Thank you all for following my journey. If you want to see images in a more timely manner you can either follow me on Instagram @cassilhaus or if you are not on Instagram you can simply Google #frankssabbatical or @cassilhaus and there are aggregators like http://www.imgrum.org/user/cassilhaus/3510596490 on the web that simply show all of my posts w/o being on Instagram.
Who knew there was a National Margarita Day???
Along Route 61 Hale County
Week three was a bit off the central thesis of my sabbatical. I didn't identify specific arts or residency related programs in the deep South that I wanted to visit but I had never really spent time in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas and I had heard much wonderful lore about spending time in the Alabama Black Belt and the Mississippi River Delta. This trip is hopefully as much about learning about advancing Cassilhaus as it is about learning about myself and the country I live in. It didn't take long to find amazing people and adventures in my next chosen destination.
When I was still in Georgia I asked a bunch of people what I should check out in Hale County, AL and I got the same response every time--visit with Pam Dorr and see the amazing community development and rural poverty work she is doing at HERO and check out the Auburn Rural Studio. Here is a bit about Pam from one of her TED talks.
Pam is so delightful, dynamic, and easy to be with and is a complete inspiration. She is a force to be reckoned with and a walking community development machine. Between her housing initiatives, bamboo bike business, thrift store, pie lab, and others it was hard to keep up.
Her team is working on the renovation of the Martin Stewart School which was saved from demolition and moved to their campus in three parts and reassembled. It is almost complete and one morning she had me help clean up and move bunks in place that will house design interns that come to Greensboro to help with her initiatives.
My introduction to Alabama was memorable. I hadn't been in town for an hour when Pam invited me to dinner with her friends Tom and Stella Martin who have a place on the Black Warrior River just West of town. What a stunning evening and an amazing home cooked meal with homemade key lime pie. In their back yard is the former main town dock for folks coming into Greensboro. The river is still used extensively for commerce.
Pam housed me during my time there in another of her projects, the HERO bunkhouse. I had the place to myself. I got a new camera just before coming on this trip and I have been trying to carve out time to slog through the 600+ page manual so I can really exploit its capabilities. I dug in a bit at the bunkhouse and shot my first significant photo series in the wee hours of the morning the first morning I awoke there. These images were all shot hand held at an astonishing 16000 ASA. I've never seen a camera that can resolve so well in almost total darkness.
For a photography lover like me, Hale County Alabama is the stuff of legend from the work of William Christenberry and Walker Evans. A visit had long been on my bucket list. It is a bit of a photo cliche but i had to go shoot the famous Green Barn that Christenberry returned to again and again.
Being married to an architect means I haven't been able to miss hearing about the legendary Auburn University Rural Studio started by Sam "Sambo" Mockbee and D.K. Ruth. I spent the better part of two days seeing the campus and looking at present and past projects while giving my jealous spouse updates (she had not made the pilgrimage yet) and sending her photos. This was sustainable architecture before anyone knew what that meant.
Above two images are student designed, built, and occupied. Students are responsible for building their dorms!
Outdoor classroom and greenhouse.
You think you've got a lot of projects going on......
Spectacular, brand new, and just christened outdoor work space. The lion's share of the entire structure was built by 4 students!
Out in the town of Faunsdale, AL, visiting professor Jake works in the pouring rain with a team of Rural Studio students to put a roof on a house they designed and built for a member of the community in need. Like all of their projects this is done at no cost to the future home owner who currently lives in a trailer behind the building site. This is one of the 20K prototype houses they call the "income house" and in the dogtrot design the 2br house is on the left and the studio on the right allows for income generating work to be done.
The recycle and reuse ethos is strong in this project using recycled carpet. This was one of the very first RS projects done during Sam Mockbie's tenure.
Mary Cris, one of the Vista/Americorp workers in Pam's office invited me on a family pontoon boat outing on the Black Warrior River on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Way fun and boy that boat could move!
Greensboro Alabama's location allowed some pretty great day trips. I had heard much about the Quilters of Gees Bend but had no idea they were less than an hour from where I was. Selma, a major site of the civil rights struggle, was also close by. On the way to Gees Bend I had arranged to sit in on a class at a high school in Uniontown, Alabama taught by a Teach for America teacher named Kara. My host for the next week of my trip, Ron Nurnberg, is director of TFA Mississippi so I thought I should get up to speed! I hadn't been in a high school class in a LONG time and it was inspiring to watch Kara work her magic to inspire her kids to learn.
Gees Bend PO.
The National Park Interpretive Center right across from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma was inspiring and very well done. I felt such sadness about all of the voter suppression that continues and is already getting worse under Trump. How many times do we need to fight for the same thing? I walked across the bridge in both directions thinking about that awesome march and the sacrifices so many have made toward the goal of one man one vote.
My final stop of the week had me saying goodbye to Alabama and headed to Jackson, Mississippi. Back in December I attended a conference put on at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University by Elsewhere in Greensboro, NC (not to be confused with the Greensboro I just left) as part of its Southern Constellations series. The main presenter was a woman named Nia Umoja who is part of an unusual neighborhood development/anti gentrification project called The Cooperative Community of New West Jackson.
Again I am pretty far off my planned sabbatical thesis but I was incredibly impressed by what I heard at the conference and wanted to see it with my own eyes. Nia generously put me up at their wonderful guest house in the community and took me on an extensive tour. I am still going through a complex series of emotions about all that I saw. Sobering and inspiring in equal measure. I don't know how she does it all. Did I mention she has 7 young children ??!!?
The cooperative hopes to develop a significant food economy in the neighborhood and this large community garden is one of the first steps.
One of the newly renovated houses in the neighborhood. All work in the neighborhood is done by people living in the neighborhood.
OK so I am officially exhausted now. I can't believe this all happened in a week. It takes me a week to document a week! Thanks for sharing this journey with me.
"Change happens at the speed of trust"