In the 1930s, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation made maps showing that some neighborhoods were safe for investment and others too risky. Those deemed too risky were colored red, but residents were mostly black.
Now, some Dayton artists are using their work to help solve the enduring ramifications of redlining.
Leesa haapapuro is sewing designs on the first floor of the library.
“I’m sure someone with sewing skills would find this a snap,” she says. “I’ve been sewing for a while now. “
But Leesa quickly gains experience. She sewed hundreds of these panels together. Each contains a drawing or painting that was done by a Daytonain. Some are local artists, others are children, and still others are librarians. There are drawings of fireworks and festivals, religious events and political demonstrations, wild animals and rivers.
Leesa says she invites community members to “draw or write their ideas on what unites us.” Then she sews them together, a few dozen at a time in a straight line. Finally, she hangs these long stretches of art from the ceiling both above and below, so that they span the entire room, like giant paper bridges crossing the room. In fact, his installation is called “Bridges”. She says the idea is to connect communities that have been separated by redlining.
“I was trying to have the impression of bridges, to dive into space. That way you can walk among them and look at the individual items, but also feel the kind of movement when you walk in them, ”she says. “And the more people contribute, the more interesting the installation becomes, and I love that you can see it from the outside.”
In addition to seeing it from the outside, you can go into the library and complete the installation. There are blank signs, as well as art supplies, so that anyone can participate in the construction of these bridges.
And Haapapuro is just one of many artists whose work is on display as part of the Redline exhibition.
In the gallery on the second floor of the library, Andrea Walker-Cummings prepares to take a tour of the League of Women Voters. She is a member of African American Visual Artists Guild, and she put on the show. These are called borders and bridges.
“I just launched an appeal to our members,” she said. “All of us, because of our age, probably experienced the redline at its peak. So we understand how it has progressed over the years and how we have moved around the city.
One of his favorite works in the exhibition is a photograph of Horace Dozier Senior. It’s a lion behind a fence.
“Usually you wouldn’t think this fits the theme, but what I see when I look at this picture is a border. And we, as human beings, always set limits. Either out of fear of the known or the unknown, ”she says.
Andrea also has a work of her own on display. Hers is a large piece made with hand embroidery and appliqués. The image depicts the legs of black ballerinas and they are wearing African print shoes.
“When I originally created this piece, it was a tribute to the years and years when the American ballet industry didn’t think African-American bodies, feet, posture, or anything else corresponded to their ideal of what classical ballet was. But it also symbolizes for me that our different artistic cultures among the races allow us to benefit from each other’s cultures, ”she says.
FOCUS ON THE GEM CITY
If there’s one artist on display at the library who has truly captured the cultures and faces of Dayton, it’s probably the photographer. Bill Franz.
In 2019, he set out to take photos in all 66 neighborhoods in Dayton. It was the year the city was hit by tornadoes and there was a mass shooting in the Oregon District.
When Franz saw strangers from different neighborhoods consoling themselves after the shooting and helping each other clean up after the tornado, he changed his plan.
“This city spirit that comes together made me rethink the project. And I thought I didn’t want a building or a park or something in my photos. I want the people, ”he says.
Now he has 66 portraits, one from each neighborhood, on display in the library’s Dayton Room. He says one of his favorites is a cop from Dayton.
“Dyan Thomas! ” he says. “She’s a policewoman, she rides a motorbike and showed me my favorite police gear. It’s a stuffed animal. She carries it in the saddlebags of her motorbike, and if she’s in a traffic accident or a domestic argument or anything with kids, if the kids get mad, the adults get mad. So she gives the children a soft toy, they settle in, the adults settle in and everything moves forward.
Bill’s photograph captures every neighborhood, and people of all races, colors and creeds. Which perhaps suggests that the effects of redlining can be undone after all, with a little work.
“Undo red line designAnd associated art exhibits are on display at the downtown branch of the Dayton Metro Library until September 25.
Support for Culture Couch comes from WYSO executives Frank Scenna and Heather Bailey, who pride themselves on supporting storytelling that sparks curiosity, highlights creativity and builds community.
Culture Couch is created at Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.