The David M. Hunt Library ArtWall in Falls Village, Connecticut, will present the interactive exhibition Small Town, Big Talk from March 12 through May 28, 2021. Aimed at creating and strengthening relationships among the residents of the second-smallest town in the Nutmeg state, this civic art project will feature portrait photography by Rebecca Bloomfield, paired with insightful quotes from interviews conducted by Adam Sher. Supported by a grant from Bridging Divides, Healing Communities–a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the exhibition is free and open to the public during library operating hours and online at huntlibrary.org/art-wall. 63 Main Street, Falls Village, CT, 860-824-7424. Hours: Tues/Thurs 10-5, Fri 3-7, Sat 10-1.
With the advent of ever-present social media, actual real world civic engagement among neighbors has diminished in every community and made worse by the pandemic of Covid-19 that has shut down social life since March of 2020. Falls Village residents Rebecca Bloomfield, Adam Sher, and Meg Sher were looking to re-engage their fellow townsfolk and forge new friendships and understanding across social, racial, and class divides. To move beyond small talk, a series of “big talk” questions was developed to engage subjects’ world views and personal philosophies, exploring the sense of belonging, concerns for the future, and feelings of misunderstanding. A public call for subjects was made and respondents were scheduled for socially distanced outdoor photo and interview sessions.
Rebecca Bloomfield, the project’s photographer, found that she was thinking a lot about vulnerability while the interviews were being conducted. “It’s so rare that we get past small talk with our neighbors, and I think it’s rare because it’s vulnerable to ask the questions in the first place, let alone open up and answer them. I hope that as more people share their stories and perspectives, we build trust, empathy, and connection.”
Interviewer Adam Sher, an educator and community organizer, hopes that Small Town, Big Talk, “encourages depth in our conversations, with the understanding that our society changes and evolves on the local scale leading to larger national conversations. There is a lot of talk about unity these days, but even in small towns unity is elusive, and perhaps impossible without experiencing our diversity of thought and feeling. I hope that when people view the exhibition, they are inspired to have big talks in their own lives.”
In response to one of the Small Town, Big Talk questions, one Falls Villager responded that, “we’re all misunderstood, and we don’t even know it. We all go through this life thinking that we’re normal and everybody thinks like this …whether it be physical, mental, emotional… that that’s the common experience; but there IS no common experience.”