Art-Force ProgramGreenville, Siler City & Sanford, NC
ArtPlace spoke with Janet Kagan and Jean Greer, Principals of the Public Art Collaborative Art-Force Program, an innovative effort to diversify economic development in rural counties by curating and partnering artists with manufacturers to generate products and stimulate a community’s social and economic connection to place.
ArtPlace: As you begin to complete your initial work funded by ArtPlace, what are your observations and learnings that will continue to propel you forward and sustain your efforts in other communities?
First, we remain steadfast in our drive to locate civic memory and translate that power into broad understanding through contemporary rearticulation. We continually try to identify and support civic leadership, and help affirm their will to create change and transformation, without which it is difficult to sustain and scale any initiative. We have also learned that aesthetic appreciation needs to be taught (if it is not already innate) and that we should not limit the capacity and invention of create thinking and execution of ideas.
One example of these tenets was the collaboration between textile artist Jan-Ru Wan and manufacturer Mickey Parrott of Parrott Canvas Company in Greenville NC. Following months of design and planning, on 15 May 2013, we celebrated the dedication of Jan-Ru Wan’s monumental three-dimensional textile mural in Greenville’s historic district, which coincided with the community’s spring opening of its Umbrella Farmers Market. Several hundred residents attended the event to experience her collaged design using many of the same fabrics that will be produced by Parrott Canvas for their new Floating Leaf Baskets and Smooth Voyage Bags.
In addition, one of our project partners, the Pitt County Arts Council and its adjacent Emerge Gallery provided three months of visibility and focus on this Artist-Manufacturer Alliance by showcasing and selling these new products in their Gallery windows along the main street of downtown.
Responding to the enthusiastic reception, Pitt County Economic Commission Executive Director Wanda Yuhas stated, “The energy and partnership that has evolved from a conversation that started with the question ‘what should public art look like in our City?’, has been an impetus for our original group to stay together and expand. It’s a great model for how a common cause unites people for success.”
Artist Jan-Ru Wan wrote, “Working with Parrott Canvas has been an extremely wonderful and rewarding experience. It was a privilege for me to get to know its capable and helpful staff, and to have access to many industrial machines and materials that are not otherwise readily available for other artists. As I designed and planned for the project, I watched and learned the best teamwork has to offer… Greenville had been my home when I taught at Eastern Carolina University and I am honored to have this opportunity to return and create art.”
We believe that small towns can use artists’ imaginations to retool manufacturing and assist communities in economic transformation. The purpose of the Greenville alliance was just that – to develop new products for Parrott Canvas with the imagination of artist Jan-Ru Wan, bolster the company’s workforce and, ultimately, enhance the town’s overall vitality.