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The Artist as Researcher

A Discussion with Julia Gartrell, Howard Craft, M.C. Taylor, and Aya Shabu
August 31st, 2017
12:00 PM



Thursday, August 31, 2017

12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

Power Plant Gallery
320 Blackwell Street
American Tobacco Campus
Durham, NC

View Map | Parking Info

A light lunch will be served.

Join us for this lunchtime discussion with current #PPGArtist and sculptor Julia Gartrell, playwright Howard Craft, musician M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, and former #PPGArtist and performance artist Aya Shabu, as they discuss their research methodologies in the pursuit of their craft.

Cosponsored by the Power Plant Gallery, an initiative of the Center for Documentary Studies and the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University.

Julia Gartrell

Julia Gartrell is a sculptor based in Durham, NC. She received an MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a BA in Art from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Her work explores Southern lore, Appalachian craft traditions, methods of mending, and material culture. Her research includes the collection of oral histories, on which she bases her work, as well as primary and secondary resources related to the material culture of the South. Julia manipulates a variety of found and altered materials in her work, combining contemporary sculptural and traditional craft techniques. She is particularly interested in the creation and performance of identity in the South as it relates to industrialization, queerness, and rituals within rural communities.

Julia recently finished a year-long residency at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where she explored regional craft traditions and developed sculptural uses for native North Carolinian clays. She has also participated in residencies at Ox-Bow School of Art in Michigan and Ifitry Artists’ Residency in Morocco. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Casablanca Biennale in Morocco, Flux Factory in NYC, Target Gallery in Alexandria, VA, and extensively in the Midwest and Southeast. Julia currently works as an adjunct in the Sculpture + Extended Media Department at Virginia Commonwealth University and in the Art Department at John Tyler Community College.

Photo credit: York Wilson Photography

Howard L. Craft

Howard L. Craft is a poet, playwright, and arts educator. He is a recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council Playwriting Fellowship and the author of several plays. The Off-Off Broadway Production of his most recent work, Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green, was chosen as the New York Times critic’s pick during its run. Craft is also the creator of the first African-American Super Hero Radio Serial: The Jade City Pharaoh. He teaches creative writing as the Piller Visiting Professor of Practice at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and creative non-fiction through the Duke Center for Documentary Studies. His current projects include Orange Light and One Down, One Up. Drawing from oral histories and court documents and combining movement, theater, and media, Orange Light explores the lives of five women who work in a chicken processing plant. It is loosely based on events surrounding the tragic fire at the Imperial Foods plant in Hamlet, NC, where 25 workers burned to death behind locked doors on September 3, 1991. One Down, One Up is a film/theater piece that explores the life of the immortal jazz pioneer John Coltrane through the story of one of his earliest biographers, O.C. Simpkins, a young African American medical student at Harvard University who interviewed those who knew Coltrane from the early 1970s jazz scene. Through a partnership with Sam Stephenson of Rock Fish Stew Institute of Literature and Materials, access to the Simpkins tapes will be used in the final production. A documentary film about Mr. Simpkins and the writing of the play are also planned.

M.C. Taylor

Hiss Golden Messenger

M.C. Taylor, Durham-based musical omnivore, birthed the folk rock band, Hiss Golden Messenger. "At once firmly steeped in tradition and immediately accessible" (NPR), Hiss Golden Messenger calls up a wide spectrum of American vernacular music, from Archie Brownlee to the Staple Singers, from Van Morrison to Townes Van Zandt. HGM was technically born back in California, where a young Taylor dabbled in hardcore punk, indie rock, folk, and country rock while he was a student at University of California-Santa Barbara. HGM truly came to fruition, however, as a Southern project during Taylor's days in a small rental home in Pittsboro, NC, out near Haw River. Taylor also graduated from the UNC-Chapel Hill folklore graduate program and worked at Duke's very own Center for Documentary Studies, but is now committed full time to HGM.

Aya Shabu

Aya Shabu is a professional dancer, choreographer, and teaching artist living in Durham, North Carolina. A 2012-2013 Emerging Artist Grant recipient, Aya has choreographed for some of the Triangle's best theatrical productions, most notably The Parchman Hour, I Love My Hair and The Brothers Size. An alum of the nationally and internationally recognized African American Dance Ensemble, Aya is currently a dancer and drummer with Shabutaso's The Magic of African Rhythms. Passionate about preserving African diaspora cultural traditions, Aya is the founder of Whistle Stop Tours, walking tours of African American neighborhoods. Whistle Stop Tours — Haiti to Hayti, Black Wall Street, Pauli Murray’s Place — strive to be a contributing voice in shaping the public memory of North Carolina's slave past and African American achievement.