While visiting Oxford, Mississippi, during the Oxford Conference for the Book weekend (March 22-24) we caught word about the Something in Particular project and heard its filming trio was in town. Atlanta artists Cubby West, Melonie Tharpe, and James Martin are traveling the South, hitting 13 cities in 30 days to film well-known and unsung artists and innovators telling their stories. We sat down with Melanie and Cubby to learn about their documentary on Southern creativity. There was no better place to talk with the girls than on the porch of Square Books, the iconic peach-and-periwinkle bookstore overlooking Oxford’s buzzing Square.
The project began with the filmmakers shared vision to shed light on the creative revival that’s taking place in the South. Showing this return to hands-on artistic communities requires personal stories, so Something in Particular hit the road to find them. They started on March 1 covering ground from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina — a metropolis in the middle of an urban resurgence, long departed from its tobacco-country past. The filmmakers found that the Triangle is driven by innovators like CityFabric, a nationally known group rooted in North Carolina that uses maps and urban design to foster community; and bikeCOFFEE, a mobile coffee station that delivers hand-crafted, locally roasted coffees to events around the city. From there, Something in Particular went through Chattanooga, Louisville, Birmingham, and New Orleans meeting artists they’d researched or heard of along the way. They hauled as far as Austin to talk to the founders of a co-op artist space and gallery, UP Collective, which hosts community events like BYOB art socials.
In Oxford, the trio interviewed local artist Kate Roebuck about her online artist collective, BowerBird, where budding artists can show and sell their work. In the name of Southern hospitality, the Something in Particular gang stayed with shopkeeper and fellow creative, Erin Abbott, who was recently recognized by The New York Times as one of four women reviving Water Valley, Mississippi, the town where she lives. Erin is one of the young entrepreneurs and artists making the small town home and breathing life into quaint Water Valley with fresh ideas for town awakening. In Oxford, 30 minutes north of Water Valley, Erin opened Amelia, an art, stationery, and handmade market tucked in the corner of The Lyric Oxford. She recently launched the Amelia Online Store, where you can stock up on her hand-picked letterpressed notebooks, delicate garlands, and hand-stitched pillows.
The Something in Particular buck won’t stop with the film. The trio is working on an online directory of Southern creatives organized by city, so if you’re an artist pulling into Louisville, Kentucky, you’ll know just where to find kindred spirits—from potters and urban farmers to underground supper clubs.
Today, the Something in Particular crew will slide home to Atlanta to catch their breath before starting to catalogue stories and sift through scribbled notes and footage. While home, they’ll also spread word about their project and seek funding for another excursion to dig deeper into artist meccas of the South. Look out for a trailer debut of Something in Particular this summer and the full-length film to come next year.
— By Kelsey Snell
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