WYOMING — Jim Gavenus wants people to stop and feel the love, and he’s organized an exhibition to catch their attention.
The Display of Love, a multi-media community art project focusing on themes of love, diversity and peace, takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at T.W. Shoemaker Art in Wyoming. The event showcases works from artists, photographers, writers and musicians of a multitude of ages and backgrounds and attempts to unify the community against hate and violence.
Gavenus, a 51-year-old photojournalist and professor of communication arts at Luzerne County Community College, said the inspiration came to him when he was driving to a concert at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in 2015 shortly after terrorists killed nearly 90 people at the Bataclan Theater in Paris during an Eagles of Death Metal performance.
“As details came out, I had known several friends who had played there,” Gavenus said of the Bataclan. “I really wondered if we, as a community, as a people, have accepted this as a part of everyday life.”
After polling a few of his classes at LCCC to gauge how a younger generation was absorbing pervasive violence, Gavenus said he came to the conclusion that it bothered his students, but they were at a loss for a solution.
“I said, ‘I don’t know how to fix it, but doing nothing doesn’t help,’” Gavenus said.
Gavenus’ first notion was to do a project on love and diversity himself, using his own photography as works in the exhibition. His previous projects include journaling the civil rights movement in Selma, Ala.
“Then I thought, it’s better if it’s a lot of people speaking out and saying, ‘Hey, this still exists,’ people of all ages and religious backgrounds,” Gavenus said.
Gavenus started by sending some emails to get people interested in the project and ask for submissions, and he found that people identified with him.
“People felt like I did, that there’s still a lot of good in the world, but we’re drowned out by these violent events that happen,” Gavenus said.
He began receiving artwork in the mail, and the project expanded in scope to include music, poetry and photographs from people all over the world.
“We have some local grade schools that have done some work,” Gavenus said. “We have work from Africa, Haiti. There are musical pieces. One song was written by a musician out in Oakland. I didn’t know him. He was a drummer for a friend of mine, and he contacted me and said, ‘I didn’t know what to do, but now I know I need to write a song.’”
Gavenus will display one or two of his photographs, but the focal point, he said is on the work of others.
“As more and more pieces came in, I removed more and more of mine,” Gavenus said.
Gavenus said he’s realistic about the effects of such an effort. He doesn’t expect the display to solve the world’s problems over night, but, he said, it’s important for communities to come together and remain strong.
“It’s tough times, but I think there’s more good than there is evil, so this might just be a little taste of it,” he said.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO:
What: Display of Love
Where: T.W. Shoemaker Art, 312 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming
When: 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 10
Additional information: Admission is free. The event also features a coat drive to aid those in need as winter approaches.