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the mutant hybrid flower of Southern womanhood

Weird Charlotte: Are you originally from Charlotte, or did you come here from somewhere else? If you came here from somewhere else, where was that, when did you land here, and why?

Phoenix: Born here, got the hell out in 1969 when I was 15. Then "troo luv" called me back and I've been here since late 1983. Now that all my family members have moved on, I hope to do the same as soon as the right possibility presents itself.

WC: Of all you've contributed to the cultural fabric of Charlotte, what are some of your personal favorites?

Phoenix: Being part of the series of Vision Explosions, which were multimedia extravaganzas consisting of everything from paintings and video installations to live music and performance art. A dedicated collective of local artists/activists that called themselves Soul Glasses worked their butts off transforming an old but partially renovated industrial loft into a gallery/theatre space. As I remember, it was the 300 block of 8th Street, near the corner of Brevard. The building still exists, but has morphed into many smaller, more posh studio spaces. There used to be a gravel parking lot and a sweet little old white frame house enclosed in an 8-foot high chain link fence (to discourage intruders). The fence was covered in many lovely varieties of vines and flowers courtesy of the many artists that passed through. Also, many blackberry bushes grew along the edges of the gravel lot; we ate many luscious berries!

The little house and gravel lot are gone now, entombed in asphalt. And the Vision Explosions haven't happened for many years, either. Soul Glasses lost the use of the 8th Street. place, did one or two shows at the old Hart-Witzen gallery on 6th Street, which was razed to make way for the city's Light Rail project. I could fill your ears with various expletives here, but will spare you. Both of the buildings and the Vision Explosions should inhabit a prominent place in the make Charlotte weird Hall of Fame. I've been part of many other cultural happenings around town as well, as a performing musician in bands of various genres; I produced, directed, and edited (with the help of the amazing Anja Benbow) my show, Gaia TV, which aired on the local public access channel, and also make short films that have aired on Z-Axis TV. I've modeled for art classes at Queens College (sculpture,painting, and drawing), and love letting my freak flag fly!!!

WC: What strengthens your dedication to do what you do, in spite of the fact that Charlotte has not yet developed a critical mass of creatively-attuned people?

Phoenix: Knowing the creatively-attuned people that do exist here and being inspired by them. And traveling as often as possible.

WC: What sometimes discourages you about Charlotte and makes you dream of living somewhere else? And where would that somewhere else be?

Phoenix: There's not much of a sense of community among the local artists. And the corporate rape of architectural and natural treasures here is disheartening. In an ideal world, I'd be a jet-age gypsy.

WC: What would help make Charlotte a more vibrant cultural city?

Phoenix: Living within our integrity and cultivating our personal style. More enlightened and progressive city leadership. Putting more funding in the hands of arts groups instead of sports team-owning billionaires. Preserving viable green space and not tearing down our history. Most importantly: separation of church and state!!!

WC: What can we do right now to make Charlotte a more vibrant cultural city?

Phoenix: Live our lives as art. Support the work of local artists whose work we admire. Vote for the candidates who will most help to implement the vision of Charlotte's cultural vibrancy. Foster community with all our relations, be they animal, vegetable or mineral. And keep a sense of humor when the process seems to be at a standstill!

WC: Let's say there's some creative person out there who's considering moving to Charlotte. If you could say one thing to them, what would it be?

Phoenix: Have you considered San Francisco?

alemehbaraka@yahoo.com

Phoenix's flickr pages

Phoenix on facebook

1/29/06 (revised 2/12/2010)