Thursday, March 7, 2013

Interview with Ashlie White, the curator of Pet Tich Eye

I've always heard the phrase giving back to your community. I've thought a lot about what that means. Which community? What sort of giving back? How sustainable should this gift action be? Each one of us comes from a plethora of communities and some are worth giving back to and some are not. As individuals, it becomes important to differentiate the worthwhile communities. For instance, I spent my adolescence in the Northern suburbs of Chicago, but was born in Los Angeles, and in between lived in Washington, D.C. That's three communities. And I don't think I really have any loyalty to any of them or feel the need to give back.

But when I heard about Pet Tich Eye, a collaborative art project curated by Ashlie White, I was very excited. Pet Tich Eye takes more than thirty musicians, ten photographers, ten visual artists, and ten community organizers from the Triangle area of North Carolina and makes it into a cohesive unit - one that is sustainable. I found out about the project through their KICKSTARTER, but the idea had been in the works for a while. It's truly a moving idea, indicative of the feeling anyone gets while going to a local show in the Triangle, spending an hour in a coffee shop on ninth street, or seeing the fliers on the walls at All Day Records.

The triangle area is a community worth giving back to, and it's blowing up with art from the full-frame documentary festival, to DPAC's world-class theatre, to the many great bands springing up throughout any of the three cities. This is a project worth supporting and it's something that I think many cities could try and emulate, though perhaps with different results. That being said, I see it as a method of uniting artists and a community, and should be a beacon of what those of us in the art community should strive for.

You can check out their Facebook page HERE

Jordan: What is Pet Tich Eye? How did it come to fruition and how long has it been in the works?

Ashlie: Pet-Tich-Eye is, at this very moment, a collaboration of more than 30 musicians, 10 photographers, 10 visual artists and 10 community organizations. We hope that the release of this 10-song record will be just the beginning of many collaborations to come. The website will be an outlet to release original music with this same collaborative structure in the future. We are encouraging musicians who want to record a collaboration to partner with a community organization and release the song through our website. Perhaps, if the interest is there, we'll put another vinyl out in the future.

J: I read that Pet Tich Eye was something of an enigma from the Triangle area. What's the story behind the man and the name of the project?

A: I read about Pet-Tich-Eye in Durham, A Bull City Story by Jim Wise. Pet-Tich-Eye was the nickname of the son of a historical Triangle trouble maker named Ben Peeler. I haven't found any other writings about Pet-Tich-Eye or any references to his real name. I saw his name in the book and it caught my eye. I thought it was obscure enough that, when searched for on the web, the term "Pet-Tich-Eye" would only ever populate results for our project and for history books about our area. I thought that was a cool link between our project and our community.

J: I moved from Durham in May, but I remember that the music scene in the Triangle area was incredibly tightly-knit, friendly, and fun. How do you think the Triangle area impacted the project? Do you think the project could have come from anywhere else?

A: I grew up near the Triangle and went to high school in Raleigh and undergrad in Chapel Hill. I've travelled a lot and lived in several other cities/states before moving to Durham in 2011. I've never experienced this type of creative enthusiasm in any other area. The music scene here is exactly like you said, tightly-knit and friendly. One thing that makes the Triangle music community different than other music communities is the support the musicians provide for each other. There is a humbleness about most Triangle musicians that comes from the recognition of the immense talent surrounding them at every turn. The show up in numbers at each other's shows and are always the faces seen near the front of the stage. Here the creative community understands that we are living off the same lifeline. The same people who care about this community and support the community organizations are also the people who come out to support the music and arts. 

A: I've wondered if this project could be done anywhere else; I'm certain it could be, but I'm not sure any community would approach it with the same enthusiasm and commitment as this group of musicians did. 

J: What role has the South played in the creation of the project, especially in an area that, to me, seems to be a bit of an anomalous Southern area, in terms of industry, art, and many incredible universities?

A: I'm very proud to live in a community that embraces its Southern roots while simultaneously supporting such an openminded and creative community. Many of the amazing people on this project are not from the South but have found beauty in our area that has kept them here. I was raised in a rural North Carolina community and it doesn't take long to hear it in my voice. I am proud of where I come from, but I am also painfully aware of the stereotypes about the South. For me and many of the people around me, our community is special because there are some amazing things happening here and a bunch of amazing people making those things happen.

J: What has been your role in the Pet Tich Eye project?

A: I am the curator of the project. I also photographed Ivan Howard, Heather McEntire and JYU in the studio when they recorded East Coast/West Coast Time.  

A: I came up with the concept and talked it over with Ivan Howard, a dear friend and inspiration,  who encouraged me to proceed with the idea and make it a reality. 
I asked 10 of the musicians, who I knew personally, to be a part of the project. I asked each of them to choose two musicians to collaborate with, a photographer to document the creative process, a visual artist to create album art for the song and a community organization to be a beneficiary. I organized studio schedules and worked closely with the engineers through the recording, mixing and mastering of the record. Once we release the record, I hope to continue curating collaborations to release on the website. 

J: What have been the roles of the different photographers and musicians? Do most people focus on just the art aspect, or do people take on more responsibility?

A:  I think the photographers knew that they were witnessing and documenting something special when they were in the studio. It was really nice to see the musicians so open to having the photographers around all day. Some of the photographers brought in lights and some did portraits. It was interesting to see how each of the photographers worked in the space. 

A: Most of the artists (musicians, photographers, visual artists) just focused on their one task or contribution to the project. Everyone has been tremendously helpful in helping me promote the project, but for this first recording it was hard to wrap my brain around delegating responsibilities. Moving forward, I know there are a lot of people who want to see this concept work and a lot of people who are invested in doing what needs doing to make it work. 

J: What are a couple memorable moments that you've experienced from the project?

A: Wow, it's hard to narrow that down. I was fortunate enough to attend portions of all of the studio sessions, so I have very specific and special memories from each day recording. One of the most memorable moments was towards the end of the mastering session with Brent Lambert at Kitchen Mastering. I realized that the project was real, that we had accomplished our goal to create something special and I got pretty emotional.   

J: Contrarily, what has been especially hard working with so many people and getting everything worked out? Are there any specific obstacles you've had to deal with?

A: Scheduling was the hardest thing to organize and nail down. Another challenging part of the project was trying to decide whether or not to do a Kickstarter and how to announce the project to the world. 

J: What is the show at Motorco going to be like? I wish I could take a flight to Durham and see it! So many great musicians in one room!

A: We are going to set up the garage space as a gallery of all the album art and photographs. We want people to get a feeling of what this project actually encompasses besides the music. The art and photographs that have not sold through the Kickstarter campaign will be up for silent auction that night in order to make some money for the musicians. The gallery will open at 6 pm and the music will start at 8pm. Several of the musicians will be on tour but we have confirmations from five of the groups who will play their songs. We also have an exciting announcement about the two bands that will be joining the bill that night, which is coming soon. 

J: Is this going to be a one-off project or do you have more stuff to come from such great talent?

A: We've built this project to be sustainable. The website will be an outlet for future release and if we see the interest for another physical release, we will definitely consider doing one. The community has to want it and the musicians have to be willing to do the collaborations, but we really hope to see this project move forward. Really, there are no limits to the awesomeness that can happen. 

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