Last Thursday, members of the Albuquerque community gathered to discuss album artwork and the personal sentiments that listeners attach to them. The New Mexico Humanities Council launched their exhibition, “Stories on the Sleeve,” with an opening reception.
Walking into the exhibit, visitors were immediately drawn to the records displayed along the tall white walls. At eye level, cover art of albums created by the Rolling Stones, Joy Division, Dolly Parton, Rush and Iron Maiden illustrated the sounds of the physical copies within them. On the wall next to each album sat little black letters, telling the contributors’ stories.
According to Jodi Hedderig, program officer for NMHC, the organization put out a call for entries. He said the idea behind the exhibit was to get community members to communicate about the common grounds found within music.
“What we are looking for is humanities programs that help build connections between people, and what better way to build connections than to find common ground,” Hedderig said. “I think anyone who has listened to music has a story about some album. We can all talk about different bands or musicians, but how about the cover art?”
According to the NMHC, album cover art serves to improve record sales and became a profound extension of the music in its embrace. For many people, an album’s imagery is just as important and memorable as the music it promotes.
“When this idea came up between a college and I, I remembered when I was a little kid having songs of Leonard Cohen propped up in front of me… and when we started talking to people, they were like, ‘Oh yeah! This album or that album,’” Hedderig said. “It’s something that people from different values, different cultures, different ethnicities can do — we all like to share stories. This is something we come together on.”
After entries were selected, contributors were invited to share their stories in person. At the reception, light refreshments were served as Hi-Phy Records played one track off of each record. Among the people selected for the exhibit was Paul Ingles, award-winning radio producer and KUNM radio journalist.
The show also featured contemporary vinyl’s such as the colorful Tame Impala’s Currents and Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear, featuring a pop-up story within between the covers. The idea behind including those records, Hedderig said, was to show people that the sleeves, and the record themselves, are still very important parts of the package.
“Something that we hope to have conversations about is how do younger people, or people just in general today, connect with cover art because they’re thumbnails?” Hedderig said.
The NMHC also anticipates hosting a public program, where all visitors can bring an album, and share a story behind the cover art. Until then, people interesting in viewing this exhibit can visit the NMHC, the show will be on display until June 21, exhibit hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Luisa Pennington is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_lpennington_.