‘Faces of Belonging’ photo exhibit opens at NIU

“Faces of Belonging,” a group exhibition of photographs by Amy Fleming, Edwin Perez-Hernandez, Jacob Rivera, Emma Vitallo and Maeve Wallace, has opened at Northern Illinois University’s School of Art and Design.

The exhibition is curated by Jessica Labatte, associate professor of art at NIU.

The photographs will be on display in the Annette and Jerry Johns Gallery on the second floor of Jack Arends Hall through Nov. 2. The gallery is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Faces of Belonging” is a photographic project that promotes “belonging” amongst individuals who live, work and study in DeKalb. The community is inhabited by diverse individuals, each contributing their own unique perspectives and varied life experiences to DeKalb. The project honors the faces and voices of community members who work to create a sense of belonging.

The photographic portraits show individuals who work to create a sense of belonging for others in the community. Some of these environmental portraits were made in locations in the DeKalb area that create a sense of belonging for the individuals. Other were taken at public events where the community gathered to celebrate the community and honor its diversity. Excerpts from interviews conducted with participants share their insights into what belonging means and how to create a sense of belonging for everyone. Whether that is through social justice work, promoting equity, mentoring, or ensuring the safety of the community, each of these individuals make DeKalb a more welcoming place to be.

Visitors are invited to contribute to a participatory project by writing their answer to the prompt “How do YOU define BELONGing?” on a large mural in the gallery space.

“Faces of Belonging” is in collaboration with Monique Bernoudy, Andy Dolan, Jennifer Groce, Paul Kassel, Mariano Spizzirri and Sophia Varcados. The project was funded through a Healing Illinois Grant from the State of Illinois Department of Human Services and the DeKalb County Community Foundation in partnership with Family Service Agency, City of DeKalb, Ellwood House Museum, DeKalb County History Center, and Northern Illinois University to help co-create a culture of belonging in the community.

A full list of belonging projects can be found at cityofdekalb.com

Visit the “Faces of Belonging” project website at www.belongingdekalb.com for more images and interviews.