Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Healing Blues is a social-practice art project that began as a response to an invitation to exhibit art in a downtown storefront to promote the annual blues music festival in Greensboro NC. I conceived the project in which homeless storytellers and musicians collaborated to create The Healing Blues album. I partnered with  renowned jazz and blues musician, music professor Dr. Dave Fox, who produced the CD. The 15 songs relate the stories and struggles of the homeless population of Greensboro NC, and sales and donations raised funds for the Interactive Resource Center (a day center for the homeless). Local professional musicians donated their performances to the project. The homeless storytellers received a share of the royalties and an honorarium as cultural producers for the CD.

Songwriters and homeless storytellers at Elsewhere Museum for a Healing Blues Cafe
It was determined that the storytellers who contributed to the songs would all be IRC clients. They included Isiahm Wardlow, Shannon Stewart, Anita Gilmore, Tresa Scott, Ryan Lennon, Mike Schumacher, Kris Schumacher, Yolanda Batts, Walter Jamison, Chris Ward, Necole MacDonald, Eric Barnes and Forrest Willis.

Participating songwriters were Kris Ferris, Kristy Jackson, David Fox, Bubba Klinefelter and Shiela Klinefelter, Sam Frazier, Mike “Wezo” Wesolowski, Terry and Janice VunCannon, Mark Harrison, Greensboro College Professors Jon Epstein and Neil Clegg and GC marketing director Kim Thore.

In June of 2014 Fox began working on the production of the CD with Benjy Johnson of Earthtones Recording in Greensboro, NC. Fox brought in Lawyers, Guns, and Money, The Fairlanes, Kristy Jackson, Neil Clegg, Jon Epstein, Sam Frazier, The Healing Blues Band (Dave Fox, Roger Kohrs, Chuck Cotton, Benjy Johnson), Heymarket Riot, Big Bump and The Stun Gunz, Chris Carol, Jessica Mashburn, Mike Wesolowski and Charlotte Whitted as well as backup singers and horns to produce the 15 songs on the CD.

Benjy Johnson, Sam Frazier, Roger Kohrs and Dave Fox recording at Earthtones. 
Greensboro College staff, students and faculty from the Art, Music, Business, Communications and Sociology department wrote songs, performed on the CD, publicized the project and helped stage concerts.

ArtsGreensboro and the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society supported the project through fundraising and publicity.  Many individuals supported crowd-funding campaigns, purchased Healing Blues CD’s and attended Healing Blues concerts. To date $10,000 has been raised for the Interactive Resource Center and homeless storytellers.

This project illustrates how the healing process of talking about and memorializing one’s struggle in living music can improve the lives of individuals and how broad community partnerships involving the arts, education, social services and philanthropy can address the needs of our most vulnerable communities.

Here is a video I made for the Lawyers, Guns & Money song that features the homeless co author of the song Shannon Stewart.

The project is featured in Blues Magazine out of UK and Free Speech TV in the US as well as many local newspapers, TV and radio stations. 

To get involved go to where you can learn more about the project, purchase Healing Blues CD’s or contact project leaders.

A few quotes about the project:
Last night's show was fantastic beyond what I could have imagined. To be able to sit with our guests and see their physical responses to hearing their stories come alive through music was truly a type of genius. 
Gwen Frisbie-Fulton – IRC Director of Fund Development and Marketing

"Never before in my forty five years living in the blues community has a project taken me as close to understanding what the blues is about as this one has."
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro

"After the Healing Blues show at Ziggy's Sunday night, as I was packing up, this gentleman came up to the side of the stage. He said to me, " I just found out that you guys are doing this for me...thank you so much. Man, it's really cool that you all would do this...." When I left the gig, I turned down Cherry Street, and I'm pretty sure I saw that gentleman walking down the side of the road in the night rain. It never was about us as musicians, or our bands, or how well we played in front of each other, or how many people showed up....  it was about him....  that person walking somewhere in the rain without a home." 
Roger Kohrs, The Healing Blues Band

"The young man I wrote my song about has now moved into an apartment, and I've been taking some household items to him. I took him a CD player with a copy of Healing Blues. He is so thankful and excited about the music and stories being told, and yes, this is much bigger than the music and bands. It's about helping others who, well basically, have nothing. Thanks for all your hard work. All we can try to do before our time is through here on Earth, is try to make it a little better place..."
Mark "buddyro" Harrison, The Fairlanes

In the I'm Walkin' video Shannon Stewart travels through many parts of Greensboro that are important to the homeless community, The Healing Blues project and civil rights in Greensboro, NC. 

Shannon in rail yard near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Greensboro, NC
Shannon walking near W. Lewis St. with Lee St. behind him, Greensboro, NC
Shannon on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive near S. Elm St., Greensboro, NC
Shannon in building near W. Lewis St. by the Forge and Elsewhere, Greensboro, NC
Shannon with Greensboro Cultural Center on left and Festival Park behind him, Greensboro, NC

Shannon walking up to Greensboro Public Library, Greensboro, NC
Shannon at Interactive Resource Center, Greensboro, NC
Shannon on East Washington St., Greensboro, NC
Shannon at South Elm and Barnhardt Streets, Greensboro, NC
Shannon at International Civil Rights Center and Museum on South Elm St., Greensboro, NC
Shannon near the Public Library and North Church St., Greensboro, NC
Shannon near Kress Terrace on S. Greene St., Greensboro, NC
Shannon and Lawyers Guns & Money on Kress Terrace, Greensboro, NC
Shannon and Terry Vun Cannon on Kress Terrace, Greensboro, NC

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, it is humbling and beautiful.