GAMBIER — An exhibition exploring Knox County’s public spaces will itself become a community crossroads at the Buckeye Candy Company building in Mount Vernon May 4-5.
“The Place to Be” exhibition was created by Kenyon College students and includes the history, status 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 features 30 panels with narrative histories and vintage and contemporary photographs. The free event includes a video presentation, live music and refreshments.
“Part of the reason we’re doing this in the Buckeye Candy building is to create a public space,” said Kenyon Professor of Sociology Howard Sacks, director of the Kenyon Rural Life Center. “We want to have people come together and talk about their community, visit with old friends, meet new people, and make new connections. “I guarantee that if you come to this exhibition you’ll experience something familiar to you in a new light. You will see the face of someone you know in the exhibition, and you will see wonderful photos of Knox County’s past.”
The opening Friday, May 4, aligns with Mount Vernon’s First Friday event. The Buckeye Candy Company building, 400 S. Main St., will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. on that day, and the exhibition will continue on Saturday, May 5, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The Place to Be” is the culmination of the field work of 14 students in a year-long sociology class taught by Sacks and it is supported by a grant from the McGregor Fund as part of a three-year project on rural sustainability called Rural by Design. “The sustainability of our rural community requires a vital economy, a vital cultural life, and, to speak to this issue, a vital public life,” Sacks said. “This exhibition is designed to generate public thinking about the significance of public life and how it’s always been important to this community. What are the challenges to it today? What do we need to do to sustain it?”
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. Each student did extensive research and conducted interviews on one of the public spaces, and the group collaborated on the presentation.
Student Dan Tebes of Hamden, Conn., focused on the Grange — the agricultural and social organization founded in the 19th century. He focused on the Wayne Grange and not only did interviews with members but pitched in to help with spring cleaning at the Fredericktown building. “People were extremely welcoming,” Tebes said. “One of the aims behind this project was to encourage stronger public discourse on the importance of public life and the importance of public meeting spaces.” After the May opening, the exhibition’s various panels will be circulated at other venues in the county, Sacks said.
“One of the things we have sensed is that public life changes in character,” Sacks said. “There are aspects of public life that will be very vital at one point in history and then decline. A good example of that is the change that has gone on along Main Street. For many years, Main Street was the center of commercial life. Everybody could be seen downtown. That’s no longer the case, but at the same time we can see efforts to revitalize.”
And fresh activities can energize traditional spaces. “The Farmers Market in the Public Square is a perfect example of a newly invented public space. That’s part of the dynamic you see in this exhibition.”
Call the Rural Life Center at 740-427-5850 to learn more.
Published on April 30, 2012