FACETIME- 'Mother.Father': Portraits to create a community

Art is one thing that brings newcomers to Charlottesville, and that has the tendency to drive up prices for the rest of us. But could Art, in a strange turnabout, actually brings us together?
Charlottesville artist Johnny Fogg thinks so, and he's attempting to do just that with his latest community art project, Mother.Father.

"I don't want to get into an argument about art being elitist," says the 20-year-old Fogg, "but I feel like it doesn't always have to be, and that there's a whole lot of value to making it more universal– and more applicable to everyone's life."

Fogg's goal is to pass out over 55,000 blank cards to residents "from Farmville to Friendship Court," he says, asking them to draw a picture of their mother and father and send it back to him. He wants to create a mobile sanctuary– on a flatbed trailer and filled with portraits– that will travel around the area, displaying the art and encouraging viewers to contribute their own work to the collection.

Although the cards could be easily sent out in a mass mailing, Fogg wants to personally hand the cards to as many residents as possible (with help from a few volunteers), making the request for portraits more personal, and hopefully increasing the project's chances for success.

"It doesn't just show up in someone's mailbox, and they say, 'What is this? Are they trying to sell me something?' Instead, it's 'Hey, would you do this?'" he says.

"It's fun to stop strangers on the street and just say, 'Do you mind if I talk to you about an art project I'm doing?'" he says. "I feel like people are rarely challenged as they go about doing their thing on a day-to-day basis."

The project's potential to challenge a broad community through the arts has made it popular in local schools: Fogg has already been promised around 3,000 cards from area art teachers who are interested in having their students create portraits for the project.

In addition, he's attracted the attention of The Bridge progressive arts initiative and the Charlottesville Community Design Center, which are sponsoring the building of Fogg's mobile gallery and the exhibition of the portraits.

"The project itself embodies so much of what we're trying to do with our programs" says Greg Kelly, program director for The Bridge. "It's getting the creative practice integrated into people's lives instead of just into artists' lives.

"When we think of art, we tend to think of a product that hangs on a wall or sits on a pedestal" says Kelly. "Mother.Father is much more about the process and the interaction of the people who are creating it."

Johnny Fogg