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Waco art shows address inequality, climate change

Waco art shows address inequality, climate change

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Even as physical viewing of visual art is still limited due to COVID-19 concerns, Waco artists are still using their work to communicate a message.

For Bradley Settles, color overlays on charcoal drawings and black-and-white photographs carry his message of the geography of inequality, particularly the results of past practices such as redlining, in his exhibit “The Rough Draft Documents” at downtown’s Cultivate 7twelve.

For more than 80 others, including local students, the message is awareness of the climate change crisis, captured in the fourth annual — and first virtual — “Climate Crisis Art Exhibit,” viewable online.

Settles, a 37-year-old art teacher at University High School, said his latest exhibit evolved from his last show at Cultivate 7twelve, which explored how borders often are a human construct at odds to the natural landscapes they cross.

In “The Rough Draft Documents,” he looks at urban environments and the legacy of red-lining, in which prospective minority homeowners often were shut out of certain neighborhoods because of bank lending practices.

Even though that practice was outlawed decades ago, Settles said its aftermath can still be seen in poorer neighborhoods with a higher rate of health problems, less access to food and lower life expectancy.

In “Cast Shadows,” Settles places color blocks over a giant charcoal sketch of Waco in the 1950s to suggest the way red-lining and other practices confined some Waco residents to certain areas. A companion piece in scale, the oversized “The Color Of Law,” does something similar with an aerial photo of Washington, D.C., the idea being that governmental policies also have consequences in shaping on-the-ground realities of poverty and quality of life.

Two pieces printed in black and white on rough burlap backgrounds contrast dualities for many city residents finding their choices constrained by factors outside their control: “For Sale/For Rent” and “Revitalization/Gentrification.”

“A lot of this is about perspective,” the artist explained. “In a very straightforward manner, I’m bringing it to everyone’s attention.”

“The Rough Draft Documents” offers physical works in a physical space, but the fourth annual “Climate Crisis Art Exhibit,” organized by the Waco Friends of Climate, has gone virtual this year, moving online when COVID-19 measures made finding a workable venue a problem, said organizer Alan Northcutt.

Using software to craft a virtual art gallery online, one with walls mounted with framed works of art, Northcutt worked with his son Adrian, a senior at Vanguard College Preparatory School. The result, accessible at climatecrisisartexhibit.org, is split into Gallery A for works by adult artists and Gallery B for student ones.

“The main purpose of the show is to educate people and inform their awareness of the climate crisis,” he said. The exhibit will be up through November with viewers able to vote on their favorites for end of exhibit awards.

So far the online exhibit has logged more than 500 visitors and may see a return in the future. “This is accessible for a lot of folks,” he said.

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