A New South: English classes take Atlanta’s identity a step further

james Hunter | The Signal

Two English 1102 classes at Georgia State participated in the New South Inside Out project, a community-based art project looking to give back to Atlanta.

Doctoral student and English professor Ashley McNeil and her students took public scholarship to a new level by hanging ten 3×4.5 original portraits on the exterior wall of Langford Hall facing Decatur Street this morning.

 james Hunter | The Signal
james Hunter | The Signal

The purpose of the project is to give back to the community in hopes of forming a new identity for the South.

Though Georgia State has one of the most diverse student demographics in the nation, these students wanted to take Atlanta’s identity a step further, and create something that will make a lasting impression on its residents.  All portraits are originals, created by students.

TED, or Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is a non-profit organization created in 1984 devoted to “ideas worth spreading”. It has since expanded to having two annual conferences, as well as giving away an annual award.

The idea is based on the TED’s 2011 prize-winning artist JR’s idea to “turn the world inside out through art”. JR travels around the world taking portraits of people in socially unstable communities. He makes the portraits into posters and hangs them throughout the community.

His idea is that these portraits of community members have a unique potential to upset social stereotypes and bridge values and differences between individuals, fostering community without imposing a

biased set of ethics.

“The idea started last semester while we were looking at this TED talk in my English 1101 class, and my students really jumped on this idea of JR’s “turning the world inside out through art,” said McNeil.

Georgia State’s English Department and McNeil are committed to public scholarship—which demands that students’ work reaches out to Atlanta’s community instead of being trapped on McNeil’s desk.

“It’s for a grade, they’re getting credit for it,” said McNeil. “But this wouldn’t have been possible if my students didn’t show a different level of commitment. They are all invested in this in a very personal way.”


  1. Wow! It’s great to see a story about this in the Signal! As one of the participating students, I’m quite excited to see a post about it here. If anyone wants to know a little more about our project, we have a website that explains everything a bit more thoroughly and includes 35 portraits that we weren’t able to post. It’s not quite perfect yet but I’m working on that now.
    Thanks for viewing it everybody!

  2. As one of the NSIOP participants, I am amazed! I am so proud of each and everyone who supported our dream and helped turn it into reality! Thank you Georgia State. Thank you Ms. McNeil. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible! I am overwhelemed!

  3. I’m sure this was tremendously gratifying for McNeil’s students. It’s beautiful that the students took great pride and ownership in the project. The knowledge that the students gained and the dedication of their hard work could make the difference in their future. The tangible results of the portrait posters displaying a New South shows a job well done. Congratulations.

  4. Writing has become a passion for me! Writing beyond the curriculum–disciplinary knowledge–and drawing on the expertise of different people through collaborative effort has proven very fruitful and inspiring! I will take what i have learned this semester in Ms.McNeil’s class and expand on it, bring it to new heights in my own life.Well done, everyone.

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