On their morning commutes this winter, many BART riders will look up from their newspapers, iPads, Kindles, and smartphones to see the faces of farmers, rodeo riders, young smalltown boxers, and country poets staring back at them, thanks to an innovative public information campaign designed to connect urban Californians with their rural compatriots.
"Real Rural" is the product of a collaboration between writer and photographer Lisa M. Hamilton, the nonprofit organization Roots of Change, the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and the Creative Work Fund, which supports artists working in the nine Bay Area counties. On a media fellowship from our Center, Hamilton spent much of 2011 criscrossing California, capturing offbeat portraits of the state's remarkable scenery and seeking out stories about the diverse residents of what she calls "the rest of California."
Real Rural is meant to start a new conversation, between two parts of California that are at best disconnected, and often at odds. Many people in our cities think they already know the story of rural California: who’s there and how they think, their values and their struggles. I have aimed to demonstrate that in fact this place and its people are far more diverse and dynamic than most of us from outside realize.
Working with Geoff McGhee, the Center's creative director of media and communications, and the San Francisco design firm MacFadden and Thorpe, Hamilton has crafted an elegant, interactive and multimedia rich website — realrural.org — that tells the stories of 20 rural Californians, as well as posters on BART. Later this year, the project will be featured on mass transit and billboards in Los Angeles and Sacramento, and in exhibition at the California Historical Society in San Francisco.
"Real Rural" has garnered extraordinary media attention, including a feature in the "Insight" section of the Sunday San Francisco Chroncle, an hour-long interview with Lisa Hamilton and Jon Christensen on KQED Radio's "Forum," a feature story on public radio's statewide "California Report," a feature on National Public Radio's "Picture Show" online, and numerous other newspaper, radio, and television features.
We hope you can join us to celebrate "Real Rural" California at the California Historical Society in downtown San Francisco on Tuesday, January 31, from 5 to 7pm, where Lisa will talk about the journey she took to find these extraordinary stories from the rest of California.