experience "Old Towne". What started out as a photography exhibition that was made into an event; the exhibit actually morphed into a phenomenon of sorts while we weren't looking unlike anything that has ever been seen in our town.

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