|Had I paid attention in Art History I could caption this.|
While visiting the Louvre last last year, artist and filmmaker Julien de Casabianca was struck by an Ingres painting of a female prisoner tucked unceremoniously into a corner of the museum. He suddenly had an idea: what if he could somehow free her—both figuratively and literally—by reproducing her figure on a public street.
Casabianca's initial effort has morphed to worldwide street art movement, with "Outings" spotted in London, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Dallas, Chicago, Rome and more. The project encourages others to "photograph the portraits of people on museum walls, print them, and move them to streets walls." Check the Facebook page for the latest sightings.
Obviously, this is completely delightful. It is also a suggestive model for public historians. How about a public history version of this, where we paste images of famous historical figures around town? They could be anyone--presidents, civil rights leaders, American Indians. The goal would be to create temporary, guerrilla public history displays to raise the historical consciousness of the community.
What would this look like in my own city, Spokane? I am thinking of a series of portraits around town, illustrating perhaps labor and civil rights leaders in Spokane or relevant to Spokane. The town has a rich labor history, with the Wobblies, other unions, some prominent labor actions like the Free Speech fight, etc. We could glue life-sized portraits of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Spokane Garry and Carl Maxey to downtown buildings. They could include speech bubbles describing their significance, or a digital interpretation triggered by a QR code or URL, or be just the images with no explanation for an air of mystery. Perhaps funding could be secured from a union or social justice group. There could be a guided walk on Labor Day.
Like the Outings Project, this could be a movement, in our case a movement of public historians. Who is with me?