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Bailey will continue a multi-faceted project she started in 1999, called “Paradise Under Reconstruction in the Aesthetic of Funk” – a look into African-American material culture. “It’s reconstruction because there never was reconstruction after the emancipation,” Bailey said. “African-Americans just went into sharecropping or factories or just went into the labor force. They didn’t reconstruct into small businesses, where they could be self-sustainable or designing or engineering anything for their specific needs.”
Bailey studied industrial design in college, and remembers being told there were no African-American-engineered ideas. She knew this to be untrue, she said: Her family and community members designed items that met home and work needs, but their ideas were never commercialized.
Crocheting has been Bailey’s medium since 1984. During her residency, she wants to design furniture using soft sculpture – crocheted items – for a dollhouse. “Crocheting is a domestic craft, a very humble and accessible craft, anyone can use,” she said. “The crochet work is like a meditation on the African-American material culture.” Bailey will seek out the help of African American artists, elders and homemakers who know how to crochet and have the imagination to use colors, aesthetic and patterns to make original pieces. “This is a design lab creating an aesthetic that’s never been created before. It’s historical to me.”
She also plans to continue creating a database of photos of natural hair. She plans to design a wallpaper by studying the lines, volume and texture from the photos.
Juan William Chávez
Peruvian-born Chávez comes to Charlotte via St. Louis, Missouri, and is known for working with people to create interactive spaces or objects, to encourage the exchange of ideas.
His art focuses on community-identified issues, he said, and he builds it around ecosystems in the urban environment. In a residency in San Antonio, for example, he transformed a vintage mobile home into a moveable field research lab for bees. .
The McColl Center residency offers something different for Chávez. “It is a chance to find studio time for myself to reflect, contemplate things that I’ve done. Residencies are an amazing opportunity for me to sit back, look at my past work and see what happens.” Here, he plans to work with Behailu Academy, which supports youth through art, academic help and community service. He’s not sure what will come from this collaboration: “Typically, when I go to a new place, I come with some ideas. I’m all about listening to the community welcoming me and not putting too many ideas out there. Let the community guide some type of result.”
This time in Charlotte will bring Collins (who also has work currently at the Gantt) closer to her Southern roots in Alabama, she said, and she plans to create a performance piece, expanding her practice of language-based art.
The new work will spring from a book Collins put together last year in Chicago and titled “America: A Hymnal”: 100 versions of the song “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” from as long ago as the 18th century. “People would ... rewrite the lyrics to fit their own particular cause; anyone from abolitionists, to the confederacy, suffragettes,” she said. Collins burned out the musical notes of each song, leaving only the lyrics. “The musical notes are the same throughout the entire book,” she said. “With that burned away, there’s nothing holding a cohesive text together. What’s left are all the differences – that felt very much like this moment.” The various versions “are not in agreement,” Collins said. “They represent oppositional ways of what it means to be American.”
Here, she hopes to find a choir to sing all 100 versions in succession.
She said she knows why she wanted to make the book, and isn’t sure how the choir singing will affect the community or what it will accomplish. And she said she understands that any choir taking on this task will face more than a test of endurance. “I imagine that not all of those versions are going to be interesting, nor pleasant to sing.”
Javier de Frutos
De Frutos is the first choreographer and director in residence at the McColl Center. He plans to create a collaborative relationship between it and Charlotte Ballet. “I thought it was criminal that those two buildings that are literally divided by a few yards and a bit of grass didn’t work together more,” he said, and notes their art forms are not so different: Visual and performing arts “just happen to be working in a different medium.”
He wonders what will happen, working between the two groups, and said he’s excited by the possibilities.
He also looks forward to answering questions about his profession, and putting to rest some assumptions about the creative process, he said – something he almost never gets to do. It doesn’t start in a studio with a few dancers, he said. “No one knows what we do as a choreographer. It is a valuable way to demystify a little bit of what we do. I think we are going to have a dialogue and out of that dialogue, something is going to happen.”
While in Charlotte, de Frutos wants to create a work inspired by Maya Angelou, using knowledge from the community.
“Can I create a work that is not about Maya Angelou, but inspired by the rhythms and the sounds of the gossip – your gossip, my gossip, somebody who served her a drink in a bar and talked to her for five minutes and had a pearl of wisdom?” he said.
With this residency, Wilson plans to finish what she started here in 2016, and her work will be one part of the McColl Center’s $350,000 ArtPlace America-grant-supported “A Tale of Two Cities.” That initiative aims to elevate the voices of people experiencing homelessness in the North Tryon Street planning process.
Some people perceive homelessness as a problem that can prevent growth, Wilson acknowledged; she wants to create a way for people experiencing homelessness to talk about development in Charlotte. How far must they walk to get food and shelter? How does development affect their ability to get around?
In 2016, she spent time researching and developing relationships with community organizations, businesses and developers. “You can’t just plop yourself into a community,” she said, “and, as an outsider, talk about these issues like a know-it-all.”
Now, “we are going to use an empty lot that has a view of the city as the platform” for this work, Wilson said. “Artists are frequently the ones that help people bridge a divide. Art does that. It’s in the middle; it’s a different language. Sometimes people who disagree on something can come together over the platform of art making.”
Wilson is a trained painter who grew up in a politically active family. “I have a private studio practice, but I also feel very natural in communities and on the streets, having focus groups,” Wilson said. “You are likely to see some kind of sculptural drawing activity on the lot, as well as public forums.”
Also part of “A Tale of Two Cities,” Wood plans to work with the Men’s Shelter and Urban Ministry Center to develop a workshop series to strengthen relationships between the staffs. The two nonprofits often share clients, goals and issues, but despite their proximity, “they don’t get a chance to talk and intimately know each other.”
The workshops will focus on self-care. Staff can go from one crisis to another with no break in between, and may absorb trauma without having a way to process it, Wood said. She wants to explore community caregiving and self-care with the staff and integrate that into their work week. “The staff experience will directly affect the client experience.”
Human relationships, said Wood, are at the center of her art and social practice, via interviews, conversation and video.
It’s unusual for a residency to offer the kind of support she will get over the next four months, said Wood. “For my work, I need so much more (than studio space and materials)... They understand what the needs are for socially engaged art.”