Tarish Pipkins has been making art ever since he can remember.
“I’ve been an artist since I was a baby,” he said.
Pipkins, also known as Jeghetto, has worked with an eclectic mix of media, delving into breakdance, graffiti art, murals, portraiture, spoken word, rap and puppetry, just to name a few.
“Wherever art took me, that’s where I went,” he said.
This past weekend, Pipkins, in collaboration with the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, displayed his artwork and performed puppet shows at a pop-up event in the vacant former home of Frank Gallery.
Susan Brown, executive director for Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, said the pop-up show was the second of three planned for this spring. She said the University leases the property and allowed the Town to use the building.
“I think that Chapel Hill has always valued the arts,” she said. “I think now they’ve just made it a stated priority, so they’re really looking to see more, to do more, to engage more, so we’re really trying to provide those opportunities and see what our community thinks and so far these pop-ups are very popular.”
Matt Gladdek, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said high rental costs in downtown Chapel Hill make finding permanent exhibition spaces difficult.
“Someone like Tarish, who’s an incredible artist with an incredible, very unique vision, can have difficulty finding spots like this on a main drag to be permanent, but this type of event space that you can do something really interesting in is a way to provide voice to a really interesting local artist,” he said.
Pipkins said he was enthusiastic when Brown approached him with the idea of a pop-up show.
“I think the only thing that brings social change and awareness is through art and for the local government to give open spaces that are just sitting and let local artists utilize them, I think that’s a very big step in activism and people coming together," he said. "And that’s definitely activism that actually truly is effective art.”
Pipkins, who recently received a grant for a multimedia puppetry experience that confronts current social issues in modern America, said he thinks art can have a powerful influence on social change.
“Entertainers have the power of influence to make a positive change, and I'm hoping I'll get to that level where I can positively influence billions of people,” he said. "If I can do that without people knowing my face, that would be awesome."
He said he gets the materials for his puppets — which include recycled cardboard, scrap wood and P2C pipe — from thrift shops, scrap exchanges and donations.
Pipkins said sometimes he gets his ideas for puppets from life, while other times they come from dreams, visions or random thoughts. He said the amount of time it takes to make the puppets varies dramatically, finishing some over the course of a day and others over the course of a year.
“I was always into science and nature, would always watch documentaries on Planet Earth and all that and that was my thing, so I’ve always studied and drew them, the skeletons and muscles and all that, studied the movement,” he said. “It was like I was training all my life to become a puppeteer.”
When making a puppet, in order to use the least amount of controls for the most movement, Pipkins said he picks a direction and lets everything fall into place. He said he goes into the puppet-making process with a loose vision of the end product, but does not do any sketches. Similarly, he does not create a set list before performances, but instead curates the show after observing the vibe of the audience.
Pipkins said his goals for the weekend were "just to have fun and make some money."
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