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The Voice of the Black Community

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‘Untitled’ transformative art residency on Charlotte streets
Provides mural artists creative opportunities
Published Wednesday, September 16, 2020
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Makayla Binter is one of 10 artists participating in “Untitled,” an experimental residency program to create murals on Charlotte’s streets.

Street art is the voice of the people.

“Untitled” is an experimental residency program which began earlier this month and culminates with installation on Sept. 26 at the 200 block of South Tryon Street. BLKMRKTCLT, a gallery and studio space based at Camp North End, and Brand the Moth, an arts nonprofit, collaboration has been curated by Dammit Wesley, co-owner of BLKMRKTCLT.

Dammit Wesley curated the Black Lives Matter Charlotte mural between 3rd Street and 4th, which was a collaboration between the City of Charlotte, BLKMRKTCLT, Charlotte is Creative and Brand the Moth in June. What had previously been a blank block in Uptown became a transformative space.

“You could see a physical change in people when they came in contact with the mural, beyond people lying down in the street to take pictures,” Dammit Wesley said. “It became like sacred ground. We know street art can not only change how a physical location looks, but it can also change how the citizens of that area behave and react toward the city.”

They wanted to continue using street art to de-commercialize murals in Charlotte.  Shortly after the BLM mural, Knight Foundation Program Director Charles Thomas approached Dammit Wesley and Brand the Moth Program Director Sam Guzzie with an opportunity to pitch an idea—any idea. It would lead to the residency, giving 10 artists the freedom and resources to create, collaborate and combine different mediums.

“Charlotte’s mural scene is finally getting the attention it needs, but it’s very commercialized,” Dammit Wesley said. “Street art is more than a pretty picture on a wall. Street art is used to address social needs and issues. Street art is literally the voice of the community. We wanted to enable artists by giving them the resources, the time and the space to tell their stories, and address the things that they feel like need to be at this particular time that we’re existing in in America.”

Artists Makayla Binter, Jamila Brown, Kalin Renee Devone, Stephen Hayes, Percy King, Khem, Marcus Kiser, Jason Woodberry, HNin Nie, and Jessica Thompson have been divided into three groups to push the boundaries of street art, which traditionally is associated with paints and spray cans. “Untitled” also features sculptors, digital illustrators, writers and dancers.

“It’s a way of challenging these creatives to not only put their skills to the test but create and make some things that the city is missing and create sculptural works that are not so corporate and safe,” Dammit Wesley said. “We are telling the stories of Black women, of older Black men with families, the stories of immigrants—this is a completely different perspective from the Black Lives Matter mural when it comes to the people who are narrating the story.”

The first group consists of Binter, Kiser, Thompson and Woodberry. They combined digital art with dance and painting to explore the journey Black women experience with their hair. Thompson choreographed a piece, which she and fellow dancer Asia Bartholomew will perform.

“The dance component I’m bringing into ‘Untitled’ is based off Black hair, specifically for Black women,” Thompson said. “It’s a contemporary style, and I enlisted one of my friends, Asia, to do it with me. It’s kind of the process of storytelling how Black women go through the evolution of Black hair from when they are younger, all the way up through adulthood.”

Their work explores Black women’s drawing through the combination of the artist’s mediums, focusing on self-discovery and self-care through natural hair. Binter’s work appears across three panels, in a similar theme to work she has previously done with the Mural Panel project, which she began as a student at Davidson College, and installed over the summer at Levine Museum of the New South.

“You have the progression of time going across all three panels, but then you also have a vertical transition of finding yourself through your natural hair,” Binter said.

Kiser and Woodberry gave Binter and Thompson complete support in the project, as they wanted to promote a narrative about Black women that is by Black women.

“To be honest, we gave Makayla and JT [Thompson] the reigns,” Kiser said. “We wanted to showcase them in the forefront. They’re both young artists. They’re both really talented. We wanted them to be the superstars of the project, and they are the stars.”

The other two groups consist of Khem, Devone and HNin Nie, as well as Brown, King and Hayes. Each group had a month and a half to establish their idea and begin production. Khem, Devone and HNin Nie were the second group to go out. Brown, King and Hayes will be out this weekend, with the entire group coming together for the installment on Sept. 26.

“Khem works primarily with metal,” Dammit Wesley said. “HNin Nie is a painter and sculptor. She likes to work with plaster and clays. Kalin Renee Devone is an oil painter, and this will be her first time working on a largescale project. While she does handle big canvasses, this will be the closest thing she has done for a mural. For two of them this is outside their traditional wheelhouse of how they operate size and scale-wise. On the weekend of Sept. 26, all the artwork will be brought out and installed for an indefinite period of time for everybody to see.”


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