UA-Created Digital Exhibition of Alabama Artist Publicly Available

From the UA News Center | A project by researchers at The University of Alabama to digitally display and preserve the work and stories of a well-regarded Birmingham artist has launched, drawing international attention.

website exhibiting the work of artist Joe Minter was recently published. It was created from the efforts from five disciplines across UA’s campus that included students from UA, historically black institutions and Shelton State Community College. The mapping and digital documentation of Minter’s work is the first large-scale application of this sophisticated technology to record and preserve an art installation.

Minter, a found-object artist, tells the story of his life, and a cultural movement, in a collection he calls “African Village in America” built on nearly 1 acre around his home in Birmingham, Alabama. UA experts in geographic imaging, art curation, digital cataloguing and art history created a digital rendering to offer immediate access to the artist’s site-specific presentation of found-object sculptures for both scholars and the public, who previously could only experience the monumental environment by visiting in person.

“Joe Minter’s artistry and vision is amazing, so for The University of Alabama to be able to promote him and his perspective as a Southerner and an African American to the world was an incredible opportunity for us,” said Eric Courchesne, geospatial services manager for the UA Department of Geography and one of the project leaders. “We were able to use our resources for an enriching experience that is now part of the University.”

Along with Courchesne, leaders on the project included Dr. Rachel Stephens, associate professor of art history, and Emily Bibb, curator of the Paul R. Jones Museum.

The project is supported by Souls Grown Deep, a non-profit that advocates for the inclusion of Black artists from the South within the canon of American art.

Elements of the project have already premiered at an exhibition titled “Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers” at the Royal Academy in London, which debuted in March and ends in June. Minter has a piece featured alongside works from other artists, but the digital curation by UA of the artwork around his home is also present in an interactive display, Courchesne said.

“It’s one of the premier museums in Europe, and we are proud that UA’s footprint is there to help provide visitors to the exhibit the larger scope of Mr. Minter’s work,” Courchesne said.

Similarly, the UA project is also helping display Minter’s work at an exhibition titled “Unsettled Things: Art from an African American South” at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The created website includes a 3D tour of the “African Village in America” where users can travel through the space in a 360-degree view. It also includes interviews with Minter and a catalog of additional works including descriptions and photographs. There’s also a birds-eye view flyover of the collection.

At UA, the project involved the departments of geography, art and art history, gender and race studies, and history as well as the Office of Archeological Research, the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art and the Alabama Digital Humanities Center.