Charlotte SHOUT! Keynote Discussion: When Art & Activism Collide
Artists and creatives of all walks of life gathered on an early Charlotte morning to discuss marginalized people, art, and accessibility at a keynote discussion titled, “When Art and Activism Collide”. As part of the 2019 Charlotte SHOUT! festival, the discussion was lead by Jessica Moss, founder of The Roll Up CLT, which is an interactive art space that aims to highlight marginalized art culture and its significance through activism, artist residencies and creative community building.
Moss set the tone of the discussion by narrating her own artistic journey through higher education, arts administration, and community engagement—as her background reflects the many ways she has worked to amplify the voices of artists who influence and engage in areas that need it the most. Panelists included community agriculturalist Bernard Singleton, artist and photographer $han Wallace, Rebecca Henderson of the League of Creative Interventionists, artist and body positivity activist Michaela Pilar Brown, activist and artist Tamika Wallace, and George Scheer of Elsewhere Museum.
Each panelist gave a brief personal introduction, and shared how activism has permeated their artistic medium. Photographer $han Wallace emphasized the importance of having a visible presence in your community, as she uses photography to connect with those who may not have access to smartphones, Instagram, and other amenities that add to our greater sense of community. Her process includes photographing of people of color, and providing them with a personal copy of their photos, which allows them to see themselves in ways that many often take for granted. She remarked how such a simple gesture allows her to create a pathway between people of color and the cultural attractions that often overlook them; such as museums, art activations, and community festivals.
It is important to note that artists are often pushed out of certain communities to be replaced by luxury attractions that exclusively appeal to outsiders, rather than empowering those who actually live in areas where culture is naturally cultivated and nurtured. Rebecca Henderson, creator of the Charlotte SHOUT! logo and community influencer, uses humor as a catalyst to shift the attention to cultural phenomenons that reflect the greater community’s priorities and missed opportunities to empower overlooked groups. She highlighted Charlotte’s LYNX light rail extension, a billion dollar public transportation project that stretches through the city and often serves as a popular means of travel for white collar professionals that work and live uptown. The extension of the light rail has changed the landscape all across town, but the city has neglected its duty to provide affordable housing along the light rail routes, which would make it more accessible to all.
As the city of Charlotte continues to grow, the arts and culture scene must grow with it. However, time and infrastructure have shown that true change has not quite stretched past superficial appreciation of the arts, along with the communities that often provide cultural contributions. As artists, creators, and consumers of creative culture, it is crucial that we exercise our sovereignty and protect cultural hotbeds amidst the city’s rapid growth. Preservation of the artist community within Charlotte’s booming economic ecosystem has become a high priority for most, which made Moss’ keynote an extremely relevant event during the SHOUT! Festival. Moss will be celebrating the opening of The Roll Up CLT on May 23, with an exclusive gallery showing by resident artist $han Wallace.