Written By Jennifer Baron
On an unseasonably balmy February evening, passersby stroll down Academy Street in downtown Cary and notice light and movement filling two large picture windows at the home at 114. The little yellow house is awash in images of people and places. Some are recognizable Cary landmarks, others are places you may never have known existed. All are part of Cary Visual Art’s recent public art exhibit, “Home Sweet Cary.”
“I think it’s very original, very modern and takes art right out into the street,” exclaimed Angeles Martinez de Carvajal as she stood outside the Academy Street home poised to snap photos of her participation in the community-wide art project on display in the windows.
Originally from Seville, Spain, Martinez and her Holland-born husband moved to Cary in 2009 after living and traveling all over the globe. They confirm CVA’s latest endeavor has a very cosmopolitan feel, something you might see in Berlin or Madrid, but Cary?
“We feel like there might have been a preconceived idea of what Cary is to a lot of people,” said Cary Visual Art’s Program Director Clare Sifford. “Home is not always about four walls. It’s about people, places and experiences.”
CVA hoped to use the visual art experience to bring Cary’s different demographics together under the central theme of “home.” Plus, they were looking for a project that was new and fresh, something that went beyond “sculpture on the corner.”
Left: As night falls in Cary, picture windows are illuminated with a slideshow of people and places depicting life in Cary, or as Cary Visual Art called it, “Home Sweet Cary.” Right: Artist in residence Helen Marshall socializes during an open house exhibition Feb. 9 at 114 Academy St. Home Sweet Cary is a community-wide participatory art project created by artists in residence Marshall and Ferrini.
To bring cutting-edge public art to the citizens of Cary, the CVA turned to renowned British artist Helen Marshall. Having worked mostly in London and other urban areas, Marshall had never even heard of Cary before. After visiting in 2009, the lens-based artist made a proposal for an artist residency project. She joined forces with Italian artist Alessandra Ferrini and the two lived in an old farmhouse for three weeks while they canvassed Cary in a quest to find out what “home” is to residents. The result fuses photography, audio, video, text, blogging and even Google maps.
Marshall knew most people had never seen art like this before and she wanted them to accept it. She decided the best thing to do was immerse herself quickly, completely and intimately in people’s lives.
“I did that by literally walking in their homes,” explained Marshall in her affable yet soothing British accent. In 21 days, she visited with 25 families in their homes, and in one case, a car. Armed with the tools of her trade, a computer, a still camera and a video camera, Marshall recorded what “home” meant to them. Her work was then posted on a blog and displayed as part of a nightly projection show on the windows of 114 Academy Street.
Simultaneously, Ferrini was out talking with residents, mainly high school students and seniors about their concept of “home.” Participants defined “home” in handwritten form and Ferrini added photos to their stories and created an art wall at 114 Academy St. to showcase their responses. Those locales were also displayed on a large Google map, yet another visual way to see how and where people experience “home” in Cary.
Left: Hand-written vignettes of Cary life by Cary participants and accompanying photos are displayed on a wall at 114 Academy St, which drew a large crowd Feb. 9 for the “Home Sweet Cary” open house. Right: Cary resident Jarod Cratzer watches video clips of Cary residents who participated in Home Sweet Cary art project.
What is Home?
The answers were as varied as the participants. Some cited well known landmarks like the Page-Walker Hotel, Umstead Park and Ashworth Drugs. Offbeat locales like Galaxy Cinema, Silverton Swim Club and Jellybeans Skating Center defined home for others.
For 15-year-old Priyanka Venkannagari, a member of Cary’s large Indian population, “home” is the Sri Venkateswara Temple of North Carolina. The gleaming white edifice off Highway 54 has always been a big part of the teen’s life.
“It has a peaceful atmosphere where I feel safe, which is one of the biggest things a home is to me,” said Venkannagari.
The CVA project also opened the teenager’s eyes to a new art form and new people.
“It changed my opinion about what art was and made me think more about what Cary means to me,” the teen explained. “Just to see all the experiences people had, the good and the bad, and we all still call it home.”
Ella Vinson’s ancestors have been in Cary since the 1860s. The longtime educator is an expert on the history of black Cary. For her, “home” can be found in the photos, awards and books chronicling her family’s history and achievements in the Town of Cary.
For Scott and Wendy Busby who grew up in Cary, “home” really is about the house. In 1995, the couple saved a Chatham Street house built in 1892 from demolition. They had it moved and have been lovingly restoring it ever since. The theme of “Home Sweet Cary” spoke to their hearts.
“We love our home. We love Cary,” Wendy said simply. “It is home sweet home to us.”
With their participation, the Busbys and others were not only part of a contemporary art project but also played a role in preserving Cary’s past, present and future.
For more information or to view this project, visit www.homesweetcary.com