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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Creativity and flexibility powers welcome space for artists
Jessica Moss expands Charlotte for newcomers
Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019 11:30 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Jessica Moss, founder of The Roll Up CLT, center, with fellow Carey J. King, and resident artist Zun Lee. The Roll Up CLT brings creatives to Charlotte for fellowships and residencies.

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Celebrate what is here.

Jessica Moss’ month embodies March madness, if that phrase encompasses daily life rather than college basketball.

“I started this month with the Creative Mornings discussion, specifically focused around water to remind us to not only be fluid and malleable in our work, but also in our lives,” she said. “After that, I opened a 10-year retrospective for a local artist here [Dammit Wesley] in Charlotte at a space called BLK MRKT, which is a site for emerging young local artists to be able to experiment, and be able to learn about their particular craft. I’m going to finish this month getting prepared for The Roll Up CLT’s incoming resident artist, $han Wallace.”

Moss offers a challenge during Charlotte’s continued growth by 50 people per day—flexibility.

“In these moments of change and growth, we just have to be able to be flexible, and to be welcoming to folks who are coming into our spaces,” Moss said. “With this work of Dammit Wesley’s, it’s emblematic of that. This is an artist who is not from Charlotte, but is from the Carolinas and has embedded himself in this community under the guise of art and activism for more than a decade.”

Welsey’s work is a challenge to the outside perception of how and when blackness should be praised.

“It’s this strange juxtaposition of how blackness can be praised during the right times, or blackness can only be praised on a football field or on a court,” Wesley said in a previous interview. “My work is more or less forcing people to kind of get that adoration. It is very bright, very loud, very colorful on purpose with the intent of enamoring people, forcing you to not necessarily accept the truth about yourself, but accept the truth about me, and other people who look like me.”  

Moss noted that a retrospective would often have taken on a different form.

“In so many of these instances, we aren’t able to celebrate these people while they’re alive, or while they’re young,” Moss said. “There is often an idea with a retrospective where it happens after 50 years of your life, or 100 years of your life, or after you’ve been dead for 150 years. This idea of celebrating what is here, utilizing resources that are available to us, and promoting and honoring from within is incredibly important to this work. Being able to celebrate with a 10-year retrospective, not only provided a new perspective for folks, ‘I’d seen this one painting, and I thought that one painting was it,’ but actually there is a wealth of work behind it, or folks who didn’t know about that space and the amount of work that has been happening in that space.”

A project’s symbolism fans the flame for Moss, particularly as she welcomes Wallace for a six-month artist residency.

“The Roll Up CLT is a long-term, ethical, community redevelopment project, that really questions whether arts can be the catalyst for change,” Moss said. “Charlotte is not unique in the specific moment that it is in now. So many cities across this nation are experiencing displacement, closing of schools, loss of resources that were available or created economy to particular communities that utilized them, and often these are communities of color. I see this here, of course, but also in my experiences in Chicago and Pittsburgh. The goal in all of this work is using the tools that you have in your own particular tool belt to see how you can create solutions to the challenges that you are presented with.”

How does the residency work? Moss extends an invitation to an artist for six months to a year. Housing, transportation and food are provided. He or she is connected with the Lorien Academy of the Arts, a nonprofit based in West Charlotte, which provides arts education access to students. Previous Roll Up resident artist Zun Lee taught photography at the academy.

“The whole point of the Roll Up is not about the measureable outcome,” Moss said. “It’s important for me as the [administrator] to be able to tell you previous residents like Zun Lee met 110 people, had nine studio visits, hosted 11 workshops, but I’d rather Zun Lee not even think about that, and instead be focused on the social capital, thinking about how his relationship with Charlotte, that might have started with The Roll Up, has so much more opportunity to build upon that foundation after six months. As we know, it’s been successful with Zun, because now he’s here in Charlotte as a permanent resident. If that is the measurable impact, I think not only am I happy, our city is happy, and it extends well beyond the six months of what one particular object might do.”

For more information: @therollupclt. 


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