Multiple local organizations are partnering up to create a project that will change the way racial tensions are addressed in America. The project, entitled “Art & Dialogue: Addressing Racial Tension in America,” intends to bring the community together through the use of art as a catalyst for dialogue sessions. Greenhill, the Center for Visual Arts, the African American Atelier, Guilford Native American Art Gallery and the National Conference for Community and Justice are the five contributing organizations responsible for creating the project.
“Art & Dialogue” will include four interconnected project areas: a series of panel discussions, open dialogue sessions, educational programming and a juried art exhibition which will feature eighteen artists who were selected based on their artistic ability and relevance to the project.
The partners of the “Art & Dialogue” project are devoted to bringing the community together by showcasing art that reflects racial tensions in today’s society. Although this project is a collaborative effort, each organization has different purposes. The African American Atelier is a nonprofit organization that strives to promote appreciation of the culture and visual arts of African Americans while working in coherence with other ethnic groups.
The Center of Visual Arts is also a nonprofit organization that promotes up-and-coming artists of various ages by offering opportunities to exhibit their works as well as provide community outreach.
Perhaps the biggest variation between the organizations is apparent through the Guilford Native American Art Gallery which is a one of a kind exhibit that sells and promotes the arts of traditional and modern-day Native American arts and crafts.
Greenhill is a vibrant arts organization located in downtown Greensboro, across from Center City Park. The organization is the only nonprofit devoted to presenting, promoting and advocating for the contemporary visual art and artists of North Carolina and is an essential cultural asset for the city and state. Founded in 1974, the organization has showcased more than 9,850 North Carolina artists.
The National Conference for Community and Justice is a human relations organization that advocates understanding of all cultures, races and religion by educating and dialogue. With a mission to develop compassionate communities free of racial inequality, bigotry and bias, the organization is dedicated to building respect among all people of all races.
Laura Way, executive director of Greenhill, is the lead organizer of the juried art exhibition and feels that art is the way to bring awareness to the social issues regarding race in America. When asked how art could spark up conversations regarding racial tensions, Way explained that the answer is very simple.
“Artists are amazing, insightful, creative people, and through the millennium they put the world around them into context, question authority, bring voice to injustice, inspire us, highlight despair and disgrace, search for answers and ask others to so with them,” Way explained. “Think about political posters, the Anti-Apartheid, Civil Rights and Free Tibet movements. Heck, the WPA of the 1930s was not just to give artist work but to inspire a nation.”
Aware that dialogue is necessary for a project of this extent, Way asked Ivan Canada of the National Conference for Community and Justice and his team to assist with most of the panel discussions. Canada immediately took on the role. Since NCCJ is a community organization, collaborative projects are something they often participate in.
“Our goal is to start conversations,” Canada explained. “Even if participants aren’t able to attend a panel discussion and can only swing by the exhibit to view the art, hopefully they will see a piece that causes them ask questions and engage in conversation with someone different than themselves to learn more about a different perspective.”
Shari Clemons at the African American Atelier is responsible for putting together the education component of the project with the help of Miss Ruth at the Guilford Native American Art Gallery and Dara Nix-Stevenson, board member at the Center of Visual Arts. They have been considered the backbone of the project for assisting with social media, offering thorough advice and helping out in every aspect of the project. The projects manager, Michelle Carello, is assembling multidisciplinary artists to take part as well as assisting with the open dialogue discussion.
Grant funding for the project has been secured through the SJ Edwards Foundation, The Bryan Foundation/ ArtsGreensboro, The Tannenbaum-Sternberger Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.
The project will run from Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 through Oct. 11, 2015 and will take place at Greensboro College.