"Awesome, beautiful work that is effective on so many different levels"
— CH

Excerpts from media coverage of Our Stories, In Focus

WUNC Radio
March 20, 2009

There’s an image from the days after 9/11 in lower Manhattan that some of us will never forget. Blocks and blocks of faces of the missing, flyers, photos, notes, and other artifacts that people pasted on the fences around Ground Zero. It was a spontaneous shrine and inadvertently a piece of public art. It helped bond those who were left behind as a memorial to their grief.

Well, what if the creation of such a tapestry was more conscious and what if the result were permanent, and what if the family stories behind the people in those photographs were included in the tapestry? That’s the idea behind a new oral history and art project called Our Stories in Focus...

From The State of Things Introduction
March 20th, 2009

What can faded photographs, torn letters and unearthed diaries tell us about the relationship between our past, our families and our community? The University of North Carolina and the surrounding towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are collaborating on an oral history and art project that hopes to answer this question. Guest host Laura Leslie welcomes Sally Greene, a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Public Humanities Coordinator at the UNC Humanities program to discuss the project, "Our Stories, In Focus." Also joining the program are Leah Sobsey and Lynn Bergman-Blass, visual artists participating in the project and Haley Koch, a UNC student who was part of the on-campus event.

Art's value lies in the stories behind it
Project uses photos, mementos, oral history
Rebekah L. Cowell March 1, 2009

Using old photographs as prompts for storytelling and as raw material for the finished art project, Our Stories will encourage participants to focus on how they became a part of the Chapel Hill area. As the Hargraves breakfast wrapped up, Coleman said it's good for her fellow senior citizens to tell their stories so future generations understand all that has been accomplished in the past 40 years. “We've seen a lot of change and we're finally going in the right direction," she said, "but it's taken a long time for us to get to where we are. Kids today need to know it wasn't always like this."

"It's signaling a new direction in the Humanities Program," said Town Council member Sally Greene, who is the Public Humanities Coordinator at the UNC. Under new director Eve Duffy, the program "is reaching out into the community and bringing the campus's resources out where they are accessible to the general public."

Art Project Aims to Share History
Mazare Rogers, Staff Writer
March 2, 2009

"One goal of the project is to bring together people who represent a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds," said Jeffrey York, Public Arts Administrator of Chapel Hill. "It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are from, we are all human and have stories to tell."

Eve Duffy, director of the UNC Program in the Humanities and Human Values, said that the project is an opportunity for participants to get involved in something bigger than themselves. "I hope that the project will begin a conversation between people within the University and outside the University, and that it will be a starting point for future collaboration and mutual support."

CHAPEL HILL (mync.com)
Community Art & History Project Installed June 12
By Sandy Scherer
Updated: Jun. 4 5:15 am

Hundreds of stories play out in the artwork’s images, illustrating diversity and unity throughout Chapel Hill and Carrboro communities.

More than 1,000 images depicting the histories and lives of the people of the Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill communities will come together as a single artwork on display for the first time at 6:00 pm, Friday, June 12, at University Mall in Chapel Hill.

Local artists Leah Sobsey and Lynn Bregman-Blass photographed and scanned images of the memorabilia and also used the pieces to engage participants in telling their stories about their items, which often led to their family and community roots being revealed.

"Quite a few of the people who participated would remark, 'Oh, I don’t have a story to tell!'" Sobsey said, commenting on some participants' hesitancy. "But then we would begin talking to them and found out they had amazing, beautiful stories! And the more we engaged them in conversation, the more they wanted to tell their stories." The two artists said they were honored to listen to such wonderful chronicles of people's lives.

Danny Bell, who brought old Chapel Hill High School yearbooks, including one with the photo of the first Native American graduate. Bell, who works in UNC’s Department of American (Indian) Studies and whose parents are of the Lumbee and Coharie tribes, appreciated the opportunity to tell some of the stories about the American Indian elements in the life of Chapel Hill. "It was a wonderful experience," he said, "and a unique chance to talk about how American Indians are relevant to the life of the community. Oftentimes they are misidentified or their stories are unnoticed. It was nice to have someone interested in listening to the story of our presence in Chapel Hill."

People were also video recorded as they told their stories, and those recordings will be part of the art installation June 12.

Excerpt from media coverage of Time, Lineage, Memory Installation
By Louis St. Lewis
June 2008

While you are there in the Guild viewing the best of what was, take a few moments to view the installation by two very talented newcomers to the NC artistic landscape: Leah Sobsey and Lynn Bregman. This is the first collaborative work by these two artists, and I find the result mesmerizing. The creations are about life, loss and memory… all of the joy and pathos of family is right there before your eyes. Who are these people, these old faces, obscured by time and wax? A line of color here, a turn of the head, aunts and uncles forgotten, old love letters, children who never saw adulthood. The encaustic collage works are equally haunting, squares of images to be removed and rearranged according to the viewer’s desire. If you have ever wondered what to do with those old boxes of yellowing family photographs, commission these ladies and watch the magic they create.

Excerpt from Southern Photography
By John Wall

Photography as traditionally practiced is often a solitary discipline, leading to an image matted and framed and hanging on the wall. Sobsey's photography with Lynn Bregman Blass, at least in this project, is now an enabler of a communitarian project, a way of evoking responses and engaging large numbers of people in that quintessentially Southern practice of story telling. This activity then then gets organized into a three-dimensional expression hanging in a space in Chapel Hill, 8 feet in diameter and 15 feet high, composed of one hundred strips with over 1000 images hand transferred and dipped through encaustic medium forming an object that occupies lots of space and invites us to engage with it actively, walking around it, working out how it embodies time and story.

So here photography in the South takes a powerful new turn, at the service of both artistic and social goals — definitely worth a look!

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