What follows is a bittersweet writing. It is merely a description of a project; a reminder of countless hours in the late part of the year 2000 and the early part of 2001 spent in front of a computer, utilizing every bit I could of that burgeoning internet. Somewhere, in the way, way back machine, I had a yahoo email account: firstname.lastname@example.org now long gone once sent thousands and thousands of emails and grant proposals. We were told it couldn’t work unless one of us was “a young Tom Wolfe”. I was given letters of recommendation for the project from leading psychologists, and social workers across the country. There is a part of me, that still hasn’t given up on this idea, this plan to paint a picture of our country, our world, through the eyes of each other.
Experience America Project
What is the EAP?
The EAP is a four-part independent multi-media project, designed to:
expose new or undiscovered artists of various disciplines, promote unity, harmony, and peace by finding, showing, and publishing art from around the U.S. that transcends preconceived boundaries of race, religion, sex, socio-economic status, culture, etc., combat the present media trend to expose differences in each other, by magnifying the
similarities instead. The project includes two books, a music CD, and a video documentary. The first book, “Everyone Has a Story”, will contain 15-25 short biographies of people met on the journey. The second book, “As I See It”, will contain visual artwork, short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction works from undiscovered or unknown artists around the country. The third phase will be a musical compilation, again untitled, and also from unknown artists. The fourth phase of the project will be a video documentary titled “the Experience America Project, Because Everyone Has a Story”. This will contain footage of random interviews throughout the project on current issues, cultures, arts, and the individual’s message to humanity.
Everyone Has a Story
In “Everyone Has a Story”, I will be exploring life stories and life changing moments with a wide variety of individuals, chosen at random during encounters as I travel throughout the country. These stories will come from people aged 16 and over, with a special section included for quotes from people whose stories are not used. For this portion of the project I will be using a micro-recorder to tape interviews and a word processor to record and edit. This book is intended to break through stereotypes by showing that our lives and challenges are similar in every circumstance. For instance, they will reflect the joy of finding love and the pain of losing it; the frustrations both of starting with nothing monetarily as well as with everything; the pain and shock of losing loved ones; dealing with disease, current events, and other social issues. It will also show that these and other situations can be easier overcome with spirituality, a good support network, and reaching out to each other. “Everyone Has a Story” will about 400-500 pages in length, in hard-back form.
As I See It
In book two, “As I See It”, I will be working to expose undiscovered, or unknown artists and writers, primarily those who have come from diverse and “other-than” backgrounds. The art included can be any medium, including photography. Art and poetry selected will meet the following guidelines: a. artist will be unknown, b. artist will be from an other-than background, c. art will give either an emotive or logic response, d. will be judged on quality of work, not materials, and e. must transcend or challenge cultural barriers. I will be specifically searching for art and poetry in themes related to human consciousness and emotion, spirituality, inner peace in difficult times, and world affairs. For this portion of the project I will be gathering art in poetry in various parts of the country using copies or originals provided by the artist as well as a word processor and digital imaging device. This portion of the EAP will have no age barrier and will leave room in rear for short artist bios. Poetry and art will be side by side, with art and poetry which have a similar message next to each other. I will be attempting to join the similarities by taking the same message from people of backgrounds. “As I See It” will be approximately 300-400 pages and will also include a section dedicated short fiction and non-fiction following the above guidelines.
In part three of the EAP I will be changing the focus to music. The same general guidelines will apply as in other portions of the project. Musicians will be unknown, and have a message that creates unity through sharing their own culture and life through music. I will be attempting to gather music from the following genres: Soul, Rock, R&B, Rap, Folk, Country, and especially those that join two or more styles. These will primarily be chosen from street performers and will preferably come from an “other-than” background. This will be a double length compilation in compact disk form, and is as yet untitled. For this portion of the project I will need studio time in various parts of the country as well as persons willing to help with the recording equipment. I will also need a computer capable of editing, processing and burning the CD. This portion of the EAP is designed to show the different ways in which cultures and religions approach life through music and to highlight how many do this.
Because Everyone Has a Story
Part four of the EAP will be a video-documentary titled “The Experience America Project; Because Everyone Has a Story”. This documentary will be about 150 minutes long and will be shot in both black and white and color. This portion of the EAP will be interviews with people encountered throughout the country, both those taking part in other portions of the project and those who are not. It will also contain footage of fundraising events and the EAP in progress. Interviews will cover, but will not be limited to current affairs, government, spirituality/religion, socio-economic issues, cultural boundaries and the current justice system, and messages people would like share with the world. Segments will be shot in such a way as to not reveal city locations until the end of the documentary. To this end, topic is going to given precedence over location in the editing stages. For this segment of the EAP I will need a digital video camera and a computer system capable of all necessary editing procedures.
What you have read so far is the core of the EAP, however there is a fifth phase that will happen as the rest of the EAP is completed. I will be gathering all data for this project by traveling a bus converted into a work/travel/living space. This bus will be painted completely white at the out set of the project and as I travel to different cities, I will be seeking out graffiti artists and inviting one from each city to paint a section of the bus. These artists will be asked to create something that defines their city through their own eyes. This will be a collage of America as is the rest of the EAP. All that is needed for this segment of the project is a converted bus and the required paint. This bus will either be kept as a personal memento or donated to an agency or donor that helped make this a reality.
Benefits and Goals
The Experience America Project is not just about art and artists. It is about a people, a nation, and a world without borders. It is about overcoming our fears, so that we may overcome our hatred. It is about understanding, communication, trust, and peace. The EAP will be capable of benefiting the individual, the society, and the business world as well.
On an individual level the EAP will give each of us a greater understanding of each other as people, a greater understanding of other cultures and belief systems, and the understanding that artists are contributors to society, as much as other professionals. These changes range from greater respect for our planet to less violence, racism, and other crimes. I say this mainly because hate is born of fear and fear is born from a lack of understanding. As we begin to take steps that reduce fear and hatred, we have less need for hate crimes, school shootings, bullying, name calling, and, therefore retaliatory actions. As we discover ourselves through each other we have less need for drugs, hatred and fear. Over time, as this message is passed person to person change begins to happen on a societal level. Respect for each other and ourselves increases, we are more likely to smile at one another and to help without being asked. This in turn affects business because workers who are happy are more productive. People who lacked the confidence before may find it, in some one else’s experience, and again people who are happy themselves are more likely to help other people along the way. This, in turn, has the potential to create a greater unity among all peoples.
The goal of the EAP, is to build bridges that in some cases have been torn down by history or world events and in others have never existed. Unity does not mean living in the same neighborhood, nor is it helping when there is an emergency. Unity is about standing together and saying “We ARE one people” and I believe the Experience America Project can show this to many people. For further information on any portion of this project please contact Gloria Wilson, artist, writer, philosopher.