SUNY Oswego and the Oswego City School District will publicly kick off the My Hometown Banner Project with a free reception for the district's young artists from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 26, in Tyler Art Gallery on the college's campus.

An exhibition titled "My Hometown: A Celebration of Visual Art by Our Younger Citizens" will run May 26 to June 18 in Tyler Hall's recently modernized gallery, displaying dozens of student works selected by local jurors.

A second exhibition will showcase banners developed from that artwork, with a goal of displaying many around the city. The "My Hometown Banner Exhibition" will run from June 23 to Aug. 23 at Oswego State Downtown's gallery and store, at the corner of West First and Bridge streets. The free public reception for that show will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, June 30.

Each banner installation site also is expected to have an online component that will allow viewers to go online and read about the project, submit comments or even submit photos of the work or their response to it. At the end of their display cycle, the banners will be recycled into bags or other fabric products, and sold to raise funds to support the continuation of the project.

Inspired by banner projects in Cleveland, West Chicago and the Cortland County village of Groton, Oswego's My Hometown Banner Project seeks to provide public space for the display of creative expressions by students selected to represent their schools.

"We see these acts of expression as helping to form a picture of life in Oswego," wrote Cynthia Clabough, professor and chair of SUNY Oswego's art department. "Our goal in placing the work on display is to showcase our town as a vibrant and creative community. We hope through this action that it empowers students to use visual art to tell their stories and create sites of public memory."

Empowering young storytellers

Students representing every school in the district will have artwork in the exhibition.

"The objective of this project is to provide a window in which students living in Oswego can put into the world a creative expression that captures a sense of who they are and what it means to live in their community," Clabough wrote. "We want to empower students to tell their stories and create sites of public memory. We want students to feel their work has transformative powers that can change the community through positive action."

Jurors are SUNY Oswego art department faculty member Amy Bartell, coordinator of community art exhibitions and an award-winning artist who has produced work for numerous non-profits working on social justice issues; curriculum and instruction faculty member and practicing artist Barbara Beyerbach, co-director of Project SMART (Student-Centered, Multicultural, Active, Real-World Teaching), a long-term SUNY Oswego professional development project with local schools; and Mindy Ostrow, a photographer and former assistant gallery director at SUNY Oswego, who opened River's End Bookstore 16 years ago in Oswego with her husband.

Besides Clabough, project organizers include Stacey Van Campen and Billie Jo Peterson of Oswego High School, with the assistance of SUNY Oswego interns David McCormick, Rebecca Smith and Madison Tinney.

The Creatively Exploring Collaborative, an academic organization representing SUNY Oswego and Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley community colleges, funded exhibition supplies from a grant received by CEC from the Arts and Humanities of Excellence node established by the SUNY Research Foundation.

Tyler Art Gallery will open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays during the "My Hometown" exhibition; visitors also can call 315-312-2111 at least one day in advance to view by appointment.

Oswego State Downtown's gallery is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Call 315-312-2111 for more information about the upcoming "My Hometown Banner" exhibition.