“Tradition is important for understanding cultural heritage and important as a means of self-realization
for youth. Used as a background, tradition can aid in self-actualization of individuals.”- Sherif Bey 
I have always joked about being born in the wrong generation. I have a deep fondness for an older style of living, an attraction to the “small town aesthetic.” Growing up in a small town has obviously played a significant part in the making of me. Watching my hometown slowly dissipate into a larger city has been heart wrenching. I have made it a priority of mine to preserve what is left of my small town; the empty cornfields that are still in existence, the buildings that have stood the test of time, and the sidewalks that have gone from dirt to concrete. I want to capture the passing of time and the longing that people feel when they are confronted with a history they want to preserve.
I am extremely intrigued by the history of things and how objects or places have changed throughout time. An object or building could be in existence for hundreds of years, yet people only recognize it for how they have known and seen it for what might be a short period of time compared to the time of its existence. These objects all have layers underneath the exterior that have a story to tell about it; someone or something, adding to its personality and history, created every scratch and ding. I have become specifically interested in investigating how people remember various locations around my hometown that have been around since Harrison was first founded in 1814 and my thesis work is doing just that.
 Bey, Sharif. Excavating Black Identity: Beads, Social Responsibility, and Personal Aesthetics. Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy. N.p., n.d.
 Hunt Bourquein, Marilyn, Laura Mears Birely, and Donna Searcy Williams. Harrison, Ohio: 1850- 2000. Harrison, Ohio: The Harrison Century and Gold Historical Booklet, 2000. Print.
 Woelfel, Sine, and Ann Woelfel. Harrison Ohio: Century and Silver Celebration. Harrison, Ohio: Century and Souvenir Booklet, 1975. Print.
 "postcard." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/postcard>.
More on Momentos Memorial:
A lot of my research has consisted of gathering information about the history of Harrison. I read book after book and timeline after timeline that has been written about Harrison’s history. After going back through all of this research I narrowed down a list of locations that I would like to photograph pertaining to the history of Harrison. Some of the original intentions of these locations still exist, while others do not and it’s just their name that has remained. Some of the locations that I am including in my project are The Harrison Bakery, Harrison Elementary, which was the first high school from 1956 to 1969 , Mystic Theater, which opened in 1905 and only showed short films , Kaiser Grinding Business, which has been there since the 1900s , the State Theater, which opened in 1937 by John Vlanchos and was the first movie theater outside of Cincinnati to show 30 movies , and the Harrison Press which was founded by George E. Kuntz in 1925 and is one of the few remaining home-owned newspapers .
I have decided to complete my thesis work through photography. Photographic images are a great way to get an emotional and relative response to a topic or subject. Photography is also a way to record history and allow us to see what certain locations and events in history looked like back when they were created and popular. Since my work revolves around the history of my hometown, I thought the best way to trigger a response is through images, both black and white and color to represent the passing of time. The black and white and color photographs are collaged together to create one image; the buildings are photographed in color and I overlaid a black and white image so the landscape and remaining aspects of the image are in black and white. This helps the viewer focus specifically on the building.
I have continued to look at a few artists for their unique and nostalgic photographs of various landscapes, old buildings, etc., to help guide me in my own work. David Plowden and Paul Politis for their flawless techniques of creating gorgeous black and white photographs that have such a nostalgic feel. Ben Marcin for his creative way to photograph abandoned and really old buildings in a way that draws the viewer in closer and leaves them wanting more. Todd Hido for the “small town” aesthetic feeling that some of his photographs portray. I have recently turned to John Baldessari to reference his collage work. I have also been looking into and referencing Matthew Brandt for his unique way of manipulating his photographs; giving them various levels (simply by just altering the water in which the images are processed).
While working on my thesis, I have done a lot of experimenting with my images; collaging black and white images both manually and digitally. After collaging these images I would then scan them into my computer and sometimes manipulate them in Photoshop, making them more visually intriguing. Collaging the images allowed me to add various aspects and locations of Harrison into one image. This could potentially cause a mix of emotions (confusion, anger, happiness, etc.). For this reason, I decided to use simple photographs of the locations with minimal collaging to refrain from the image giving the viewer a specific emotion. The photographs are supposed to trigger a memory that is individualized to the viewer not have the aura of a specific emotion. The collage affect also represents all the layers of me as an artist, art educator, researcher, student and coach. I always look to add another experience or aspect (layer) to myself that will help solidify my philosophy and expand my knowledge.
I translated the concept of my photographs into the form of postcards that will help portray the significance of these places. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the actual definition of a postcard is “(n): a card on which a message may be sent by mail without an envelope and that often has a picture on one side” . Postcards contain images of locations or events that are significant in some way or another, and I am putting this significance in place for me through images of change of my hometown--when in reality a lot of people don’t even know it exists. I distributed these to random addresses in Harrison, along with a brief synopsis of who I am and why I created these postcards. I asked that they write a memory that they have or to comment on the rapid growth of Harrison and send the postcard back to me. Each recipient also received a duplicate to their postcard for them to keep, as a thank you for participating in my project. I wrote a brief description of my myself and my project on a Harrison page and asked for people who would be interested in participating in my project to send me their addresses to ensure that I would receive postcards back. I received over fifty addresses from individuals who were excited to be able to participate. I have had a lot of conversations about Harrison’s growth and the mixed feelings along with it, as well as individuals telling me stories about memories they have of growing up in Harrison when it was a small town. Some of the comments that I received are as follows:
“I remember as a kid going to Loos Meat Market, which was in downtown Harrison, and getting my free hotdog each time.”
“I was born and raised in Harrison, I remember going to the skating rink as a teenager every Friday and Saturday night.”
“I remember going to the Blessing Brothers Dairy Store everyday my sister and I would go and get 2 ½ gallons of milk, 2 loaves of bread, and a pack of cigarettes for our mom. We would usually have a dime leftover so we would share an Icee or Captain Crunch bar.”
These memories are very different from the ones that I have, but also extremely similar. We didn’t go to the Loos Meat Market or the Skating Rink, but we would go to Skyline every Friday night after the football game to socialize. We also used to ride our bikes all over town stopping at all of our friends’ houses to gather everyone in the process. These postcards are to gather a collective group of memories from citizens of Harrison.
I have created a Plexiglass stand for the postcards to be displayed, where they can be viewed from both sides; the viewer will be able to see the image, as well as read the response that the images provoked from the citizens in Harrison. By doing so, I am allowing my project to be one complete work rather than a series of images. This would also allow for my work to be partially interactive for the viewer, inviting them to walk completely around the structure enticing them to read the comments that are ranging in thoughts and handwriting. It has been interesting to see the range of responses that have occurred, simply due to age and how long their family has resided in Harrison—some families have been in Harrison’s history since it was founded.
This project has helped me realize a lot about myself throughout the process of creating it. I know I have always been interested in history of objects, locations, our country and even the world but my interest has grown even more. By forcing myself to dig into the history of something that I hold so dear has made it even more memorable and personable to me as the artist. This research has intrigued me to want to have conversations with people from Harrison for my project. The responses and enthusiasm that have appeared from my project motivates me to keep going. Keep digging deeper. There’s so much information and tradition by families and communities that get lost in the mist of everything; girls are married off and last names are lost and family restaurants are closed from restaurant chains moving into town. My goal is to preserve the memories that are left from these families; their legacy and the legacy that they created for Harrison along the way. This project has brought out a lot of realization that I have been subconsciously doing just that. Although, I do not know what the future holds for me I have become more aware of what I want to accomplish as an artist in the future by continuing with this project; it has become a part of me— my life and my story—along with my hometown that I hold so close to my heart.
Ideally, as an artist I would like to reach out to as many people in the world as I can. However, I believe it is extremely difficult for a piece of art to relate to every person. For this work specifically, I’d like to think that I speak more truly to those who can relate to losing their small town in our growing society. It would enable them to embrace emotions that they have felt because of their disappearing history. Perhaps my images will ignite an emotion and allow the audience to justify their feelings of sadness or happiness; it is their history and experiences that will determine how my images impact them individually. My goal as an artist is to make my viewers feel by allowing them to take a trip down memory lane and revisit the memories of what used to be. Whether that be their Sunday family trips to the ice cream shop for ten cent sundaes, or hanging out with their friends at the local carwash on a Saturday night before they headed to the local bar. Even though these emotions will range from person to person depending on their experience and the length of time living in Harrison, they still exist and could spark an emotion or memory that the viewer has with their own hometown. I want to give my viewer permission to grieve, celebrate, or just acknowledge the passing of an “old friend” – their hometown.