The Hippodrome’s art gallery could be mistaken for the streets that surround it with its latest update, “Hipp Humans: a Collection of Stories from the Humans of Gainesville,” unveiled April 22.
The free exhibit presents a snapshot of the Gainesville community, focusing on forces large and small. It took inspiration from “Humans of New York”: a website and book by author and photographer Brandon Stanton that profiles people on the streets of New York.
Attendees can peruse 25 portraits and their corresponding stories in the gallery. The exhibit also features an interactive wall for patrons to answer impactful questions about their own lives.
HippHumansGNV is an Instagram-based marketing initiative from the Hippodrome with a companion art gallery that brings the project to life. The goal is to share the stories of Gainesville community members through their portraits and interviews.
Grace Munroe, a 22-year-old graphic designer and Hippodrome marketing intern, composed the project by interviewing, photographing and storying various Gainesville residents who play prominent roles – whether in the community or in their personal presentation.
Interviewers asked for life advice or prominent memories to start the conversations, but the subjects’ excitement typically guided the rest.
“People love to talk about themselves,” Hippodrome marketing associate Le-Alem Getachew, 25, said. “They’ll go off.”
The Hipp Humans project connects its featured citizens and highlights their integral roles in painting the portrait of Gainesville.
One of the exhibit’s subjects is Cristina Cabada Sidawi, a 22-year-old local cook, DJ, and vintage clothing reseller. She expressed admiration for HippHumans’ work.
“It’s a really cool portrait of what the Gainesville community looks like and how different it is, and how everyone comes from different backgrounds and identities and from different spaces,” Sidawi said.
HippHumans is managed by Munroe and Getachew. Though Getachew created the idea, Munroe spearheaded the project. The duo’s marketing goal was to reach new demographics like younger crowds and those who may have paused their attendance and support during COVID-19.
The HippHumans Instagram’s companion gallery opened as a launch party for the social media page, though overwhelming community support has given the exhibit a life beyond itself. As such, the exhibit may be extending its month-long duration further into the summer, according to Getachew.
Visitors can expect the exhibit to return in the fall as Gainesville does: with fresh faces and a renewed style.
As for where the subjects were sourced, the Hippodrome employees did not need to go far.
As a project heavily inspired by Downtown Gainesville’s connectedness and eclectivity, Munroe and Getachew mainly scouted the Heartwood Soundstage Market, Depot Park, the Hippodrome and the general downtown area.
Subjects were selected both by significance to the community and by random impulse; Le-Alem references the beloved Bo Diddley’s grandchildren, and Munroe describes going after “eccentric” people.
“There was a man on a bike who just talked about the government for hours, and he’d try to get us to join a republic with him,” Munroe said.
Once the profiles and portraits were completed, they were narrowed down to a diverse selection of the most fruitful interviews for printing and framing. The remaining profiles were archived to eventually share on the exhibit’s Instagram.
Munroe, who minored in sustainability while attending UF, also purchased the prints’ frames secondhand from local thrift stores.
“We didn’t want to buy frames, not just because we didn’t want to spend the budget, but because we’re very, ‘Secondhand, support small stores,’ and stuff like that,” Munroe said.
The nature of the thrifted frames also meant they would not be uniform; an aspect that Munroe noted for representing the individuality of each Gainesville community member’s story and personhood.
After compiling interviews and collecting frames, the exhibit was ready to open. During the exhibit’s grand opening, much of the crowd was composed of the project’s subjects, which created a real sense of community coming together, Munroe and Getachew said.
“It might’ve been people that I knew, and other people that I didn’t know, but I got to know them all walking through the exhibit and seeing all their pictures framed and reading their stories,” Sidawi said.
Fellow subject Laila Fakhoury, 24, co-founder of record label Dion Dia and co-owner of How Bazar, was similarly struck.
“There were people in there that I was like, ‘I do not deserve to be in this gallery.’ There’s just so many amazing people who were included and it just felt like such an honor to be part of it,” Fakhoury said. “It felt really beautiful and pretty surreal, too.”
The creators shared similar feelings to Fakhoury.
“It was so cool because they were on the walls but they were walking around, so it was kind of surreal at first,” said Munroe. “It was like book characters jumping off a page.”
However, representing another facet of the humans of Gainesville was the interactive section’s defacement later that opening night.
“This woman and her family or friends drew inappropriate pictures and things all over the posters. Luckily, our cinema manager and our partner replaced it that night, so it did not see the general public,” a giggling Getachew said.
Community support wasn’t all conniving, though; Munroe and Getachew were surprised by how much love they received.
The exhibit opened at 6:30 p.m. and had a line of attendees by 6:25 p.m, Munroe said.
“We didn’t think anyone was going to come,” Getachew said. “It was just adorable to see.”
HippHumans takes suggestions for subjects through their Instagram and the exhibit’s suggestion box. HippHumansGNV is not affiliated with the FaceBook page “Humans of Gainesville,” a page also inspired by Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York."
Contact Anna Ward at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaWard_.