- by Steve Barney, president, The Arts, Hancock County
Arts Alive - September 2019
Jackson State University Professor Mark Geil has been awarded a grant for an artist-based residency in Hancock County, one of only 3 projects funded in the first phase of the program.
Geil is working in close collaboration with a diverse team of community partners including The Arts Hancock County, Hancock County Library System, Hancock Performing Arts Center and area schools in this ambitious undertaking.
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The project is based on a brainstorming session held in October 2018 at the Hancock Performing Arts Center (HPAC). The session was facilitated by visionary storyteller Julian Rankin in his capstone project with the museum, before taking on the role of Executive Director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs.
In the session, residents from across Hancock County shared stories, challenges and aspirations; capturing a diverse set of opinions about the past, present and future of Hancock County. A wide range of topics were discussed spanning: development and economic access, community narrative, the arts and diversity and equality. Such as:
- How development is changing the culture and landscape of the post-Katrina Gulf.
- The legacy of bootlegging.
- The historical role of churches and the 100 Men DBA Hall as social centers for the African American community.
- The male domination in city and county governments.
- The role of cultural arts for creative expression in youth.
“The metaphor of a community quilt”, Geil states, “is to explore the varied narratives and histories of Hancock County.”
He adds, “The project will explore and document what is special, vital, and difficult about living in Hancock County; at the same time, capturing the vibrancy of our communities by asking community members to show what is alive and amazing about where they live.”
This project is using novel technology; specialized 360-degree cameras. The cameras record a 360-degree view using two lenses that each capture a 180-degree view and then stitch the two sides together.
As a result, everything above, below, and on all sides of the camera is recorded simultaneously. Geil explains; “the technology itself invites playing close attention to the landscape. Even places that are inherently familiar are seen differently.”
Students from these schools will make artwork and participate in activities engaging the themes of, “what I love about where I live, the kindness of others, and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever known.”
In addition to the stories being produced by the school groups, the general public has the ability to participate as well. On September 26 and 27, open sessions will be facilitated for members of the community to tell their stories. Everyone is encouraged to participate and tell your personal story on camera.
The success of the project depends on community involvement and the inclusion of wide range of thoughts and perspectives. The public sessions are Thursday September 26 at the Bay St. Louis Public Library and Friday September 27 at the Kiln Public Library.
Both sessions run from 1pm - 5pm. Drop in anytime during these sessions to come tell your story on camera. If needed additional sessions will be scheduled for October to make sure every voice is heard and captured.
The results of the project will premiere at the Inagural Homegrown Literary and Art Exchange taking place at the Hancock Performing Arts Center in Kiln. The Homegrown event kicks off on Thursday, November 21 with a free keynote presentation by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.
Friday, November 22 includes a day filled with interactive workshops for writers, visual artists and literary lovers; culminating in a live performance at 7pm, where the Hancock Community Quilt videos will be shown to the public for the first time, in a celebration of place and history.
After the premiere, the videos will be placed in a centralized online repository that can be shared across communities, and across the globe, via the internet. The videos will be accessible to view via smartphone, 3D viewer or web browser, providing opportunities to foster community dialog and exchange.
At the conclusion of the project, the equipment purchased with the grant will remain in the community to be shared by The Arts, Hancock County, libraries and area schools as an educational resource.