Our family home in Alabama, Klein, has become the consuming focus for my art practice and even an organizer for my life. Klein is a plantation house built in 1841 that has been mostly vacant for 70 years. In 2018, when the caretaking of the house fell to me, I began a series of collaborations with other artists, curators, community organizers, and preservationists involved in various ways with Alabama to open the long-closed house and cemetery and activate the house through art. I am grateful to family and friends for coalescing around this vision and helping to move the house forward into the 21st century.
These collaborations have launched a series of conversations and exhibitions in the house that began in 2018. In October 2018, people descended from and related to the place, were invited to rededicate the two segregated but adjacent family cemeteries. During that homecoming, we met for a facilitated conversation and shared a meal in the deteriorated home. We took a first step to know each other as people with a shared but divided heritage and discussed matters of importance to communal life today. Theoangelo Perkins and I, descendants of the black and white families associated with the house respectively, co-chaired of the event, and T. Marie King, facilitated the conversation. Klein Homecoming was part of the Alabama For Freedoms project, one of a number of activities occurring in 50 states during 2018. For Freedoms provides a national platform for art, civic engagement, and discourse to explore what freedoms in the 21st century look like.
In December 2018, we incorporated Klein Arts & Culture as a nonprofit corporation to preserve the house as a venue for arts, education and cultural events. In late 2019, artists considering the legacies and divisions of the South will create an installation at Klein, with a corresponding catalog. This will bring multiple artistic voices together to consider the precarious nature of history, place, and community relationships from the positions of inside and outside the house. Our long term vision is to establish, through partnerships, a residency for the visual and literary arts housed in outbuildings on the grounds.