Albemarle County, VA


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Unsettling Grounds

“There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”   ― Octavia E. Butler

Project Description
Unsettling Grounds pilots an interdisciplinary, project-based artist residency program designed to enable local BIPOC & low-income artists to create high-quality media and performance artworks. The works will be presented and disseminated with the Unsettling Grounds augmented reality mobile app. While there will be an opportunity to exhibit artworks in the physical artist-run galleries of Visible Records and The Bridge, it is the lasting potential of the app and virtual experience of Unsettling Grounds that invites direct comparison with ‘a monument’.

Unsettling Grounds is a hunt for these virtual monuments to recover histories hidden along the Broadway Corridor in Charlottesville, Virginia, a site of culture, industry, revolution and war. It seeks to develop an understanding of “structures” literally and figuratively. What structures of remembrance, forms of storytelling, and frameworks for resistance are already in place? Unsettling Grounds focuses on resistance to capitalism, patriarchy, and racism. Together we will create a tool for understanding how stories, struggles, and common values converged in Albemarle County along with indigenous, immigrant, indentured, and enslaved workers.

Unsettling Grounds is a history visualization project. Given the recent controversies around the removal of Confederate monuments, this timely project offers a blueprint for how communities can use technology and public space for reflection and engagement with histories of social conflict, potentially as a counter-narrative to the Lost Cause mythology.

How are Virtual Monuments made?
Individual artworks may originate as sculpture, textile, performance, poetry, movement, print, video, sound, or animation for example, but will ultimately be viewed as virtual works that are digitally rendered, recorded, or fabricated with help from software developers.

The artworks will be experienced by users by hovering a mobile device over visual triggers designed by the artists and hidden in the physical landscape along the Broadway Corridor. The visual triggers will launch the digital artwork, appearing to integrate it within the existing environment in real time. The app, along with a paper map that will be available at numerous locations around Albemarle County, will act as a tool for unsettling hidden histories buried underfoot.

The app can be downloaded to iOS and Android smartphones.

Who are we looking for?
We are seeking creative practitioners, storytellers, visual, sound, movement, and performance artists who are curious about local history and interested in collaborating on this new public art project. Applicants should have a strong connection to Albemarle County.

Eight artists, or artist teams, will be chosen to participate in this project. Artists, or artist teams in which one or more of the members, meet the below criteria are encouraged to apply. They will form a cohort working side-by-side for the duration of the residency to assemble their creative concepts and forge meaning around the larger project.

The expectation is that each artist or artist team will propose, and be supported in, producing site-specific virtual monument artwork inspired and made viewable along the Broadway Corridor through the app. In addition, each artist and artist team will engage in conversations around what larger narrative framework might unify the stories we choose to tell through our art and social practice.

The works of art produced belong to the artists and can be exhibited further beyond Albemarle county.

  • Connection to Albemarle County and/or the surrounding area. This could look like familial relationships and roots, time spent living here, or current residence.
  • Ability to attend one in-person meeting in Charlottesville per-month between October 2022 and June 2023.
  • 5 hours of studio time per week for the duration of the project. This can be done in-person at the shared studio in Visible Records, or remotely.
  • Willingness to collaborate with augmented reality developers at Dream Syndicate. No prior experience with digital media production is necessary.
  • Willingness to collaborate with other members of the Unsettling Grounds cohort. 

Artist Support
The artist residency provides a $2000 stipend and up to $500 in materials, studio space, research support, access to primary sources, community partnerships, exhibition space, transportation around Albemarle County, project-related professional development, field trips, and programming to artists and artist teams selected to contribute to the project. The artist residency will be located within the artist-run gallery and studio spaces of Visible Records (VR) and The Bridge PAI.

The residency will begin in October 2022 and run until the mobile app experience launches in June, 2023.

Info Session I (Q&A with lead artist) August TBD
Info Session II (with developers) September TBD
Application Due September 23rd
Artists are announced Oct 7th
First Meeting Oct 22nd

Artists and artist team members will gather at Visible Records (homebase for the project) for monthly meetings (i.e. workshops, feedback sessions, meals, and critiques) between October and June. This can include site and studio visits, ideation, sourcing material, crafting, editing, equipment training, rehearsals, recording sessions, meetings with personnel and community members, research, fabrication, and more. An average of 5 hrs of studio time should be budgeted per week and can be conducted remotely.

Artists will work virtually and in-person with Philadelphia-based developers at Dream Syndicate to bring their visions to life. No prior experience with digital media production is necessary. Dream Syndicate is a comprehensive experimental and interactive design company with over a decade of experience in AR and VR development.

Project Background
Albemarle County occupies Monacan land. Previously home to 400 enslaved workers, Monticello annually attracts 500,000 visitors to the county. At the foot of Jefferson’s “Little Mountain,” sits the Broadway Street Corridor, 45 acres of industrially-zoned property bounded by downtown Charlottesville, a railroad, I-64, and the Rivanna River. The confluence of waterways and thoroughfares made this area an epicenter of industry and trade in the 19th century. A sprawling woolen mill anchored the industrial hub. It produced clothing for enslaved persons and uniforms for confederate soldiers. In 1865, the Union Army captured Charlottesville, setting the mill ablaze. By the early 20th century, the factory had been rebuilt. A majority of workers were women. A company town with housing, a school, and chapel, boomed until the factory closed in 1962. The structure sat mostly dormant until 2019 when the County’s Board of Supervisors developed the “Broadway Blueprint,” a strategic plan “to encourage economic vitality, connectivity and placemaking at the Woolen Mills site.”

Lead Artist, Marisa Williamson is a project-based artist who works in video, image-making, installation and performance around themes of history, race, feminism, and technology. Her 2017 project, Sweet Chariot (sweetchariotml.com), is the prototype for Unsettling Grounds.

Visible Records is a gallery and artist-run studio space located on the Broadway Corridor, providing Central Virginians with affordable studio membership, exhibition space, artist residencies, and programming, with a focus on contemporary arts.

The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative (501c3) provides resources and methodology for meaningful arts engagement throughout Charlottesville and Central Virginia. As a community-driven organization, we work to dissolve social barriers by supporting the work of emerging artists and bringing people together through collaborative practices and cultural programming.

Unsettling Grounds is generously funded by Albemarle County, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. We are thrilled to partner with the Memory Project at UVA’s Democracy Initiative, the Jefferson School, Burley Middle School, and the Equity Center at UVA.

For project updates join our mailing list and follow @unsettlinggrounds on Instagram.

Info Session I (Q&A with lead artist) August TBD
Info Session II (with developers) September TBD

For questions, contact marisa@marisawilliamson.com