RIT’s Gallery r hosts 9/11 exhibit revisiting national tragedy from photography classroom

Exhibition invites public to contribute to ongoing archive of reflections and memories




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Gallery r, Rochester Institute of Technology’s metro showcase and learning laboratory for the arts in downtown Rochester, will present the opening of “A 9/11 Project, Reflections and Memories,” a multi­part exhibition running Aug. 5 through Aug. 21.

The exhibit will showcase a selection from 121 daily newspapers collected during the week following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, along with reflections from RIT students and the Rochester community at large. An opening reception will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at Gallery r, 100 College Ave. in downtown Rochester.

In addition to Gallery r, the exhibit will extend into the community in different ways through a partnership with Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle daily newspaper and a further iteration at RIT’s Wallace Center beginning on Sept. 12.

According to John Aäsp, gallery director for the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, the the exhibit’s premise stems from an impromptu lesson that Eric Kunsman, a lecturer in the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s visual communication studies department and adjunct professor in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, gave to his Applied Photo Art I class on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Like many RIT faculty, Eric replaced his lesson with a discussion focused on the day’s tragic events,” Aäsp said. “That led to an interactive discussion on how photography and videography would shape history and influence the opinion of future generations.”

Since 9/11 marked only the second time Kunsman’s freshman class had met in the new academic year—and only the second week away from home for most of his students—Kunsman created an assignment asking his students to contact family and friends and ask them to collect their hometown newspapers’ coverage of the attacks the following day.

“Three weeks later, the class spread out the 121 unique newspapers collected to begin a discussion of the different representations of the photography, headlines and articles chronicling the tragic events,” Aäsp said.

Kunsman has now reached back out to these same students 15 years later to see what they recall from the lesson and project. With the support of a Lecturers' Professional Development Grant from RIT, the Gallery r exhibition will showcase quotes from the students alongside a curated selection of the newspaper collection.

The second part of the exhibition seeks to directly engage members of the Rochester community by encouraging people to share their own 9/11 reflections. Using their phone or any terminal at the exhibit, visitors can share their personal stories through text, photos, audio and video into a collective database. This portion of the exhibit, led by Michael Riordan, a lecturer in the School of Media Sciences, is focused on “connection and sharing,” Aäsp explained.

“Pinnacle moments such as the events of 9/11 provide an important touchstone for us all,” he said. “The hope is that this collective memory of 9/11 from the Rochester community will provide insight for how we connect both as individuals and as a community.”

Gallery r serves as the primary showcase for RIT’s creative community in Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. Admission is always free. For more information, contact Aäsp at 585-­475­-4977 or email john.aasp@rit.edu.

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