Vince Alexander

In preparation for Miami University’s 2009 Bicentennial Celebration, Talawanda High School (THS) and the city of Oxford are coming together to create a symbolic fabric bicentennial art project, possibly including a documentary film, with the intention to tell the diverse stories of the Oxford community.

“The idea began through a conversation between Oxford community members and Monica Ways, the director of community engagement for Miami University,” said Cliff McNish, Miami’s director of diversity and outreach for the School of Fine Arts.

According to Holly Morris, THS’s coordinator of community relations, as part of the inspiration for the symbolic fabric, there will be a series of three meeting during which Oxford community members will be encouraged to come together and share stories about living in Oxford and changes of its past. These accounts will be filmed by a Miami student, will serve as records at the Smith Library and may be turned into a documentary.

“These stories could possibly be developed into a documentary and this is where a theme for the bicentennial art celebration will be drawn from,” Morris said.

Morris said the meetings will take place at 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at Talawanda Middle School, at 1 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Oxford Senior Citizens Center and the final meeting’s schedule is pending but will take place at the Bethel Church in Oxford.

“This collaborative project between Miami and Talawanda art students will commemorate the rich history of Oxford while creating a positive experience to celebrate the bicentennial of Miami University,” Morris said.

According to McNish, around eight Miami art students and possibly a half dozen Talawanda art students will be working on the project.

“The students are very enthusiastic as plans continue to expand and create new lengths on their own,” McNish said. “This project allows students to engage themselves in a community project.”

McNish explained that this project would include a variety of stories from various viewpoints.

“The threads work around a variety of people’s stories that will include multiple accounts to get a diverse group of residents from the community that will tell the story of Oxford,” McNish said.

This is not the first time that Miami has come together with Oxford and the Talawanda School District to celebrate knowledge of the arts. According to McNish, recently nationally acclaimed art educator Ronnie Holly, whose work is focused on recycled materials, came to Miami and THS last year to share his passions with the Oxford community.

“This project is turning out to be a worthwhile collaboration between Miami University and Talawanda High School,” McNish said. “The students should present an interesting story for the bicentennial.”

According to McNish, promotion for the event is still being worked out through the city, local government agencies, historical agencies and community art and media representatives.

“The definite end product, including the actual piece of art and the audio presentations, are still in the planning stage, but hopefully everything will culminate sometime during the Bicentennial Celebration,” McNish said.

The final unveiling and permanent location of the art piece will be on sight at the Oxford Community Arts Center, located at the corner of High Street and College Avenue in the children’s garden. According to McNish the piece will be encased in some type of glass protection and will be presented with a commemorative plaque.

Caroline Croswell, executive director of the Oxford Community Arts Center, said the center is very excited to be involved in this project.

“This project is very exciting,” Croswell said. “I’m glad to be drawn into it. Our hope is to have the final project displayed at the art center. I am very glad that the community art center can be involved in the project.”