The Other Side of the Tracks

Behind the Exhibition

In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act, a law that chartered the Union Pacific and Central Pacific companies to connect one side of the country to the other. In 2019, in cities across the country, the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was celebrated with a great deal of fanfare. Ogden’s Union Station on historic 25th Street became one point along the transcontinental route — a junction Union Pacific passed through on its way to Promontory and the Golden Spike. Heavily inscribed in our national mythos, the locomotive emblematizes our country’s ingenuity, its economic potency, and its dogged pursuit of manifest destiny.

But there is another story that must be told.

The histories unaccounted for in our best-known tales of the train—the men, women, and communities transformed but ignored in the dominant narrative of the engine and the nation it built. It is their stories of the tracks that still wait to be told. The Other Side of the Tracks, a traveling exhibition, features the work of nine national and internationally recognized contemporary artists who come from these communities, their voices excluded from the triumphal tales of the track. This approach challenges the traditional narrative about trains and promotes a more inclusive and accurate view of the subject. The work of the Native American, African American, Chinese American, and Mexican art-makers in this exhibition creates a powerful vision of the railway from a perspective Americans have rarely experienced before. Additionally, the research component, which included a journey by train the participating artists took together, visiting towns and cities built by the railway, was both innovative and critical to the evolution of the artwork in the exhibition. The research expedition between artists and the show’s curator also inspired the interdisciplinary nature of the exhibition. Finally, a writer, photographer, and videographer also participated in the trip and documented this cross-country train excursion. The resulting video is included in the exhibition and accompanying publication. Ultimately, The Other Side of the Tracks exhibition presents an imaginative new understanding of the locomotive through the eyes of artists from historically marginalized communities.

As a new generation of faster trains emerges, we must think critically about the history of our railways: who they have served, who they’ve neglected, and who they have hurt. The power that trains have to move and inspire us is still strong, but if we are to build a more equitable future, we must make a more concerted effort to clearly see our past.

The Other Side of the Tracks will be traveling to:

Ogden Contemporary Arts
May 3 – July 14, 2024
455 25th Street
Ogden, Utah

RedLine Contemporary Art Center
August 16 – October 6, 2024
2350 Arapahoe Street
Denver, Colorado

516 ARTS
November 9, 2024 – February 8, 2025
516 Central Ave. SW
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Credits

OCA would like to thank the following donors for supporting the organization’s general operations and programing, making this exhibit possible: National Performance Network, National Association of Latin Arts and Cultures, Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Weber County RAMP, Utah Office of Tourism, George S and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Utah Division of Arts and Museums, and Ogden City Arts.