Struggles With Housing Explored Through Art And Musical Theater

Nov 22, 2019

Racialized housing policies were in place in many U.S. cities for most of the 20th century, and the legacy persists. Redlining, urban renewal and an array of other policies shaped wealth and demographic patterns that inform how today’s cities look and run. Statistics paint a stark picture, but artists and scholars have also taken on the charge of humanizing the story.

Host Frank Stasio previews two projects that use art to illuminate how discriminatory lending and residential segregation have influenced individuals in St. Louis, Missouri and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He talks to Mai Thi Nguyen about “In the Shadows of Ferguson,” a multimedia exhibit she co-created based on archival, historical and qualitative research in St. Louis. Nguyen is an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The exhibit traces historical trends and looks at present-day efforts to promote sustainable growth and maintain affordable housing. Opening events are at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23 and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24 at the Davis Library on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Stasio then talks with Maggie West, co-founder and former co-director of Chapel Hill’s Community Empowerment Fund, about the new project: “Affordable Housing: The Musical.” The community production directs the spotlight to cast members’ experiences of living without a home in Chapel Hill. In order to craft the original music and choreography, the cast shared their own memories of displacement and took a critical look at the political and cultural reasons for Chapel Hill’s rising cost of living. The lyrics make clear the prevalence and variation of Chapel Hill’s housing issues by telling stories that range from finding a safe park bench for the night to weathering Hurricane Matthew in a car. West is joined by choreographer George Barrett, music director Christian Foushee-Green and performers Chinita Howard, Artis Swann and Synthia Bethea.

The musical, sponsored by Carolina Performing Arts, is sold-out for both showings this weekend at CURRENT ArtSpace, but the soundtrack and film can be pre-ordered online.