Head First Slide is the name of a commissioned artwork made in collaboration with people experiencing homelessness. This paper will first analyze the processes involved in the creation of the project and then focus on a few of the many realizations born in working with thirty-six men and women experiencing homelessness in the Over-The-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. Baseball cards were popularized in the middle of the 19th century. Initially used for promotional purposes, often by companies with no connection to baseball, the cards became collectibles. They were bought, sold, and traded like stocks: impacted not by the economy but by the careers of the featured players. Head First Slide baseball cards, on the other hand, feature men and women experiencing homelessness. Their photographs on the front of each card pair with their own words, on the back, to create compelling portraits within a structure designed, collaboratively, with nine men experiencing homelessness and featured on the baseball cards. Because the value of a traditional baseball card depends upon the performance of the player, the Head First Slide cards raise questions about the commodofication of individuals. These new cards challenge an existing, culturally established platform for creating heroes. Additionally, by using the internet as a forum, this artwork engages a wider audience: people who do not frequent galleries or museums. The homeless men and women involved with Head First Slide have seen their words published in newspapers and magazines. They have had their words read aloud by nationally recognized personalities. More important, their voices have been given a public platform, which suggests that they matter. They no longer feel invisible because their experiences, told by their faces and their words, have reached over 9,000 people from nearly 100 countries.
|Keywords:||Homeless, Baseball, Community, Collaboration, Kurt Gohde, Interventionist Art, Baseball Cards, Head First Slide, Over the Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio, Photography, Writing, Poetry|
Associate Professor of Art, Fine Arts Division, Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
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