Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Art for concerned strangers

by Diane Miller | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Arts | May 29th, 2014

Red Hat Project addresses and undresses human concern

Would you reveal your biggest life concern to a complete stranger on the street?

What if she were holding a camera, wearing a blazing red knit hat and asking you to exchange clothes?

A number of locals said “yes” to Fargo artist Heather Zinger, creator of this 365-day people-connecting endeavor called Red Hat Project. Its finalized exhibit will open this Thursday, June 5 at the Spirit Room.

Zinger’s peculiar, yet stimulating project developed out of a Plains Art Museum workshop lead by Minneapolis photographer Wing Young Huie. Before sending his class on a mission to shoot photos, Huie presented a series of work by noteworthy photojournalists, including Nikki S. Lee, who’s known for integrating herself into different cultures, assuming their mannerisms and documenting this work through photography.

“She always looks like she belongs, always,” Zinger said. “It’s riveting.”

Zinger, who moved to Fargo from Portland, Ore. a few years ago, wanted to do something kind of similar, but would naturally produce different discoveries. Because, for one, she is white and Lee is Korean.

So initially, Red Hat Project was fueled by this idea of how Americans, whites in particular, tend to think everyone wants to be (or should be) apart of “the dominant culture.”

“I started going up to people and being like, ‘here, will you just put on my clothes? And I’ll put on your clothes,” Zinger said.

It was her tongue-in-cheek way of saying, “That’s how whiteness operates: Just be like me, look like me. Of course you want this.”

To her surprise, every person she asked agreed to do it in those first few days. People’s responses were so strong and mostly positive that it encouraged Zinger to turn this small experiment into a yearlong project.

But she eventually had to stick with just the hat and stop exchanging clothes with her subjects because it produced the wrong response.

“People thought it was hysterical,” Zinger said.

Certainly, humor is a good thing, but it’s not necessarily what she was going for.

She realized her project was about connecting with people, and one great way to connect with people is to give them an opportunity to voice their concerns.

Here are some of our local concerns she documented:

“Denial of the negative impact on the environment.”

“The high price of getting a college education.”

“Getting stiffed. I'm really sick with cancer and I'm trying to get help for disability but I'm getting stonewalled.”

Zinger’s main job is working at the Roger Maris Cancer Center as an artist-in-residence. So empathizing and working with people is something she does regularly.

Zinger said she had no intentions of telling people what to do about their concerns. Her interest was in finding patterns in human nature among differing groups of people.

She found people were more likely to participate on certain days and certain locations.

She found there’s something about Midwestern culture that makes people enjoy being of service to others.

She found people were concerned about a number of similar things -- and a number very surprising things.

She found interacting with strangers had an effect on her well being.

“It didn’t matter how bad my mood was, as soon as I talked to somebody, even if it was only for five minutes, it changed everything. I felt so much better,” Zinger said.

Indeed, an article, “Hello, Stranger,” published last month in New York Times cited how social interaction with strangers can do wonders for our mental health. Zinger posted this article written by Elizabeth W. Dunn and Michael Norton to Red Hat Project’s Facebook page.

“By avoiding contact (with strangers), we’re all following a collective assumption that turns out to be false. When the middle-aged woman starts playing Candy Crush Saga after she sits down next to the hipster scrolling through his iTunes library, they both miss out on an opportunity for connection,” the article stated.

Not everyone she took pictures with was a stranger, though a good majority of them were.

“I tried to not really go out of my way to get them. I tried to just be in my normal life and feel called to ask somebody,” Zinger said.

If she was too exhausted on a certain day, she’d put a red hat on an object, like a teddy bear, pillow or kale leaf. It gave her an opportunity to voice some of her own concerns as well as incorporate comic relief because her subjects’ concerns tended to be very heavy.

Zinger is also aware of similar Facebook pages, like Humans of New York and, more recently, Humans of Fargo. Though Zinger said she started this project before she heard of either. And unlike the “Humans” pages, Zinger and her red hat are in all of the photos as a unifying element.

“For me it was kind of about solidarity – whatever your concern is, I’ll stand with you in this moment in time and be with you in your concern,” Zinger said, “even if it’s something that I don’t necessarily prescribe to.”

IF YOU GO:

Red Hat Project

111 Broadway, FargoReception: Thurs, June 5, 7-9 p.m.On display: May 26 to June 25

facebook.com/TheRedHatProject

Recently in:

FARGO – Republican optimism for enlisting Senate candidates is suffering blow after blow. Democrats have flipped eight Republican-controlled state legislative seats across the nation, from Roy Moore’s loss to former federal…

When I was a young boy of five I was lucky enough to have a black and white TV in our house. I had a lot of friends in those day because I let the whole neighborhood come over on Saturday morning to watch cartoons. I distinctly…

Wednesday, January 24, 6pmFargo Theatre, 314 Broadway NThe very first showing of “Homegrown: From Farm to Fargo,” a half-hour documentary shot, written, edited and produced by mass communication and journalism students at…

Last week I was asked to appear and speak on behalf of Matt Pausch, owner of the Oasis, before the Public Works and Safety Committee in Wahpeton. The Pausches are great people and I will never forget the time I spent at the Oasis.…

Corky had a knee replaced in late December and she has been diligently doing the physical therapy connected with the rehab. Although the operation was done in Fargo, I imagine the procedure would have cost about the same if it had…

Rhombus GuysWhile they may be known locally and throughout the region for their restaurants, which feature over thirty different pizzas, and their recent addition of a brewery in Grand Forks, Rhombus Guys also proudly pour from a…

Do you eat enough vegetables? Almost no one does. The current USDA nutrition guidelines for adults recommend 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables to be eaten daily. Other nutrition sources indicate this number can be upwards of 6 cups of…

No one who has lived in Fargo for any length of time has to be told how bitterly cold it can get here during the winter. As much as we might complain about the cold temperatures, the biting winds, or the copious amounts of snow, we…

Now playing on Netflix Instant Watch, Voyeur is the curious story of strange bedfellows Gay Talese -- the once influential and celebrated journalist -- and Gerald Foos, a creepy peeper who spied on the guests at his hotel,…

High Plains Reader: How did the idea for Daily Trump Cartoon come to you -- what was your call to action?Peter Yuenger: It wasn't really a call to action, It was more of a New Year’s resolution to get back in the habit of drawing…

Smoke starts to seep from the sides of the stage and a rocker’s voice echoes over the crowd: “Are you ready to rock?!”You might think that you’re at a rock concert, if you weren’t seated in a black box theatre. For the…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

“What are some of your favorite bottles of whiskey?” is a question I get asked quite frequently and is often harder to answer than one might think. One of the great rewards of my profession is getting to sample some of the…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.edu“Kissing a man without a beard is like eating an egg without salt.”— Dutch proverb, probably written by a man.“Kissing a man with a beard is like going on a picnic. You don’t mind going…