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The Tale of the "Two Cities" Project

November 14, 2017

In the Midlands, Making a Difference

Our latest blog highlights an interview of Seth Gadsden, Director of the Indie Grits Labs, a Connected Communities grantee. The interview gives an overview of their "Two Cities" project.

Q: Tell us about your Connected Communities project and its current progress. 

A: Indie Grits Labs’ “Two Cities” project launched in August 2017 as a site-specific, ongoing exploration of how racial and socioeconomic factors define experiences in Columbia. Primarily focused on North Columbia, the project is being spearheaded by the 2018 IGL Fellowship who began the project with conversations about topics including food deserts, bus shelters, urban beautification, blight, education, media bias, and neighborhood lifecycles. 

Efforts to imagine how art can responsibly address inequitable access to food, education, and housing inspired the fellowship to develop a series of questions about Columbia, community, and themselves: Why do well meaning projects often fail?; What role do artists play in gentrification?; How can one confront fear and distrust with beauty and reconciliation? 

To better understand how they personally see and engage their communities, each artist began their investigation with the production of 27 images shot on disposable cameras in the neighborhoods of North Columbia. Each artist then reflected on the experience in a journal and the resulting images and writings will eventually be published as a book. 

In order to deepen community involvement, the project continues with a public roundtable and conversation at Richland Library North Main on November 29. 

2018 Indie Grits Labs Fellowship: Yolanda Anderson, Mary Brebner, Michaela Pilar Brown, Mahkia Greene, Curtis Heru, Laura Kissel, Darion McCloud, Rico McDaniels, Benjamin Moore, Betsy Newman, Roni Nicole, Josetra Robinson, Tahirah Shakir 

Q: How is your project “connecting the community”? 

A: The 2018 Indie Grits Labs Fellowship is a diverse group of artists that all come from a wide range of backgrounds. More than half of the artists live in different neighborhoods around North Columbia while the other half is connected to the North Columbia community by family, childhood history, or their choice of profession. The artists are working with our community partners directly, and we are hosting our first public forum in the community at the end of November. Indie Grits Labs is also currently opening a satellite art space in the heart of North Columbia at 1013 Duke Ave to be the home of a growing slate of adult and youth educational programs, the 2018 “Two Cities” project, and art exhibitions. 

Q: What is your favorite story that has come out of your project so far? 

A: Mainly learning about the histories and neighborhood cycles of the North Columbia communities. For instance, the basketball courts in Hyatt Park used to be a public swimming pool that was fed by a natural spring. 

Q: How can the community be involved with your project? 

A: On Wednesday, November 29 from 6-8 pm, Indie Grits Labs is hosting a Public Forum for the Two Cities project at the Richland Library North Main. We will be facilitating conversations about the past, present, and future of North Columbia neighborhoods in a community roundtable setting and introducing the 2018 Indie Grits Labs Fellowship.

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