A new pair of creatives has been chosen to carry on the South End Verses project that originally launched in 2016. C3 Lab recently announced the selection of visual artist Teddy Espinales and writer Dawn Poulterer-Woods to partner for this year’s South End Verses installation, a collaborative public art project displayed on the side of the arts compound and replaced twice a year.
(For full disclosure: the author of this story served on the South End Verses selection committee, which came to an agreement on each artist based on submitted work without knowing who the artists were.)
A native of a small fishing town on the coast of Ecuador, Espinales grew up traveling between there and The Bronx in New York, where he went to school. He graduated from Baruch College in New York City, then taught in the NYC Department of Education before moving to Charlotte in 2010. His work has been featured at the Hart Witzen Gallery in NoDa and twice at C3 Lab — once as part of Dia De Los Casi Muertos and another time as part of a group exhibit with the rest of the OBRA Collective.
Poulterer-Woods has been an educator for most of her adult life, from the high-school classroom to the counseling office and now as a speaker and writer. A few years ago, she took a sabbatical in Pennsylvania after experiencing burnout. She immersed herself in nature, watercolor and writing.
Though she identifies more as an essay writer than a poet, Poulterer-Woods jumped at the chance to create for South End Verses. She has already finished a poem for the project that she hopes will fit alongside Espinales’ work in full, though that will depend on how they work together in designing the installation.
It’s Poulterer-Woods’ first time working in collaboration with a visual artist, she said.
“I’ve never done anything with visual art, but there are some pieces out there that you stumble upon … they will have some kind of words around even describing part of the journey and why they wrote that and I’m like, it just makes that painting come more alive for me,” Poulterer-Woods said. “So words make sense, but they don’t need to be there. They can distract or they can help.”
Past South End Verses collaborators have included Bree Stallings and Hollis Austin, who worked together on the debut piece that went up in late 2016; and Marquis Love and Scott Partridge, who collaborated on a 3D portrait of Angela Davis accompanied by Love’s words.
After meeting a few times to discuss approaches to the new installation, Espinales and Poulterer-Woods decided they would address economic inequality with the new project.
Espinales grew up in Ecuador, where there was no middle class, he said. The topic is especially relevant in the space where the billboard-style art piece will go on Remount Road, where public housing projects like Brookhill Village and Southside Homes are surrounded by new development.
“Ten years ago, the first time I ever drove through Remount, through this area specifically, this area was completely different,” Espinales said. “There was public housing, there weren’t any breweries or anything like that.”
Espinales said he recently debated with a coworker about the pros and cons of local development after telling him he wanted to address the changes happening in South End.
“He said, ‘Is that really a negative thing, if they’re cleaning up the neighborhood?’” Espinales recalled. “Well, no, this neighborhood had character. If people are staggering out drunk from a brewery, is that progress for a neighborhood? So that’s why this is really meaningful for me.”
The two met after learning they had been chosen for the project and each brought a few potential topics and themes. When Espinales mentioned economic inequality, it resonated more with Poulterer-Woods than any of the ideas they had previously discussed, she said.
“I don’t know poverty, but I feel so separate from the banking world here, so I can’t imagine being someone who really struggles financially,” she said.
As many in Charlotte know, an infamous report released by Harvard researchers in 2015 ranked Charlotte last out of the country’s 50 largest cities in terms of potential for economic mobility.
To accompany Poulterer-Woods’ poem, Espinales has been working on water-color portraiture that he is styling after a movie poster, with different “characters” looking in different directions. The duo aims to have the installation up by mid-May.