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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Wall murals signal change in West End
Initiative includes Afrofuturistic art
 
Published Thursday, June 14, 2018 10:33 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Change continues to move through Historic West End.


Afrofuturism murals at 1600 West Trade St. mark the latest evolving aspects of one of Charlotte’s most historic communities. Just across the street from Johnson C. Smith University, and site of the Rosa Parks Farmers Market, Charlotte Center City Partners Historic West End Initiative spent a year determining researching the proper way to brand the area. The result: “Proud history. Strong future.”

“We did a year-long marketing and branding process with the community to develop key messaging and imagery around what we want people to know and feel about our community,” Historic West End Director Alysia Osborne said. “One of the main messages was ‘Proud history. Strong future,’ which speaks to a lot of what we’ve been hearing about the concerns of the rapid change, but we have a strong future, and that future includes the people who live there and who have helped the community grow into what it has become today. This is the artistic representation of that key message. It’s a way for the community to participate and co-create these murals, and just be proud of the place people will learn to love as much as they do.”

Social justice creative Janelle Dunlap put together two teams of artists for the project. Marcus Kiser and Jason Woodberry will create a series of murals coinciding with their series “Intergalactic Soul.”

“Everything will be themed around business, nourishment, education and community,” Kiser said of their four murals. “The Knight Foundation grant gives us a year to complete the project.”

Sloane Siobhan and Brittany Georgie will create a mural on the adjacent wall.

“We’re going to have several faces and geometric patterns and Adinkras, which are African symbols just kind of going along the wall,” Siobhan said. “We’re trying to reclaim the space, and make it African American, since it is predominantly an African American community, or at least was.”

Charlotte’s gentrification continues to be a source of strife. While the neighborhood continues to change, the future of Historic West End has yet to be written.

“It’s a double-edged sword, because usually the first thing that you see is the art going up,” Siobhan said. “That’s like the first horseman of the gentrification apocalypse. Our biggest fear is we’ll do this wall, it’ll be amazing, and then what usually happens, happens. We’re still going to do it, but we just hope that the space remains in the hands that it has been in for generations.”

Said Osborne: “You have to be real intentional about introducing new things. There has to be heightened awareness and engagement with the community, because there is sensitivity and fear around displacement, and things happening to them rather than with them. The community engagement part of this art project was the most appealing aspect, and what differentiates it from many other murals that just pop up in Charlotte.”

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