By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Many tornado survivors who shared messages of strength and resilience for last year’s “Dear World, From Joplin With Love” exhibit at Spiva Center for the Arts are sharing those same messages permanently in a book that is now on sale.
“It’s a culmination of photographs of people from the community who wrote messages on the skin that they wanted to say to the world about what they went through and how they’re coming out the other side of it,” said Shaun Conroy, Spiva’s gallery and gift shop coordinator.
The book was published recently as part of the observance of the second anniversary of the EF-5 tornado that tore through Joplin on May 22, 2011.
The Dear World photo exhibit on which the book is based opened for the first anniversary of the storm and drew the largest number of visitors of any exhibit presented at Spiva. It focused on storm victims, city officials, first responders and volunteers who shared their feelings and thoughts through photographer Robert X. Fogarty’s message-on-skin portrait style. The exhibit also included first-person narratives from many of those who were photographed.
“It was an opportunity to record and tell the stories of heroism, champions, patience, generosity and virtue,” Fogarty wrote in a foreword to the book. “By positioning the campaign as a love note from Joplin to the world, we also highlighted the strength of Joplin and its people. It sets a precedent that members of other communities can inspire, learn and come together to work toward a brighter day.”
The exhibit opened in conjunction with two other exhibits called “Photos from the Storm,” which displayed hundreds of photographs of the tornado’s aftermath by Joplin Globe photographers and community members, and the Shoebox Project, in which residents displayed their own sentimental items in shoe boxes, Conroy said.
“What was really striking for me was during that summer, we had a lot of volunteers coming in, and the word (of the exhibits) started getting out to the volunteers and high school kids, and this was one of their stops,” he said. “It was just amazing to see these kids who come here to help us, and it really impacted them. It really brought home how important what they were doing was.”
Only 50 portraits were included in the Dear World exhibit last year because of limited gallery space at Spiva. The book includes all 116 photographs that were taken on location at sites throughout town and during two open photo sessions in which the public was invited to participate, as well as the narratives that were included in the exhibit.
Conroy said the book will mark the first time that some of the subjects will view their photographs.
The book contains some “really powerful” photos and narratives, Conroy said. Among them are the stories of Quinton Anderson, a teenager who survived the tornado but lost his parents to it; Kurtis Cox, a general surgeon at Freeman Hospital West who treated survivors the night of the tornado; Della and Adolfo Castillo, who rode out the storm in their bathroom; and Phillip Wilkinson, who took care of the physical plant at St. John’s Regional Medical Center, now Mercy Hospital Joplin, even after it was reduced to rubble.
The book, underwritten by Freeman Health System, sells for $25 and may be purchased at Spiva Center for the Arts, 222 W. Third St. Other purchase locations will be announced later. Books also may be ordered with credit card by phoning Spiva at 417-623-0183.
Proceeds from the sale will go to Spiva.
PHOTOGRAPHER ROBERT X. FOGARTY is the founder of Dear World, a photographic platform for sharing messages of survivors of devastation from natural disasters. His other projects have focused on New Orleans, Japan, Haiti, Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the East Coast.