Community conversations are the highlight of the Voices of the Valley exhibition, presented by the McDonough Museum of Art at Youngstown State University, 525 Wick Ave.
The exhibition is a collaboration between the museum and StoryCorps, an independent nonprofit that has collected more than 40,000 personal interviews that are preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
The museum selected 60 individuals from the Youngstown community and paired them up in 40-minute conversations that were recorded by StoryCorps this week by interviewers Susan Lee and Cambra Moniz- Edwards.
“It has been an endless parade of amazing human beings,” said Leslie Brothers, the director of the museum. “It’s a humbling experience.”
The $30,000 exhibition was funded by partners of the museum and will run from Tuesday to July 26.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to interview great people from the community,” Lee said.
Among the participants were Sophia Buggs, an urban farmer from Youngstown’s South Side, and Jay Coy, an organic farmer from North Jackson.
During their interview Friday morning, Buggs said they talked about farming practices as well as how their paths have crossed before without them actually knowing it and how much they really have in common.
“I often told folk that your story always matters,” Buggs said. “For this to be a program designed to record [and] archive your story without someone influencing how it’s told — what I have to say — I think is wonderful.”
Coy said he saw this as an opportunity to “cultivate an interest” in local food and organic farming.
The exhibit will feature a full-length portrait of each participant with a variety of ways to hear their recorded stories. Visitors can sit under a speaker that will play the recordings or listen to them at one of the iPad stations. They also can listen to the interviews on a nano iPod that they can check out of the museum for the day.
Additionally, visitors also can record their own conversations that can they take home on a CD and that also will be available to the public on the digital archive at Maag Library on campus.
The Ohio Arts Council helped fund the program along with community partners, the YSU College of Creative Arts and Communication, Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County, Business and Media Archives of the Mahoning Valley, Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, the Raymond John Wean Foundation, WYSU 88.5-FM and Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.