by ivan | July 31, 2017 10:48 PM
Written by Raye Avery
For too long, the lower portion of Shipley Street has been less than appealing.
Designed as an alley for back door access to businesses located on Market Street, it has been a dark, dismal drive for quite some time.
But now the facade of the Christina Cultural Arts Center Inc. that faces Shipley literally glows with sgraffito tiles that have been painstakingly designed with glimpses of personal narratives and collective values. Each personalized sculpture laid out in the quilt-like pattern depicts images of past and present as well as hopes for our city.
The installation, done in collaboration with Wilmington’s Creative Vision Factory, which works with people who have behavioral health conditions, was part of the arts center’s 70th anniversary goals. We wanted to make creative opportunities accessible to those underserved by arts experiences in New Castle County, so we decided to take art making to some of the most unlikely spaces in Wilmington – blighted neighborhood street corners.
In doing so, the aesthetic transformation of Shipley Street has begun on the corner of 7th Street, and it brings its own musical accompaniment by way of Grammy award-winning baritone Gregory Porter’s newest recording, “Take Me to the Alley.” Porter was CCAC’s Artist-in-Residence in 2013.
His song imagines a soon-to-come visit to the city by royalty and of course the city must be “dressed up” for the visit. As the townspeople adorn their homes and sidewalks with gold, they are surprised when the king arrives and requests to go to the alley.
“Take me to the alley.
“Take me to the afflicted ones.
“Take me to the lonely ones that somehow lost their way.”
When traveling on Shipley Street, it’s common to encounter people with unmet human needs. Often victimized by stereotypes, they have untold stories and are in need of safe zones. Artists are uniquely positioned to connect with others to help foster self-discovery, to aid in trauma recovery, to assist in grief work and to bring some momentary joy.
With this collaboration, the arts center hopes we’ve taken a deeper dive into community engagement in the alley.
The Creative Vision Factory opened its doors in December of 2011 with a mission to foster the creative potential of those on the behavioral health spectrum in a studio art environment that cultivates integration with the local art community. Funded by the State of Delaware’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, CVF is one of many peer-run programs incubated by the sweeping reform of Delaware’s greater mental health system.
As a drop-in studio in the heart of an arts and cultural district, CVF sees the behavioral health population as a genuine partner in the development of a more creative and just city of Wilmington. The Factory allows creative individuals to share their experience and strength in an environment where individuals are valued.
It’s an extension of expressive arts therapy, which in the early 1940s became a formally recognized technique and has since provided meaningful therapeutic experiences for people of all ages in a variety of treatment settings. In this therapy, the process of creation is emphasized rather than the end result, as in most traditional arts.
We didn’t set out to make a mural for therapy. But we did set out to encourage everyone to be free with self-expression by using the arts as a tool for healing that which divides us.
Over six months between April and October 2016, executive director Michael Kalmbach; designer Tiernan Alexander; designer, artist Michael H. Solomon; and core CVF members engaged participants throughout the city in tile-making during street pop-ups, programs, camps and festivals including the Art Loop.
It was Alexander’s idea to create a quilt pattern made up of several hundred sgraffito tiles. Each tile was etched by people ages 4 to 84, with some being residents from as near as 7th & Washington streets and some as far away as visitors from other countries. Many include specific messages: Stay Woke, Real Love, No Drugs, RIP.
, in just the few short months that it’s been finished, the mosaic in the alley has become a backdrop for social media posts, business promotions, memorial tributes and even fashion photo shoots.
Among the visitors to the mural are Chairman for the National Endowment of the Arts Jane Chu, Sen. Chris Coons and Gov. Jack Markell, who viewed it Nov. 1.
“The arts give us the tools to discover and celebrate our assets and to transform our challenges into advantages,” Chu has said. “The arts connect us with our neighbors and give us an opportunity to celebrate our differences.”
The mosaic is striking. But its deeper beauty lies in the creative process that forged multi-dimensional unions between unlikely people in uncommon spaces.
Through our partnership with the Creative Vision Factory, the people of Wilmington are building community cohesiveness through baby steps that further integrate CVF members into the life of the greater Wilmington community and vice versa.
We hope people who see our mosaic will commission the Vision Factory to design projects in other places
Source URL: http://detvch.com/community-news/creative-vision-factory-christina-cultural-arts-and-the-wall/07/2017/
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