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Columbus Museum's ‘Slow Cadence: A Multi-Media Exhibition’ explores Georgia accents, dialect

Stefani Byrd and Wes Eastin’s new exhibit, “Slow Cadence: A Multi-Media Exhibition,” gives viewers an opportunity to see the relationship between people and where they live and how they speak.

The exhibit is part of the museum’s “Introductions” series, which spotlights new, emerging artists.

“I like it,” said Deb Wiedel, the museum’s curator of exhibitions. “It’s very thought-provoking.”

The show is in the Galleria cases, near the lobby.

Guests will encounter six television screens, each with a headset. Each screen features one theme of the show.

The themes reflect 30 interviews that were conducted with people living in Georgia. Interview subjects include farmers in South Georgia, fly fishermen in North Georgia, a group of young hikers in Atlanta, two Georgia State University linguistics professors and a wildlife biologist.

Through her research, Byrd learned the difference between an accent and a dialect. She said an accent has to do with how a word is pronounced, while dialect is how that word is used.

Byrd spoke with the Ledger-Enquirer Sunday before her gallery talk.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Will you give us a synopsis of the exhibit?

It’s multi-media. It’s not just photography. You get to hear the audio.

Why do you think it’s important to examine accents?

I think about how everything is changing ... the idea of “no man is an island.” There is an interest in globalization and how you have to go past hang-ups in negotiations. How misinformation affects business relationships, personal relationships and interpersonal relationships. And I think about where these biases came from.

Why did you choose to include personal stories in the exhibit?

I love personal stories. It gives people a platform to give them a chance to speak.

What surprised you about some of the personal stories you collected?

Definitely those we heard from interpreters. A friend from Haiti visited the South and couldn’t understand what people were saying and had to rely on her Southern friend, while when the Southern friend went to New York, her Haitian friend had to tell her what was being said. Things like that.

How long did you spend researching this topic?

We submitted it in December, but we started in November. We read some books and started talking to people. We did this in six months. It was kind of insane. We need to go into counseling! The last two months, we’ve worked 10 hours a day, every day. I’m running on three hours of sleep right now (Sunday). I can take a long nap later.

What do you think is different about having a Southern accent as opposed to an accent from a different region?

It’s very annoying and you have to prove yourself. A woman with a Southern accent is thought of as “cute,” while a man with a Southern accent must be slow or not too smart.

What ideas or conclusions do you hope visitors draw from the exhibit?

I’m just exploring the topic and presenting it. It’s there. What you take away from it is your own.

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