By Kimberly Boney
Katrina Keyes Brings the Inside Out Project to Downtown Redding
A well of excitement rose from Katrina Keyes’ heart the day she encountered “Inside Out: The People’s Art Project,” a concept first created and carried out by a French artist who simply goes by the moniker “JR.” By its own definition, “Inside Out” is “a global art project transforming messages of personal identity into works of art.” This black-and-white photography project, featuring people of all ages, races and walks of life, has included portraits of more than 120,000 people from 108 countries and has appeared on all seven continents.
Keyes was enthralled with the idea of converting this global concept into something that would touch hearts and affect positive change in downtown Redding. But she would add one important element: a questionnaire that would allow the person in each photo to share a bit of his or her story with the community, and, ultimately, with the world at large.
“A community is the sum of the hearts of its people,” says Keyes. “In order to reveal someone’s heart, you have to ask good questions. I want to influence people’s perspective of downtown by revealing the actual people who live and work there on a daily basis.”
“I believe in the power of an image to influence someone’s perspective. And I believe in the story behind that image,” Keyes says, recalling the National Geographic cover photo from June 1985, featuring an Afghan girl with piercing green eyes that is still well-recognized nearly 30 years later. “I wondered how many photos I could capture that would create an experience downtown, something that would resonate with people, something that would be captivating and powerful the way that image was.”
Keyes, who moved from Shawnee, Kan., to Redding in 2008, was chatting with a barista at a local downtown Redding coffee shop one afternoon when a man considering a move to Redding made a statement that would rock her world. “But I just heard that downtown is a bunch of meth heads,” he said.
“The barista and I just looked at each other. We had just had a conversation about how badly people talk about downtown. It was painful to hear. But, I have also talked to people who have restored the Cascade Theatre. They see downtown as a place that is full of possibility, something they have invested their life, time and energy in. Our contrasting perspectives are a matter of how we interact with downtown.”
That experience was the catalyst that converted her dream of creating the Inside Out Project into a virtual necessity in her eyes. “I refuse to believe that people should be categorized by what they do. When we compartmentalize each other, we create a separation that doesn’t allow us to engage one another. As a photographer, one of my values is to capture life in truth. I want to capture people in circumstances that are real, but I want people to see hope, courage, faith and a positive light in every situation,” says Keyes.
In May of 2013, just two months after she had initially seen JR’s Inside Out Project online, Keyes told her mentor, “I want to do this, but I don’t know how it’s going to happen.”
In June, she began to talk about the Inside Out Project. “I was at Big O Tires in Redding. I decided to tell a stranger about the project I had in mind for downtown. She was very encouraging. She said, ‘I wish there were more people around to do things like that.’ I had no plans. I had no approval. I had nothing, except an idea that I was talking about.”
An article in Enjoy Magazine that featured local artist Sally Marbry painting the electrical boxes throughout downtown inspired Keyes to reach out to a woman who shared her passion for making downtown a more beautiful place. “I looked her up and gave her a call. She suggested that I share the idea with Viva Downtown. Then, someone suggested that I speak to Steven and Barbara Berger, owners of Café Paradisio. So, I walked over there. Steven was sitting outside of his restaurant reading and somehow I began to pitch The Inside Out Project to him. I asked him if he would be my subject to present to the Viva Downtown Committee and he said ‘yes.’ I had always admired Enjoy Magazine and knew they shared my passion for community. So, I shared my idea with them. They said ‘yes,’ too.”
The Viva Downtown Committee also gave Keyes a resounding “yes.” Director John Truitt echoed Keyes’ sentiments about the interconnectedness of a place like Redding. “Towns are full of smart people who do great things,” he said.
So on April 6, Keyes and a crew of volunteers began pasting photo enlargements of some of the people who live and work downtown on some of its most prominent privately owned buildings. The Cascade Theatre, The Market Street Promenade and Sherven Square are the canvases for these profound works of heart. Keyes has been overwhelmed by support from participating businesses, but what resonates with her most are the people who have offered their likeness and their story to this impactful project.
“We have an innate, beautiful power to influence one another.
I think this project has the potential for a person who lives and works downtown to literally step outside and see someone who they know also lives and works downtown smiling at them from a photograph.
It may just encourage the person to smile back. There is encouragement in knowing that others contribute to downtown, just like you do,” says Keyes.
The Inside Out Project will mark the beginning of a new phase of life for Keyes. She’ll close out her 20s and begin her 30s with a bang, just as the project comes to fruition. “Every step taken has been the next chance, the next risk, the next opportunity. There have been moments where I had to make a choice to be courageous or not. In every step of the process there was a chance someone would say ‘no.’ Fortunately, I have gotten all yeses.”
Inside Out Project:
I proposed in my heart to make the last year of my 20s a courageous one. Courage’s platform: Inside Out Redding. Courage is always a choice. No one is accidently courageous. It’s intentional, purposeful and causes us as individuals and communities to respond to something that happens on the inside of us with our heart. There have been a number of moments in my life when I have chosen courage and I am proud of all of them. There have also been moments in my life when I have denied courage’s power to shine like the sun. Those are moments I would like back.
Being courageous throughout this entire project meant I would face every step head on, even when I thought I would be denied. Several times I came face to face with the opportunity of denial: Whether it be asking Viva Downtown Design Committee to do the project at all, asking building owners for wall space, asking each individual personally to participate in the project or asking volunteers to help on pasting day. Every time I was internally confronted, I chose to remind myself that courage was the way. Every time I chose courage, I was met with a “yes.” For this project to happen I needed more than 200 people to say “yes.” I got them.
I believe that people support courage. Whether you think my dream is fascinating, exciting, cool, neat, wonderful, enjoyable, applaud my efforts or not, what I do know is, as humans with hearts, we inherently respect courage.
Requiring myself to choose courage during this whole process at the beginning meant possible letdown. I have learned without possible letdown, there can be no possible victory. I turn 30 this month. I chose courage. I ended one decade and started another well.