The Neighborhood that Disappeared

2 Sep

Today’s featured collection, unlike some in the past, poses no mystery.  It represents, in large part, the thriving African American community of Vinegar Hill.  More notably, it displays the community before it was swept bare by Charlottesville’s infamous urban renewal project in the mid-1960s.  A great deal of time has been spent in the past decades chastising the pain that was caused by this episode in our history.  While this is wholly warranted, what is truly unique (and what I lovelovelove) about the objects in this collection is the manner in which they breathe life into that argument.  The color paintings portray positive, populated streets that starkly contrast the more typical black & white aerial photographs of the area.  Instead of a broad association, these paintings by D. Collins take that camera and zoom into an individual block, business, or person.   And while those large-scale photos serve an important political purpose, these paintings are personally meaningful.   When I think of Vinegar Hill now, I think of more than just large-scale destruction- I think of the individual loss.

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For a good history of Vinegar Hill, visit the Institute for the Advancement of Technology in the Humanities (UVA).

Collins did a similarly fantastic job featuring other African American communities in Charlottesville, so look for more to come!

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