When the idea for WideOpen was born, members of the planning committee recognized that launching an international juried photography show in Athens would not be easy.
“This is a small town,” Terry Eiler, a professor emeritus at Ohio University and chair of the WideOpen committee, said. “It takes more than a little support, both financial and physical, to put together a show that draws 400 entries of individual pictures.”
But the initial hurdles did not deter Eiler and other members of the committee from making WideOpen a reality. With collaboration from The Dairy Barn Arts Center, OU’s School of Visual Communication and other community leaders, they worked to pull it off.
In 2018, the inaugural biennial exhibition of WideOpen debuted at the Dairy Barn.
Now, two years later, the exhibition has returned for its second show. Opening Oct. 2, the WideOpen exhibition will be available for viewing at the Dairy Barn until Nov. 29.
The photographic content that the WideOpen exhibition attracts aligns with the Dairy Barn’s mission, making it an appropriate place to host the showcase.
“The mission of the Dairy Barn is to offer exhibitions, cultural art events and educational programming that highlight our region,” Holly Ittel, quilt national and exhibitions director at the Dairy Barn, said. “Part of that is the deep history and appreciation for photography that comes from Athens, Ohio.”
Photography in Athens flourished after World War II. Clarence H. White Jr. moved the famed White School of Photography of New York City and Bath, Maine to OU. The school became OU’s Department of Photography and Film. Today, these subjects are taught within the school of Visual Communication.
This artistic spirit lives on in both the university and the town. Although this year’s WideOpen exhibition features the work of more than 60 photographers, a number of them are OU students and alumni.
As the name suggests, the exhibition celebrates all genres of photography and features a diverse range of subjects. Life during the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and immigration are explored through a variety of styles, from portrait photography to photojournalism.
“It's a tossed salad of a show which is just exactly what we wanted,” Eiler said.
Timothy Goheen, director of OU’s School of Visual Communication, exhibition chair on the Dairy Barn Board of Directors and a WideOpen committee member, echoes Eiler’s sentiment.
“In the show you will have fine art, you will have photojournalism…, and you [will] have commercial photography, which I think makes it a really unique and fascinating exhibit,” Goheen said.
The timeliness and diversity of WideOpen’s selected photographs also provide viewers with fodder for discussions about the world we live in.
“I think it's really important to immerse and expose people to the different genres [of photography] and different conversations that are currently happening in our world,” Ittel said.
Exhibited works were selected by a panel of three jurors with expertise in different forms of photography: Pete Souza, Ardine Nelson and Michael Rubenstein. Souza brought photojournalistic expertise, Nelson, fine arts knowledge and Rubenstein, commercial photography skills to judging of the 2020 WideOpen submissions, which were judged virtually this year.
“We had no intention of it being a COVID virtual judging, but that's how it happened,” Eiler said.
In the spirit of flexibility forced by unprecedented times, the exhibition will be displayed in several formats.
“If you're in Athens you're more than welcome to come see the exhibition at the Dairy Barn, with COVID-19 related precautions,” Ittel said. “We will be posting the exhibition online in a virtual gallery… and people will be able to purchase the exhibition catalog.”
In its many formats, Goheen encourages everyone to view the 2020 WideOpen exhibition.
“It's something worth checking out,” Goheen said.
Tickets are available for reservation here.