changingplacesproject.org
Changing Places is an exhibition project exploring how Charlotte, NC, is dealing with rapid demographic and cultural change. Historically, black and white defined the racial landscape of the American South. For most of the twentieth century, the South had the fewest number of residents born outside the United States. In the past 25 years, as the southern economy has prospered, the region has attracted newcomers from across the country and around the globe. Today society in many southern places, including Charlotte, is multiethnic and multicultural. Thirteen per cent of the residents of Mecklenburg County where Charlotte is located are now foreign born—with 52% from Latin America, 25% from Asia, 11% from Europe and 10% from Africa. Charlotte is now a place of many cultures that intersect in ever changing patterns that generate both connection and tension.

With a goal of increasing cross-cultural understanding, the Changing Places project illustrates a new approach to exhibit development and program delivery by working with community partners at every stage. The exhibition is envisioned as a catalyst for activities in the gallery and beyond. In addition to the 3,500 square foot exhibition, the project includes public programs, dialogues for adults and teens, a website and a public television documentary. Historians Dr. Pamela Grundy and Dr. Tom Hanchett worked with exhibition developer and designer Darcie Fohrman to create an exhibition that uses images and artifacts, environments, video and a range of interactives from post-it notes to a video-talkback booth to spur visitors to think about the process of cultural change.

Rather than being about “immigrants,” Changing Places becomes an experience that helps visitors explore ways that everyone—native and newcomer alike—grapples with cultural difference and change. The wider Changing Places project extends those insights via community-based programming, innovative partnerships with mass media and civic dialogue.