Musician Pierce Freelon and Poet/Writer Will McInerny were commissioned by the Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Arts & Culture effort to form a creative team called Painted Voices with Michael Irwin, English Instructor and Director of the Arts Academy at Chapel Hill High School and CHHS students. The goal of this project was for the Residency artists to introduce the students to creative writing, figurative language, storytelling, photography, music sampling, and performance techniques. The project involved interaction with communities to bridge gaps, heal, educate, inspire, and transform through the visual and performing arts. For its final project Painted Voices created a multi-disciplinary art experience entitled The Home Project.
The project began in January 2012. According to Freelon, “the program kicked off with a cacophonous monsoon of a brainstorming session”. Eighteen students selected by Music, Art, History, and English instructors at Chapel Hill High School identified communities through research; reached out to families, friends and colleagues; visited local organizations; spoke with their classmates and volunteered in neighborhoods throughout the course of the semester. “There is no limit on which type of community they can choose to engage”, said Freelon, “everything is possible”.
Painted Voices developed a multi/mixed-media exploration of intergenerational oral history. Students captured the stories of local residents, re-imagined them, and made them available to the community through The Home Project. Throughout the process, these involved youth played a vital role in the creative storytelling of underrepresented populations within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, and broke the barrier of judgment that is pervasive between segregated groups. Students used various forms of art to retell the stories of their interview groups, and were proud to share those stories on the projects' opening night, as well as through this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouf8-1HDH1I.
On June 1st of 2012 Painted Voices presented The Home Project at The Corner Teen Center in downtown Chapel Hill: a free, open-to-the-public reception and art exhibit that featured poetry, performance, painting and photography inspired by the stories of Chapel Hill residents.
Painted Voices’ Artist Statement:
“After countless hours of creative workshops to prepare ourselves for real life interactions, we ventured into various communities in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-area with little expectations - exchanging dialogue and creating bonds and relationships. We absorbed the history and lifestyles of the people in our community and fused their knowledge with our own, broadening our lenses. These experiences inspired us to re-invent the teen center using various mediums such as poetry, performance, painting and photography. Our goal is to create a microcosm of Chapel Hill, share the stories of its residents and to represent various interpretations of home. We welcome you to take a walk through our journey, inspired by the unique stories of local residents.”
Pierce Freelon is a jazz/hip-hop musician, journalist and an adjunct professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University. Will McInerny is the Associate Director of Sacrificial Poets/You Think, a nationally competing youth poetry organization devoted to fostering social transformation. Mr. Freelon and Mr. McInerny were chosen for this Artist in Residence Program by a selection committee of Public Arts Commissioners on the recommendation of Chapel Hill High School Instructor Michael Irwin.