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Marked by the WaterNovember 30, 2016
In the Midlands, Love Where You Live
We were All Marked by the Water
It took less than a week after the rains had stopped—before the water really started to subside—for the artists in the SC Midlands to start looking for an outlet for all the creative energy we had stored as we had witnessed the worst period of flooding in any of our lives. The 1000 Year Flood that struck us on October 4th, 2015 effected our community in ways that ranged from threatening to devastating. There was work to be done. From physical labor to hauling supplies to helping keep tabs on needs and news via social media, everyone had a job to do. And no less important was the job of the artists who rose to meet the cultural imperative for which they knew they were responsible—documenting not only what happened to our community, but how it made us feel and think. How it changed the way we saw our places in nature, in the community, and in the future.
They call it the 1,000 – year flood. Not because we can expect to experience such a flood only once every 1,000 years, but because our chances of experiencing a flood of such magnitude are 1 in 1,000 in any given year. The numbers are significant. At least 19 deaths, $12 billion in damages, more than 24 inches accumulation, 18 dams breached or collapsed, 541 roads closed. Add to that less than 2 months, because by November 30th a group of artists gathered to begin the work of making sense out of how and why our extended community had fallen prey to the vagaries of weather and what the lasting impacts might be. We called our project, “Marked by the Water” as we worked to reach the other side of questions we could only answer for ourselves through the various algorithms of creating art—visual, literary, and eventually dance, film, and media.
For ten months, the Marked by the Water artists worked, and processed, and produced. Finally, on the evening of October 4th, 2016—exactly one year since the floods had come—we brought our work together for a commemoration in the form of an art exhibit, which would stand for the entire month, a beautiful book of poetry, prose, and visual art, and a multi-disciplinary performance of readings, dance, media, film, and staged oration. There were tears and smiles and hugs in the packed auditorium at Tapp’s Arts Center, but mostly there was a sense that we had made it through something that could have devastated us, but did not. And we had made it through together.
The role the artists play in the healing of a community after such an event is multi-faceted. We document for posterity at the same time that we personally process our own complex feelings. And with the efforts of our talents and the products of our labors, hopefully, we help our neighbors process their feelings, too.
Thank you to the Central Carolina Community Foundation for the Connected Communities Grant that funded our endeavor.
Executive Director, The Jasper Project