Every human being faces the question of identity, of knowing him or herself. Who am I? Where do I belong? What group, or nation, or tribe do I claim as mine? Identity is fluid and prismatic, ever changeable, and endlessly transformed by time and circumstance. Its Latin root means sameness, both an enfolding and a restrictive notion, conveying our twin desires to belong to something larger—a relationship, a community, a profession, a cause—and to be distinct; ourselves; in the face of identity’s flux, to be able to say this is who I am.
In the spring of 2012 curiosity drove me to approach the Board of Boiler Room and ask for permission to photograph there. I have seen many youth centers come and go, most only last a couple of years before fading away. I wanted to find an answer as to why the Boiler Room in Port Townsend works when so many other similar organizations fail.
Real change in this world starts locally and in the hands of those invested in their own community. It moves out from where it begins into the much broader world. What the Boiler Room does is invest in individuals through community and in community through individuals. The respect and sense of responsibility at the Boiler Room spreads from there into the world at large as the patrons and volunteers grow and move on. I for one believe it is making the world a better place for all of us.
My involvement with the Boiler Room and this project added to and altered my identity. I asked each of the individuals in the portraits to answer “What is your Identity?” the answers are never the same over time, but the core remains. This show is a culmination of 4 years of that involvement and change. Below is a preview of the show.
“The Boiler Room has been many things to many people. A coffeehouse, an art gallery, a private business, a nonprofit teen center, a cause, a scapegoat. But to me it has been a salvation – a place to be, and belong. Home. I’ve worked with some of the finest human beings I’ve met to preserve a common goal of home for ourselves and anyone else who needed it, to resolve the question of where do I belong. So many people ask it, and we can never afford to let ignorance settle such questions.” – Jake Kelly, former BR Manager
This show was made possible with the generous support of the following organizations:
The City of Port Townsend Arts Commission