By Anita Overcash
For artists David Burns and Austin Young of Fallen Fruit, community art projects are some of the sweetest and juiciest ways to make a controversial statement.
Fallen Fruit is an art collaborative that’s mapping out and fostering space for more fruit trees to be planted in public places, in addition to creating site-specific projects and installations around the concept of healthy ideas. The duo just wrapped up their art residency at McColl Center for Art + Innovation in early May.
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While here, they worked with McColl Center visitors to reap the benefits of communal art-making. Fallen Fruit facilitated a collage-making experience in their studio during one of our Open Studio Saturdays. The result: a Charlotte-centric, issues-charged zine.
In addition to providing the materials for their public participatory project, Fallen Fruit Magazine, which included cutouts of various fruit and fashion magazines, the artists asked participants while they worked to think about the theme of “Utopia” and current events, such as the Women's March on the day after the 2017 presidential inauguration.
“We are inspired by images about protest,” Young and Burns note. “Perhaps the Women’s March that had just happened galvanized everyone. People are really thinking about what could make the world a better place, and feeling empowered.”
Inside the zine
Women’s rights and the inauguration weren’t the only subjects that manifested in the zine. Other pieces addressed gender identity, animal rights, LGBTQ rights, religious freedom, and varying assessments of Charlotte’s economic and racial disparities.
“People have a lot to say,” the artists explain. “We are completely okay with challenging images and ideas that are open for discussions and interpretations.”
Inside the zine
While the pair was active during the event, they refrained from creating an instructional, class-like atmosphere. Outside of materials distribution, Young and Burns provided visitors with little more than positive encouragement.
The artists love to be surprised by each participant’s creativity. They describe the process: “We think of the whole experience, the public engagement, as a piece of art. There is no right or wrong way to participate. Just show up.”
In regards to the emphasis on fruit, Young and Burns feel that fruit is non-polarizing and neutral. They believe that fruit adds a sense of humor, fun, and magic to artwork.
The simplistic, yet sophisticated nature of collage techniques plays a role in the project’s overall flexibility and engagement with artists and amateurs alike. In addition, Young and Burns note other benefits to collage work.
Inside the zine
“It can be a platform with subtly small details and overarching messages. Collectively, the collages become a zine and there are nuances in the pages that truly stand out,” Young and Burns both note of their collaborations with the community.
“We have realized that when a zine is complete it has its own underlying message about society and culture.”
Though the zine may or may not influence actual change in terms of women's rights, gender issues, and other problems in Charlotte and beyond, one thing's for sure: It empowered McColl Center visitors to be confident in their efforts to create art that pushes the limits.
Stand up to the man with an orange in your hand? Indeed. With the power of art, it's never too late to demand positive change.
Anita Overcash is a writer and editor based in Charlotte.
Photo: David Burns and Austin Young of Fallen Fruit by Jim Newberry (Courtesy of the artists)
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for Art + Innovation