May 23, 2024

The Riverside Art Museum (RAM), located in the historic Mission Inn district of downtown Riverside, is now showing a revival of the 2013 exhibit More Dreamers of the Golden Dream by Susan Straight and Douglas McCulloh. The exhibit will run  from Oct. 7 to Jan. 2.

The exhibit was created by Straight, prolific author and University of California, Riverside creative writing professor, who collaborated with McCulloh, senior curator for The California Museum of Photography in 2013, to create a masterful collection of blackand-white photos depicting the stories of East Riverside. They called this work More Dreamers of the Golden Dream and have recently revamped the show with the help of Delphine Sims, daughter of Straight and Ph.D student in the history of photography in the Americas at the University of California, Berkeley. Sims has contributed to this revamp by writing new essays that thematically come from the next generation.

The exhibit displays a large quantity of black-and-white photos that were taken in the East Riverside community. Each photo has a story that has been written out and displayed next to the large black-and-white prints.

This revival is not just an old collection of black-and-white photos. Rather, it is a unique way to capture the individual lives of an entire community, displaying its members’ right to live, love, cry and ultimately pass away.

“Why do story and photograph work so well together?” Straight said in her description of the exhibit on the RAM website. “How is it that a wonderful story told to me on a front porch can be enhanced so much by black-and-white photography in a way that the human brain responds viscerally and takes in the entire world?”

The photography pioneer Ansel Adams explained this phenomenon well.

“Our lives at times seem a study in contrast: love and hate, birth and death, right and wrong…everything seen in absolutes of black and white,” Adams said in “Born Free and Equal” published in 1944. “Too often we are not aware that it is the shades of gray that add depth and meaning to the starkness of those extremes.”

The purpose of the artist’s work was to record an intimate story that may be enjoyed by the next generation. Such a story includes all facets of culture from historical locations to food. 

Briana Beltran, junior Spanish education major, noted the significance of small cultural things when speaking of a picture depicting a restaurant staff that was displayed in the exhibit.

“Food is a major part of culture,” Beltran said. “You can see in this photo that these people are fulfilling their parents’ dream of owning a restaurant.”

Spencer Thompson, junior mathematics and Christian studies double major, further developed this point.

“Food is a beautiful extension of culture that often goes unnoticed,” Thompson said.

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