I have long had an interest in arts groups using transitioning commercial and retail spaces to alleviate space crunch. On hearing that Matt Cosper and his Charlotte-based ensemble XOXO are taking part in such a venture I asked him to write a little about the process and after it was over to reflect on the benefits. Here is the second of his two posts – Travis Bedard

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When last we spoke, my company and I were roughly halfway through our month long residency as Skyline. All was proceeding smoothly and we were very much enjoying ourselves, immersed in developing material for our new full length performance event: #cake. Now would be the ideal dramatic time to reveal that everything fell apart and was a disaster, or conversely that an angel donor saw our workshop sharing last week and wrote us an obscene check. Alas (?)…neither of these potentialities occurred.

What did go down was decidedly not disastrous but every bit as miraculous. We worked for another two weeks, created a complicated (and very cool) installation and also made a dance, some hypnotic action loops, collaborated with a bevy of local artists, like Basic Cable Media Company, Diana Valeryevna Mnatsakanyan, Robert Childers, and Matthew Steele, learned valuable lessons about our work, and shared our findings with a huge group of party goers at an egalitarian artparty. We also learned that Skyline Arts has been granted a stay of execution, a very exciting development that bodes well for the program’s and the model’s longevity.

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The showcase element of this program is pretty special. As if the 24/7 access to the space, and the budget provided weren’t exciting enough, the showcase is an event unlike anything else happening in generally staid, programmed within an inch of its life, Uptown Charlotte. On Friday, September 4th at 6pm folks started trickling into the building to see the work on display. At one end of the building, Robert Childers was showing his Arthurian Inflected Southern Gothic Punk Rock Comic paintings (on wood, on brick, on tiny little coffins he has made) while Robert Childers and His Luciferian Agenda and the Modern Primitives melted faces and small children ate popsicles. In the largest, central space, sculptor Matthew Steele was showing his 70 foot long metal construction, Lure, while people ate the most amazing tamales on the earth. In between those studios, we built an installation that was equal parts Hell House and Acid Test and which people generally deemed “So Cool!”.

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More importantly we learned some important lessons about the intersection of projection mapping and hazer technology, and our intern blew our minds with some really fancy light bulb sequencing. In our main studio we shared our new performance loops and a dance sequence, which was a hold over from the first draft of #cake six months ago. We crammed a lot of people into the room to see that work, and had the pleasure of surprising them with a very spare, very raw arrangement of Strange Fruit performed as a collaboration with A Sign of The Times, and #OnTheHook (an organization of Charlotte artists dedicated to addressing and eliminating white supremacy). It was a good night.

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What sticks with me at the end of this amazing program is that wonderful evening. Somewhere around 500 Charlotteans came to a free art event, drank free booze, ate delicious treats and saw work from across the aesthetic spectrum in a carnival atmosphere in the heart of Uptown. Yes, in the very belly of the beast, where art musn’t happen that hasn’t been polished to death, there was an explosion of raw artistry free to the public did I mention that THE ARTISTS GOT PAID! And, as far as I know…nothing was being sold. Nothing that is except for some tamales and the idea that Art might be worth the investment of a city that wants to put itself on the map. Or rather: that if you give money and resources directly to artists, they will make something, and it will likely be beautiful.

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Epilogue: About that Stay of Execution I mentioned. The Amys (Herman and Bagwell) could definitely give you a fuller and richer explanation, and I recommend that you ask them because they are smart and charming and super duper on the ball about making this very cool thing a long term reality for Crowntown. The quick and dirty version of the story is that more funding has been found, and there will be an additional round of residencies in October, with some added TBD programming to occur in November. And one gets the feeling that Charlotte’s business community (at least the segment of that community that has the long view in mind and aren’t mere parasites) is very interested in making this thing work.

This is exciting, yes? Yes. Stay tuned.

  • September 14, 2015