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Telling a community’s story with Creatives Under Instruction

The program, led by Hood Huggers International in collaboration with a number of local partners, fosters artistic inspiration for youth in the Burton Street Neighborhood.

Leslie Rosenberg (STEAM staff) and Nore Williams skill building for Creatives Under Instruction

UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio became a home for the public art initiative.

Photo via Asheville Creative Arts

The practice is deemed “placekeeping.” Purely denotatively, it is preserving a place’s culture, history, and values, rather than focusing on improving a community just by adding to it. Placekeeping strengthens and safeguards what already exists. For Creatives Under Instruction, the ‘place’ is the Burton Street neighborhood and the ‘keeping’ is public art.

Inspiration for instruction

Hood Huggers founder DeWayne Barton had already been offering youth learning programs for more than a decade through Hood Huggers International Under Instruction (HHIUI) when this public art initiative began in 2022. Through the program, students construct and install public art pieces, in advance of the I-26 Connector project’s impact on the neighborhood. Since the genesis, youth artists have painted murals and created art pieces for the Burton Street Peace Gardens and Market and are working on a permanent metal art kiosk for the Burton Street Community Center.

Creatives Under Instruction has collaborated with several local partners, including UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio and STM Multimedia — but it was a partnership with UNC Asheville’s New Media program, and a chance to use its gallery, that initiated a formal exhibition.

“Putting youth-created work in the context of a professional gallery setting underscores the importance of these young people’s creativity, thoughts, and ideas,” says Abby Felder of partner organization Asheville Creative Arts. “The art pieces they are making serve as interactive displays of the past, present, and future of Burton Street through their eyes.”

Four men stand and kneel in front of a public metal artwork in a park

Art on display will include everything from metalwork to paintings.

Photo via Asheville Creative Arts

Art in action

Experience the story yourself starting this Friday, June 21 at 5 p.m. at the exhibit opening. Alongside music and refreshments, art from youth participants throughout HHIUI’s history (as well as a few other artists’ contributions) will be on display in the third floor gallery in UNC Asheville’s Owen Hall.

The exhibition will also be open to the public Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. and on Thursday, June 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. A closing celebration will be held on Friday, June 28.

The exhibit is free, but selected works will be for sale.

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