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Charlottesville's Paramount Theater is looking for enterprising artists for a special (and historic) project

As the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act approaches, Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater is extending an open call to local artists to address the history of segregation and civil rights in a way everyone can see.

Charlottesville-area artists are invited to send in proposals for the Third Street Box Office at the Paramount Project, which is supported by a grant from the League of Historic American Theaters’ Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Initiative. The Charlottesville-based New City Arts nonprofit arts initiative is providing consulting support. Completed applications are due by May 1.

Three artists will be chosen, and each will receive an honorarium of $2,500 to present an original temporary work to be displayed for three weeks at the site of the box office Black patrons used during the segregation era. The winning artists will be responsible for installing and removing their work and for obtaining the materials and equipment they need to complete their projects.

During segregation, Black patrons were allowed to enter the Paramount only through the Third Street entrance. Once inside, they were allowed to sit only in the balcony.

Finalists will be contacted May 10, and three artists will be selected May 20. The projects will be opened to the public starting on July 2, July 30 and Aug. 27.

Julie Montross, executive director of the Paramount, took time to answer some questions from The Daily Progress about the project.

Which art media will make the most sense for this space (mural, video, painting, etc.)? Are there media you are particularly hoping to see artists use?

What’s unique is that the possibilities are almost infinite. The “canvas” includes doors, windows, exterior brick and an awning. We can’t wait to see what ideas come.

How can this project serve as a way to educate people about the logistical complexities and insults of segregation? Many folks are too young to remember the limits it placed on access to so many things we take for granted now.

Segregation was more than a separate entrance. There were multiple layers that worked to promote the practice of “less than.” Steeper stairs, narrower hallways and aisles and seats, fewer bathrooms, to name a few. These parts of segregation reinforced a terrible feeling, and that feeling didn’t just disappear. I hope that when young people see actual examples of how segregation was implemented, they get a view into how it felt and why it was so ugly.

What makes art such a powerful tool to tell this story?

The artists and their voices. Feelings and perspectives can be presented in so many ways. Art educates, reaching all walks of life, and extends beyond language. Artists have the power to share personal stories that resonate widely.

Will the artists be able to include interactive elements, such as performances or reenactments?

Of course. We’d love to see proposals that include interaction. One of the core goals of this initiative is to encourage dialogue and provoke thoughts and thoughtful conversations. We hope it will inspire productive discussions that help tear down barriers.

Can people volunteer to help the artists in any way?

We’ll see. It depends on what the artist proposes, and I sure hope that if people want to volunteer that there’s a way for them to do that.


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