2016 Praxis Project: Know Your Neighbor Art Exhibit

Mission: We will bring awareness to the unheard voices in Chapel Hill, NC by showcasing residents’ stories through their art and initiating dialogue between neighbors at a community exhibit.

Vision: We envision a community where neighbors know and value each other.

Through this project, we seek to address an unrealistic portrayal of neighbor in Chapel Hill. The 2013 UNC Visitor’s Guide describes Chapel Hill as “a picturesque town buzzing with cultural and artistic vitality” and the “quintessential college town.” Alongside this image, there is a prevalent perception that Chapel Hill is white, young, rich, polite, and liberal.

Although these perceptions of a stereotypical Chapel Hill are problematic in and of themselves, there is some truth to the town’s reputation for wealth. According to the Census Bureau, the town’s median income is $62,620 versus the state median income of $46,693. Yet this perception of Chapel Hill as rich does not honor the town’s poverty rate of 21.7%, well above the North Carolina state average of 17.2%. Even when accounting for the student population, there still exists real poverty in Chapel Hill that defies its image as rich, white, young, polite, liberal, and idyllic. People in Chapel Hill who disproportionately struggle with poverty are excluded from this image: people with mental, developmental, or physical disabilities; people with mental illness; people struggling with drug addiction; seniors; working-class people; rural residents; people of color; some members of the LGBTQ community; and others. These ideas of Chapel Hill obscure the real experiences of some Chapel Hill residents. This is particularly true for the town’s black community, which weathered the South and Chapel Hill’s harsh reaction against the Civil Rights movement.

This project seeks to facilitate a process and create a space where those living and working in Chapel Hill can share their narrative through artistic expression. This may include folks who fit widespread perceptions of the town. But our focus is on the entire story. We believe marginalized or unheard folks sharing their experience have the power to spark community dialogue and help neighbors know one another more deeply.