With the historic village of Waterford as a backdrop and serving as inspiration, a two-year-old artist fellowship institute called the Ground Beneath Us is preparing to host its first summer fellowship meeting in Waterford.
The Aug. 3 program, which is open to the public, will feature artists, writers and musicians. It will be held at the John Wesley Community Church, 40125 Bond St. in Waterford, at 6:30 p.m. A suggested donation of $20 will support the Lantern Light Fund of the Waterford Foundation.
The Ground Beneath Us fellowship began when co-founder Daniel Duford, the institute's first fellow, and his friends Armand and Tracy Balboni of Waterford came up with the idea while discussing their love of the community and its history.
“We are trying to build a culture, and this is the beginning. We are hoping it grows and its roots get deeper. The unique social and ecological history of Waterford provides the backdrop and inspiration. We want to find complicated stories and think about them in a parallel way,” Duford said.
Through the work Duford began in Waterford in 2017, he was awarded a residency at MacDowell Colony in 2018 and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019. His project, called John Brown's Vision on the Scaffold, will be in three West Coast museum shows next year.
The 2018 fellows were Folsom50, a project started by Portland, Oregon-based artist Tracy Schlapp and musician Danny Wilson to bring Johnny Cash's "At Folsom Prison" album live into 11 of the 14 prisons in Oregon. They are now doing workshops and a video project throughout the prisons that focuses on social justice and incarceration.
This year's fellow is Portland-based painter Arvie Smith. For decades, he has focused on paintings that use humor and satire to speak to the African American experience.
The event will include a musical lecture with Folsom50 that weaves together stories of working with incarcerated adults in Oregon with the history and legacy of Johnny Cash’s life and music.
Following the musical piece will be a conversation with Duford and Smith. Duford and Smith will discuss making art in the context of history painting, politics and African American history.
Duford said special invited guest Meredith Battle, a Waterford-based author of the novel “Go Down The Mountain,” will speak about the history of the people who once lived in the Shenandoah National Park before it was created.
“This fellowship program is in its early phase, but we are excited to bring other voices to Waterford and to make these connections to different regions. We are looking for artists working with these themes who are nationally recognized,” Duford said.
For more information, visit groundbeneathus.org.