ST. CHARLES – A new exhibit at the St. Charles Public Library aims to show and celebrate the diversity of those who call the Fox Valley home.
The exhibit, called Faces of the Fox, is on display at the library through the month of October. Using photography and stories, the exhibit depicts the wide variety of people including, but not limited to, people who are diverse racially, ethnically, educationally, economically, religiously, mentally, physically, and in their gender identification.
On Oct. 6, visitors were able to meet the photographers, writers and individuals showcased in the exhibit in a reception in the Carnegie Community Room. The St. Charles Public Library is located at One South Sixth Ave. in downtown St. Charles.
Faces on the Fox is the brainchild of Cynthia Wade, founder and managing director of do-over.me, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization that provides support to individuals in life transitions. The exhibit has been on display at various locations throughout the area.
Wade said the purpose of the exhibit is to shed light on the diversity that exists in the Fox Valley.
"People who are marginalized, which are people that are different from the majority in power – white Anglo-Saxon men – struggle," Wade said. "And they struggle for a lot of different reasons. And my primary concern in that area of concern is helping them to find jobs. Until we recognize them and ask them what it's like to be them, we're not going to be able to help them. It was a first step in an ongoing effort to shed a light on the diversity that already exists here."
Laura Esposito, 23, a 2013 St. Charles North High School graduate, took Wade's idea and ran with it.
She had been an intern at do-over.me as a student at Adler University. The internship was about social justice.
One of the people featured in the exhibit is Batavia resident Steve Heronemus. He has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a progressive, degenerative disease of the nervous system. The disease has robbed him of his ability to walk and speak.
"He was the first person we came in contact with," Esposito said. "He was the first one who really showed interest in the project. We sat down with him and kind of talked to him about what it was about."
She thought his story was a good one to be featured in the exhibit.
"He had to adapt and adjust to all these new ways of living," Esposito said. "And he didn't let his disability hold him back in any way."
In an email, Heronemus said he was honored to be included in the exhibit and to have gotten to know many of the other people highlighted in it.
"Each of us represents a slice of life in the Fox Valley that is often hidden or overlooked, yet we are capable of and eager to make positive contributions in our communities," he said. "Including people like us gives you a more complete loaf to nourish your success and enjoyment of life."
Esposito said she is pleased with how the exhibit turned out and the reaction it has been receiving.
"It really exceeded my expectations, actually," she said. "All the traffic that we had during our first opening at Limestone Coffee and Tea in Batavia was awesome. It was packed. I was really happy to see that."
She hopes that people who see the exhibit will come away with a greater appreciation of the stories of other people.
"These towns are really rich in diversity and diversity is so important," she said.