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Wednesday September 28th

Abbey Court Community Project connects with Carrboro residents

	<p>A young girl paints at Abbey Court apartments. With a grant from Chapel Hill, local artists are helping give a voice to residents in the Triangle.<br />
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Hancock</p>
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A young girl paints at Abbey Court apartments. With a grant from Chapel Hill, local artists are helping give a voice to residents in the Triangle.
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Hancock

Armed with a $10,000 grant from the town of Chapel Hill, three local artists are hoping to use art to give a marginalized sector of the Triangle a voice.

That effort, the Abbey Court Community Project, is the second “Into the Streets: Community Arts Engagement Project,” an annual commission sponsored by Chapel Hill’s Public Arts Office and the Public Arts Commission.

The program was founded to give artists a chance to foster connections among local residents.

This year, a team of three local artists — Eleanor Blake, Neill Prewitt and Lincoln Hancock — are exploring Carrboro’s Abbey Court apartment complex, whose residents are mostly low-income.

“The ‘Into the Streets’ projects are meant to expose people through art to different populations and some of the issues facing our overall community,” said Jeff York, public arts administrator for Chapel Hill, in an email.

Blake said that the trio had done similar work together in the past.

“When we saw the call for the ‘In the Streets’ grant from the town, and saw that it was specifically looking for a project that would involve Carrboro and Chapel Hill residents, we thought it was perfect,” she said.

The artists chose the Abbey Court location because the grant specified artists working with a challenged community.

Lesley McBride, a UNC student and an intern for the Public Arts Office who is working to publicize the exhibit, said she thought Abbey Court was an ideal location for this year’s grant project.

“It celebrates a group of people whose unique and human personalities are often wrongly backgrounded and ignored as an effect of the negative stereotypes attached to where they live,” McBride said in an email.

McBride said that she hopes the project will help to erase negative assumptions and celebrate Abbey Court residents as both beautiful and unique people.

Relationships built between the artists and residents of Abbey Court make up the bulk of the project.

The artists have been using hand-held cameras to document conversations with residents since mid-January.

“The objective was for us to go in, and, through the process of art making, which really, over time, has been relationship building and getting to know people there,” Blake said. “We are finding out what kind of art they want to make and what kind of art they want to see.”

The project will culminate in June in an exhibit at the former Chapel Hill Museum at 523 E. Franklin St.

Environmental installments of sculptural and found objects, soundscapes and video projects will attempt to create a space similar to the Abbey Court complex and try to highlight its residents.

The exhibit will “show faces and spaces of Abbey Court in a playful celebration of the community,” Blake said in a press release.

The artists have formed friendships with the residents of the complex and are excited to have the chance to give them a way to express themselves, Blake said.

“The most important thing is that we work with, listen and respond to the residents,” Blake said.

“We’re just making art that will share a lot of important information and feelings of Abbey Court with the larger Carrboro and Chapel Hill communities.”

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