Mary Beth Meehan: City of Champions

City of Champions
Mary Beth Meehan
January 17, 2013–March 3, 2013

Opening January 17, 2013 7 – 8:30 PM
Members Galley talk 6:15 Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Mary beth Meehan talk March 2 noon

Mary Beth Meehan grew up in Brockton, MA, the great-granddaughter of Irish immigrants.

“Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I was surrounded by friends who were, like me, the children or grandchildren of immigrants: Lithuanian, Italian, Lebanese, Greek,” she says. “Our fathers were firemen and gas company men, mechanics, and grocery store clerks.”

She left Brockton for Amherst College in 1985. Over time, her parents and friends who remained behind described a changing city. Factories were closing, people were moving out, and the population was changing from an 80 percent white to mostly minority community.

Racism was rampant.

“In 2006, I began to use my camera to look into these impressions, to push past them, and to meet my hometown anew,” Meehan says.
A series of her photographs, City of Champions, is featured in the Atelier Gallery at the Griffin Museum January 17 through March 3. An opening reception is January 17, 7-8:30 p.m.

“As I worked, I met immigrants from all over the developing world – families, small business people, students, musicians, churchgoers,” Meehan says. “They were this century’s version of the 19th –century European and they were people of color.

“But, these people were arriving on a stressed, tattered landscape and, unlike by great-grandparents, had no jobs to greet them,” Meehan says. “The old timers misunderstood and resented them. And the press, with its selective focus on crime and dysfunction, only deepened the cultural divide between old and new.”

Meehan says her photographs are “meant to push past headline, nostalgia, and stereotype and humanize this changing place….From the Irish politicians desperate to hang on to power, to the Haitian bride on her wedding day, to the young boy at his friend’s grave, these are human beings living in a city – a community – that has been battered by forces out of its control.

“But, they are still human beings and their lives make up the fabric of the United States,” she says. “They deserve to be seen.”

Meehan graduated from Brockton High School and earned a degree in English and fine arts from Amherst College. She has a master of fine arts degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri.

She was a staff photographer for the Providence Journal 1995-2001 and is now a freelance photographer and educator, including being a member of the photography faculty at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She lives in Providence, RI.

A gallery talk for museum members by Patricia Lay-Dorsey – whose exhibit Falling Into Place is featured in the Griffin Gallery – is at 6:15 p.m. January 17, prior to the opening reception for all exhibits.

Meehan presents a gallery talk about City of Champions March 2 at noon. It is free to museum members, $7 for non-members.