“Unity Project” to bring local artists, community together to design collage

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2017

TRYON – The Tryon Fine Arts Center (TFAC) has initiated an endeavor known as the “Unity Project” to bring together more than 200 artists and individuals in the community to create an artistic collage based on what unity means.

According to Michelle Fleming, director of public relations at TFAC, a meeting was held in January of community leaders in the arts, business and education fields to discuss the project.

Beginning on March 3 and spearheaded by John Wilkins, the project is funded by a community event grant from the Polk County Community Foundation, according to Fleming.

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Wilkins is a project manager at Bank of America and said the project brings people together because it asks individuals to highlight times where someone else has stepped outside their comfort zones to help them. Wilkins has been a collector of African American art since the late nineties and said Charlotte artist Romare Bearden inspired him to initiate this project.

“I originally took it to TFAC to kind of think about what we could do to bring the community together in light of society being divided where everybody’s kind of squared off in their own little world,” Wilkins explained. “Last year, we had done the Preserving African American Art in the Foothills exhibit and I wanted to do something that is more inclusive. Let’s do something that involves people experiencing help from someone outside their normal circle, and it doesn’t have to be race, it could be of a different religion and so forth.”

Fleming said the project is going to incorporate large and small panels, designed by community members, to be on display at TFAC in May. The larger panels are to be designed by professional artists in the community while the small panels are designed by anyone in the region.

“There are two parts to the project that deal with artists at every skill level defining what unity in the Foothills means to them,” Fleming explained. “There are going to be three large panels that are going to be designed for the collage separately by professional artists in Polk County and Landrum. In addition to that, there are 200 smaller panels that are going to be open to anybody in the community.”

Fleming said the project organizers are enlisting the help of Raleigh artist Eric McRay to do workshops on how to do collage art pieces during the last week of March and the first week of April. Workshops will then be held throughout the community to create the more than 200 individual panels March 31 through April 16.

The due date for all individual panels, according to Fleming, is April 18. The panels will be hung beginning on April 19 before the free reception at 3 p.m. on May 7. The exhibit will be in the Mahler Room of TFAC through May.

“These workshops will teach you how to do a nice art piece, but then it’s really open to the individuals that are creating the pieces,” Fleming said. “There are no real limits on the design as it just defines unity. It’s going to be really fun because we’ll be going to different locations around the community, but those have not been set yet.”

The locations being looked at include spots in Saluda, Green Creek, and the schools of Polk County and Landrum, Fleming said.

“It will be easy for people from multiple locations around the region to be involved and there will be about a two-week period where everyone can work on their panels,” Fleming said. “Once those are finished, they will be displayed here at TFAC as a quilt or collage themselves. There will be an opening for that on May 7.”

The project will involve representatives from Isothermal Community College, the Upstairs Artspace, Tryon Little Theater, Tryon Arts and Crafts, TFAC, Polk County Schools and the Meeting Place, according to Fleming. Fleming said she is soliciting volunteers for the project and can be contacted at TFAC at 828-859-8322 ext. 213.