• Diversity On Display: Art Installation Sparks Conversation Among Newnan Residents | Georgia Public Broadcasting

    If art is supposed to start conversations, then “Seeing Newnan” is working. The project mounted 19 large-scale photographs of residents on buildings around Newnan, Georgia.

    Artist Mary Beth Meehan’s large-scale photographs of residents in Newnan have exposed the shifting demographics of the town. A resident, who protested the image of two Muslim schoolgirls in the town square, got more than a thousand responses from others who embrace a more inclusive vision of the town.

    On Second Thought host Virginia Prescott speaks with Mary Beth Meehan.

    “Just because the public facing history that’s celebrated of a town like Newnan is of the old white people, it doesn’t mean that all of these other human beings haven’t been integral to that places founding and development,” Meehan said.

    The portraits are on display in Newnan until June 1, 2020.

    #Mary_Beth_Meehan #Podcast #Newnan

  • Enormous Images Link Past to Present and Future - Atlanta Jewish Times

    What began in 2016 as a two-week artist’s residency for photographer and educator Mary Beth Meehan became two years visiting Newnan, meeting townspeople and taking photographs. This is Meehan’s fourth such large-scale public installation; the first was in her hometown of Brockton, Mass.

    The “Seeing Newnan” exhibit, sponsored by the University of West Georgia School of the Arts and funded by the Hollis Charitable Trust, will remain in place through the spring.

    The photograph that we particularly wanted to see faces Jefferson Street, where it crosses Lee Street. To say that the portrait of Muslim sisters Zahraw and Aatika Shah generated controversy is an understatement. Examples of the vile reactions and heartening rebuttals can be found online.

    Zahraw and Aatika, the Georgia-born daughters of an engineer who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1980s, sat side by side, the former’s hijab in light shades of blue and red and the latter’s a deep purple. They were honor students at Newnan High School and today attend universities in Atlanta.

    Something in “Seeing Newnan” caused me to think about the diversity in Atlanta’s Jewish community. I wondered, what would a similar exhibit look like, displayed at, say, the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum or the Marcus Jewish Community Center?

    In no particular order, perhaps such an exhibit might include portraits of an Orthodox rabbi wearing a black suit, white shirt and black hat; a Reform rabbi wearing her kippah and tallit; an elderly man or woman surrounded by family photographs; a child preparing for a bar or bat mitzvah; a Holocaust survivor; an African American Jew, an LGBT Jew; Jews of Bukharian, Sephardic, Mizrachi, and Russian heritage; an interfaith family; a physically-challenged Jew and a developmentally-challenged Jew.

    You get the idea. Who would you choose?

    The city of Newnan bravely mounted an exhibit linking the town’s past to its present and future. The Jewish community of Atlanta might be well-served to similarly remind itself of its diversity.

    #Mary_Beth_Meehan #Newnan