The lead artists of The 50 States Project, a national artistic research project, announced today that they would embark on November 4, 2019 for their year-long trip to make art in communities in all 50 states. The project takes as its starting point the tradition of the American road trip, as seen through the eyes of two local artists, Kate Fleming (painter) and Tom Woodruff (documentary photographer), both natives and residents of Arlington, VA. The artists have purchased a camper van and will be driving across the country in a year, visiting all 50 states to engage in artistic inquiry about who we are as Americans–as explored through the lens of research, education, and community engagement.
Kate and Tom currently plan to drive 30,000 miles, logging 1,000 hours on the road. They will, no doubt, be touching many common experiences along the way (gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants)–and, not coincidentally, these common elements are a particular interest of Kate’s in her paintings. Tom is most interested in spaces that people he meets feel are on the verge of change in their communities, as well as tapping into their fears–making this project a highly specific snapshot in time and a unique opportunity to see how we are changing as a nation in real time.
Amy Moore, Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW), which is fiscally sponsoring the project, said, “Support for the creation of new artistic work and the discourse that will come from the artists’ travels are core to our mission of building community through the arts. Kate and Tom are following in the tradition of generations of artists in search of greater understanding. They bring the means and desire to reflect on the people, places, ideas, and emotions that shape us all. It is important work.”
Artist Kate Fleming added, “The goal of the project is to learn, rather than to teach – to go humbly out into the country we call home and try to understand who and where we are as a nation.”
The 50 States Project will kick off with a week in Virginia, followed by a week in West Virginia, as they begin their trip. The artists invite people across the country to follow along on their progress and engage in sharing where they should head via their interactive map.
More about the project:
In times of national uncertainty and distress, artists seek out the freedom of the open road, taking visual stock of the state of the nation. It is a distinctly American reaction, undertaken by artists and writers again and again over the past century. With the deep ideological chasms in our nation suddenly laid bare in the current turbulent atmosphere of America, a partnership with Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in DC will provide a platform for artists to engage with the cultural legacy of the American road trip. By physically immersing our resident artists in other American cultures, the artists will encourage them to learn and share the stories of their fellow Americans. The artworks they create along the way will act as a vehicle through which others can experience and develop empathy for these people and places.
Since its founding in 1972, CHAW has been dedicated to building community through the arts. CHAW has never turned a student away for inability to pay for an arts class, and provides tuition assistance and transportation options to all who are interested in making art in community with others. CHAW is funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Building strong partnerships is fundamental to the project, and The 50 States Project is grateful for the support of CHAW, Mapbox, and other partners for their community-mindedness and championing of the arts, as well as the many individual supporters who have helped make this project possible. Contributions can be made via the project website, https://www.the50statesproject.com/.
(via The 50 State Project. Photo courtesy of the Project Manager.)