The Rhizome Collective is an Art-in/with community group where education, art, and activism intersect.
Yesterday ArtPlace America, a 10-year collab among foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions, announced an $8.7 million investment in communities across the country as part of its National Creative Placemaking Fund. As part of this investment, ArtPlace granted the Charleston Rhizome Collective $300,000 for their conNECKtedTOO project, a "solidarity hub of tiny businesses for minorities and women."
While the project is still in its very early stages (funding doesn't officially start until January 2018), we do know that a mobile app is part of the Rhizome Collective's end goal. In a press release the organization describes the project:
conNECKtedTOO seeks to create a solidarity hub and network linking Tiny Neighborhood Businesses to cumulate buying and selling power, engage residents in decisions over business ownership, loans, job training, hiring practices, wholesale prices, schooling and housing. The network will address the needs of Small/Tiny Businesses, using installations, visuals, forums, a tour, an app-based interactive map and a youth entrepreneurship program.
A graphic, below, also lays out the timeline for the project.
According to Jean-Marie Mauclet, a member of the Rhizome Collective (and co-owner of Fast & French) this project has been 15 years in the making. "There's a lot of history," he says. "It's all related to questions of social and moral justice and education."
If that all sounds a little intangible, it's because it is. "We're extremely grassroots," says Mauclet. But, ultimately, the Rhizome wants to "elevate the voice of the people not seen or heard."
The Rhizome Collective, comprised of Mauclet, Gwylene Gallimard, Pamella Gibbs, Debra Holt, and La'Sheia Oubre, presented their years of research most recently at the City Gallery's show, conNECKted: Imaginings for Truth and Reconciliation
, this past June.
Installations in the gallery addressed racism, gentrification, interconnectivity, reconciliation, and belonging. There was wallpaper made of 100 postcards sent by 100 Lowcountry residents to Mayor Tecklenburg during his first 100 days in office. There were TVs playing recorded interviews with James Simmons middle school students, asking questions like, "Why do people criticize other people if they just met them?" There were tiny wooden house replicas, decorated with quotes from the people who lived in the real homes.
Mauclet says that the themes from the show — addressing gentrification, racism, and belonging in Charleston — will carry over into conNECKtedTOO. "It's about imagining the arts doing business." Mauclet adds, "Nothing I say does anything without support."
That support, from the city of Charleston and ArtPlace, will hopefully counteract what Mauclet describes as "the weight of gentrification and discomfort."
Learn more about the project at connecktedtoo.org.