Albemarle County, VA

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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.

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.

For questions, contact marisa@marisawilliamson.com