Art Talk

A Friendly Collaboration

By Andi Bedsworth


I have discovered that after taking the Art Truck around the community this summer not only is art created at these free events, but also friendships are made. That is exactly what happened when three people collaborated on the art installation, Everyday Awards at Yalo Studio.
It started in New York when Mary Lapides asked her artist friend Zefrey Throwell to come do an artist residency at her family farm in Coffeeville. Lapides then asked local gallery co-owner Coulter Fussell if she would be in on the project, and she agreed.
Thus began a collaboration that quickly spread throughout Yalobusha County involving the communities of Coffeeville and Water Valley. Throwell spent almost three weeks in the area interviewing 15 residents about themselves, their beliefs and significant moments in their lives. He then made a plaque commemorating each one and hung them in the gallery.         
The next part of the installation has just been completed and is the film of the actual interviews. It will be running on a loop in the gallery where the plaques are hanging until Sept. 25.
The idea behind the project was to commemorate everyday people and their contributions. Throwell commented that so often statues and memorials are dedicated to long dead celebrities or public figures that were not necessarily honorable. He wanted to honor ordinary citizens, and indeed he did just that.
The 15 people honored are all residents of Yalobusha County, but they are very diverse. Some have been born and raised here, and some have been transplanted here for varying reasons and lengths of time. The common denominator seemed to be how they all embraced their community and their neighbors who live there.
When asked how they enjoyed the experience, all of the participants I asked were happy to gush about how they really had fun with the project. They loved Zefrey and were all pleased with the resulting installation.  Michael Shroeder says that watching himself on the screen made him a little nervous, and he felt a “cluster of emotions.”
Mickey Howley made a great point when he mentioned that the film is a “good glimpse (of the area) without stereotyping.”
 You could tell during the filming of the interviews that most of the people were having fun sharing their life with Throwell. I loved the candor and honesty with which they talked about their lives. When asked about her meeting her future husband, Mary Lou Williams said that she “fell smack in love” with Snookie. She also mentioned that it took him “15 minutes” to fall in love with her. He corrected her saying it took “12 minutes.”
It is moments like this that make the film and the plaques so wonderful, and Throwell captured so many in this project. Mrs. Williams said it best when she described the film by saying “It all flowed together.” The spirit in which the people and town are portrayed is a joyous and entertaining one making this a great exhibit and bonding community experience.
Zefrey says the biggest surprise for him was how open and honest the participants were with him during the process and how they acted as “if they had been friends with him for years.” Lapides loved the collaboration with Coulter Fussell and Throwell, and Fussell was pleased that the project “took off on its own.” You could tell at the packed film screening that art had been created but that more importantly friendships had been made. This is an exhibit that will entertain and warm your heart.  Please send me any art related news at arttogollc@gmail.com.

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