Wednesday afternoon: At the Knox College Pump Handle you make yourself a name tag. The Vice President shakes the President's hand and everyone else —students, staff, faculty, administrators, maintenance workers— everybody acknowledges everyone else. The line loops and winds around Old Main. Getting hundreds of pictures starts with asking. I shook the hand of 1500 people and got scolded for holding the line as I passed out 800 slips of paper with the email address.
Thursday morning: I distributed flyers with a tear-off fringe at grocery stores and local businesses talking to customers and managers about sending photos. Kevin at Baked, a local pizza joint, immediately pulled the project website up on the service counter iPad. Mike at a local coffee shop agreed to distribute Galesburg Portrait Project coupons with coffee receipts.
At Walmart, there's no community bulletin board; company policy prevents putting flyers in the break room. I asked to see their community relations person. They looked perplexed and gave me the managers number.
At 11 am at Knox's convocation, I was making small talk with a new freshman from Kansas, the woman in front of us was eavesdropping. Joining the conversation, Natalie said that she belonged to the service club and they planned to connect with the portrait project.
Thursday mid-afternoon: I had talked to 1600 people. It's hard to imagine a faster way to get to know a community. Beside the Knox people I had talked to store owners, students, faculty, workers; it's a little uncomfortable but it's really fun.
I had zero photos. It's also pretty frustrating. Some people were interested, others suspicious —When was the last time some stranger approached you to paint your portrait? You get the picture.
At 3:30 the Iron Spike, an upscale microbrewery, was empty. I talked to the manager bemoaning the lack of response. Matt pulled out his phone, pulled up a picture of his little boys and emailed it to me on the spot. Number one! The wine manager at a local liquor store pulled his picture off a bottle and handed it to me. It felt like a turning point.
At 4:30, Natalie called and invited me to the bi weekly dinner at Central Congregational Church. Knox faculty member and city councilman, Peter Schwartzman, personally introduced me and the project to 20 people. They sent emails. Some guests didn't have access to email so I took pictures and let them pick what to use in the project, By Saturday night, I had 60 images. It's a start.