An art collaboration led by artist Pamela Hovland with the broader community of Westport, the As We Are full gallery installation presents a local perspective on identity and stereotype that people of all demographics encounter daily.

Opening on Friday, January 27 at the Westport Arts Center, the exhibition features portraits of students, community leaders, business professionals, artists, immigrants, religious figures, cultural influencers and elected officials who have contributed personal material to express their individual views and experiences with labels and the power of words.

An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Friday, January 27 from 6 – 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The exhibition will be on view through March 11, 2017.

Following the MORE Than Words fall series exploring the same themes, a postcard prompting a response to “I AM MORE THAN ___” was answered by more than 500 participants who contributed their declaration, often after considerable thought as to how they believe they are perceived.

The community’s contributions both reveal and conceal personal identities that create insight, compassion, and a reevaluation of how we perceive and label ourselves and each other. The words are as varied as the people who participated. Among them, “I am more than … my grades … a housewife … my bank account … bi-polar … gay … Jewish … a twin … middle-aged … my pretty clothes … a mailman … a bald guy … an immigrant … a nun.”

“Words really do matter,” Pamela Hovland stated. “As a designer and artist, I’m interested in both the formal and semantic qualities of language. And as a member of this community, I’m interested in finding compelling ways to share our diverse personal stories. I hope this exhibition serves as a reminder that the labels we place on each other will never adequately capture the complexity of our humanity.”

Amanda Innes, Executive Director of the Westport Arts Center, stated of the exhibition, “Although the photos are anonymous, you may recognize leaders of our community – including our politicians, artists, bloggers and other influencers. In addition to their ‘declaration,’ they have shared other aspects of their identity which may surprise.”

Rounding out the installation are silhouettes of everyday people we might encounter, triggering in us the impulse to identify them based on size, shape, posture; the words we ascribe to them quickly form in our mind’s eye. The exhibition is brimming with personal yet anonymous content that is revealed and concealed, deconstructed and reassembled, challenging us to assess how we judge others on very little information.

The public is encouraged to make and share their own declaration by visiting the Westport Arts Center or by visiting the Arts Center’s website and social media.

The first phase of the MORE Than Words exhibition was on view at the Westport Arts Center September 9 – October 29 featuring works by some of the most important contemporary artists of our time. The exhibition included artistic expressions of gender, racial, religious, geo-political, and age inequality, as well as works that serve to demonstrate the impact of bullying and cyberbullying.

The second phase, MORE Than Words/#iammore, was on view November 11 – January 7, featuring juried works from the community at large, continuing the themes of courage, resilience, and empowerment in the face of bullying.

Community partners for the MORE Than Words exhibitions and supporting programming include Anti-Defamation League, Athlete Ally, Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, National Charity League, Westport Library, Westport Country Playhouse, Triangle Community Center, SKATEmovement (K2BK founders), the Ridgefield Chorale, and Neighborhood Studios of Fairfield County.

All photographs for As We Are courtesy Xenia Gross of Xenia Gross Photography.  For more information on the exhibition or supporting programming, visit www.westportartscenter.org.

Supporting Event

2017 Slam Jam
Westport Playhouse: tickets available on www.westportplayhouse.org
Sunday, January 29 at 5pm

Don’t miss the 2017 SlamJam featuring dance, music, rap, poetry, spoken word and song.  The performance art showcase features teens with something to say about the power of empathy and the negative impact of bullying.  The event is presented by the SKATEmovement.org (K2BK founders) and the Westport Arts Center.

About Westport Arts Center

The Westport Arts Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting community through the arts, reaches more than 11,000 people annually through outstanding programs in visual arts, arts education, and the performance arts of Chamber and Jazz music.

The Westport Arts Center also receives philanthropic support from the Katherine and Howard Aibel Foundation; Artur and Heida Hermanns Holde Foundation, Inc.; AB Bernstein; CBP; Cohen and Wolf, P.C.; Connecticut Cigar Company; Connecticut Office of the Arts; Delamar Southport; DanceSport; Dragone Motor Cars; Fairfield County Bank; Fairfield County’s Community Foundation; Finn, Dixon & Herling LLP; Fleishers Craft Butchery; 4th Row Films; GWAY Marketing Gymnasium; Hal Prince Music; the Hall Art Foundation; The Hofstetter Baron Group; J.P. Morgan; Lillian August; the Mitchell’s Family of Stores; Moffly Media; Newman’s Own Foundation; Random Acts; Rosenkranz Foundation; Saugatuck Grain & Grape; Shack Sackler Foundation; Sontag Advisory LLC; Stamford Tent; Sun Hill Foundation; Verde Energy USA, Inc.; Vespa Restaurant; Wells Fargo Advisors; Westport Now; William J. Rosenbloom Charitable Trust; Xerox Foundation; WPKN and WSHU Public Radio Group.

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