Goodyear Arts, at Camp North End, plans to offer 10 free arts workshops – taught by former artists-in-residence at GYA – with support from an Arts & Science Council Cultural Vision grant. Rather than drawing up a list on their own (which “would be at best presumptuous and prescriptive and at worst of no interest,” according to GYA’s Amy Bagwell), artist de’Angelo Dia and Ash Williams began reaching out to neighbors of Camp North End, and the place held an open house in early August. There, seven artists did demonstrations, a list of some 40 possible workshops were passed around, and people got to choose up to 10 they’d most like to attend. (The final lineup: beginning printmaking, intro to pyrography (woodburning), working with color, the art in your handwriting, capoeira, wire sculpture, clay animation, crochet: beyond yarn, drum circle and figure drawing.) Artist Andrea Vail will schedule the workshops, and participants will keep the art materials they work with (and artists get paid for leading workshops).
Describe your role in this particular project. As an artist, a part of my personal practice is to nurture community. I live in that area, on the west side of Charlotte. I was (already) involved – I’m also a theologian (a chaplain at Trinity Episcopal School, and one of the associate ministers at St. Paul Baptist Church), and I wanted to connect the local congregations to Goodyear Arts, so they could benefit from the services and workshops, and from being exposed to a different lens on what’s happening. I also wanted to connect the fraternities and sororities at Johnson C. Smith with what’s happening at Camp North End. We’re in such close proximity, and there’s a historical thread that coexists between those different organizations. At Smith, in that corridor, there are amazing artists, particularly artists of color, and there is amazing art – but I don’t know how much that corridor has intersected with Goodyear because of its previous locations (both were uptown). And I’d say the same of Goodyear: Simply walking through the neighborhoods (around Camp North End) is inspiring to the work itself, though I’m not sure how many of my peers have taken the time to walk through the community. It’s inspiring that we have a common thread, the diversity of what art can do for all of us.
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What’s been the most surprising moment so far? The diversity of the attendance at exhibition openings and the opportunities this has provided for artists and the extended community.
What about this project has changed your art or the way you approach your practice? For me personally, Goodyear Arts has been a chance to lean into discomfort in my practice, and explore content and mediums that I haven’t in the past. I’m a performing artist and a writer by trade and through my education. But I’ve been working on a series of charcoal creatures that I created in my childhood. I’ve never shared them in a gallery space, never showed them publicly, even, until Goodyear... In the sense of processing the divisiveness in the world, I’ve started doing them again, as a way to vent my concern with the world. I can’t struggle with finding the right way to process what’s going on. (At Goodyear) I get to return back to a pureness of art, and what it meant for me...
(On this specific project) from my personal experience in Charlotte as a whole, often artists come in and contribute to the cultural fabric, and then once that’s been established, the powers that be come in and push that out. It often feels like negro removal; it doesn’t benefit the people who’ve been nurturing those communities.
The uniqueness of this situation for me is that Goodyear didn’t come in as the white savior saying, “Here’s what we’ll do for you.” This felt uniquely different: Goodyear was saying “We have this space. What would you like to see happen?” It felt like community nurturing, and establishing partnerships. That’s the intriguing thing; that’s why I’ve remained with Goodyear. Community members may not have visited because of a justified bias to seeing (Goodyear) established; many of those have seen how these communities have been morphed and changed. Here, we have the opportunity to see it mutually benefiting, in a healthy way. I feel like (this) could be a model, a template for other areas in Charlotte: “What would you like to see happen?” If it fails – if we can’t sustain participation, or if we can’t keep the momentum going, or if artists can’t sustain the momentum of their own working craft – there’s still victory. I feel good about it succeeding, because of the many people and organizations I spoke with who were already doing this work – art-based programs, wonderful art things – but doing it in isolation. So part of the success has already happened: just a communication across the spectrum, sharing what’s taking place so we can promote each others’ events. (But even) if it fails, I will be glad Goodyear took the risk.