GAMBIER — The Place to Be, a student exhibition that explores the public spaces in Knox County, has won the 2012 History Outreach Award from the Ohio Local History Alliance and the Ohio Historical Society.
The exhibition was created by students in a sociology fieldwork class and includes the history, character and significance of 14 public spaces, including Main Street in Mount Vernon, the Owl Creek Produce Auction, and the county’s public squares. The exhibition includes 30 panels with narrative histories, interview quotes, and vintage and contemporary photographs.
The Place to Be itself became a successful community gathering space on May 4 to 5 when the exhibition was unveiled in the Buckeye Candy Building in downtown Mount Vernon. A video presentation, live music and refreshments helped create a celebratory atmosphere.
The Place to Be was the culmination of the work of 14 students in a year-long class taught by Professor of Sociology Howard Sacks, and it was supported by a grant from the McGregor Fund as part of a three-year project on rural sustainability called Rural by Design.
“It’s well-deserved recognition for a group of students who did quite an incredible project,” Sacks said. “This group rose to the occasion. We wanted to create an opportunity for the people who came to that exhibition to experience what participating in a public space is like. A thousand people showed up and they stayed forever and their level of interaction with the exhibition really suggested how engaging and thought-provoking this was.”
The exhibition has a life online at theplacetobeknoxcounty.wordpress.com/. And in response to encouragement from Mount Vernon civic leaders, the Place to Be will continue to have a place in the community. In coming months, the various panels will be displayed singly in public spaces, creating a sort of walking tour through the city. The other public spaces included in the exhibition are The Alcove Restaurant, Friday night football, the Grange, Knox County Fair, Kokosing Gap Trail, Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, taverns, First Congregational United Church of Christ, U.S. Postal Service offices, WMVO radio and Woodward Opera House.
The statewide award recognizes outstanding projects that contribute to the promotion and understanding of local and state history and have had an impact on the community.