LAURINBURG — Two years in the making, the Echode interactive art project has come alive in the Laurinburg downtown area and will remain on display for one more month or as long as the weather permits.
The old adage a picture is worth a thousand words wasn’t lost on Laurinburg native McNair Evans when he came across an old newspaper photo archive in the trash.
Evans saved a large Laurinburg Exchange photo from being lost forever two years ago and the experience inspired him to create an interactive art project that tells the history of Scotland County.
The Echode interactive art project brought the wide-ranging history of Laurinburg and Scotland County back to life with large-scale photos, which are currently plastered all over the downtown area.
The historic photographs aren’t a permanent art piece, which was the intention of co-creator Erin Rembert, executive director of the Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast.
“We wanted to create a dialog,” she said. “I’ve gotten calls from people saying ‘why don’t we know who any of the people are?’ We did the whole project anonymously, we didn’t know who anybody was. A lot of the reprints being in black and white, kind of takes race out of the picture — that we are all one people, that we are here working together, trying to do the best that we can for our families and communities,” Rembert said.
The photos are glued along one wall of the A.B. Gibson Education Center and along the brick walls on Fairly and Railroad streets.
The mural on Fairly St. features photos of graduates from the Laurinburg Institute and letters written to the aunt of Scotland County storyteller, Tyris Jones.
Before the rain washed them away, Railroad Street featured photos that paid respect to military veterans.
There is a “very personal element of who these people were at a certain time in their lives and being able to show that to the public really brings something to the project itself,” Rembert said.
The photos that cover the wall of the A.B. Gibson Education Center that faces the intersection of Main and Church streets was unveiled in mid-June along with the city’s Art Garden, which features locally created sculptures.
Having the unveiling of both projects was planned, according to Evans.
“We wanted to have as much impact as possible,” he said.
Rembert, along with Evans and Adam Prince, a Southern California-based multidisciplinary designer, hopes the art instillation accurately tells the wide-ranging history of Laurinburg and Scotland County through photos that otherwise would have never been seen by this generation of residents.
The funding for the project came from a two-year N.C. Art Council grant administered through the Storytelling Arts Center of the Southeast, with matching funds provided by Service Thread Manufacturing and the Laurinburg Downtown Revitalization Corporation.
The physical art instillation has only been up a few months, but the virtual version of the Echode project began back in May of 2015. So even when the photos wash away the project will live on through its digital platform, echode.org.
Echode has over 1,500 photographs on display on their website, most of which come from old editions of the Laurinburg Exchange. However, the website is interactive and allows the public to upload personal photos to help keep the history of Scotland County alive and well.
The Echode project hopes to “inspire people and artists. McNair was gracious enough to share his incredible talents with the community,” Rembert said.