Driving into Asheville I came across a bridge and saw great swaths of graffiti on old factory buildings. I knew there was a brewery somewhere near-by. After a few double backs I found what I saw, The Wedge. A string of shops and restaurants with a nice beer garden gravel parking lot. I paraded my rig past the happy hour crowd, much to their curiosity, and luckily found enough parking space to post-up right at the end of the beer garden. Hoping out of my ride after a grand entrance required my pitch to primed. A small cluster of friendly folks passed me a smile I made my way for introductions.
Asheville is a welcoming, friendly, and aware city. People quickly grasped my concept and readily ascended the stairs and express their patriotism. How often do you have a regular after work gathering get invaded by contemporary art? I have taken to calling my practice #popuppatriotism and in our current times people are ready to talk about America, what's going on, what can be done, and why is it all happening. Today American Expressions was catalyst for instant current events roundtable.
This is the beginning of my Asheville stop and the initial community input was great. Many folks posting messages of love. One love. BIG LOVE. Love one another. LOVE WINS. It is not cliché and cannot be overstated. It is what we need and people know it. There were other comments of political persuasion decrying one toupeed candidate. One youngster penned "Kill the poor" (a Dead Kennedy's song). I immediately inquired about his post only to be instantly millennially-butted for not knowing this obscure reference. Ahhh...I get it, ironic. The power of words somehow doesn't always succumb to the influence of context. No one who reads that will think anything other than exactly what it says. We might debate pens and swords, but by god we all better start using our brains because words matter, no matter how cool you are.
I had the pleasure of meeting Scott of 103.3 AshevilleFM, a volunteer run radio and news organization. An older gentleman with exquisite lapidary rings of his making, he quickly reminded me of my iron casting mentor Skip Van Houten. We hit it right off because he wanted to know about that big ole flag. After giving him my pitch, he requested to interview me for the radio. We walked down in front of the flag as people were writing on it and put on the recorder. What a great experience. His questions and my answers about what and why I am doing this flowed so well. I am eager to hear the recording and will certainly post it here. Our dialog continued into other areas as Scott told me about a program in Asheville called "Building Bridges". As the name says, it is a program bringing different races together to get a sense of what its like to be black, to be white, to be a policeman, to be a veteran. He described a great method employed in the program where participants fill out a questionnaire about their life experience. For example, "have you ever been refused service because of your race?" All answers had a numeric value attached and once completed, the values were totaled. Then everyone was to line up, physically, on the scale from 0-100. Scott said the human graph depicted a cluster of white folks in the upper range and the cluster of black folks in the lower range, with a large gap in between. That's powerful stuff. That's the kind of stuff we need going around everywhere right now. We all got to see that the "pursuit of happiness" isn't equal, not by a long shot.
Getting to crash the party in grad patriotic fashion brought up everything that's happening, despite the wishes to wash away the day. I waved at a couple ladies to come sign the flag and they nodded yes, but it didn't transpire. Later on I saw them about to leave and offered again. They had to go, but told me they spent the last 90 minutes talking about the state of our country. They took the time to go over the current events and expression their concern with one another, perhaps even conjured plans of action. That there is the art at work. That is the idealistic license that artists have to interject their ideas into people's minds. It is the purpose of this trip, to get people thinking, talking, sharing, and hopefully changing that which is not right around them. Best of luck, ladies, you too are an inspiration.
Finally! Big ups to my new friends Better Dayz & ShammanEthan. These are a couple of my new dudes and they treated my like family. Time to go to West Asheville and get down.