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Southern Vernacular — Miriam Preston Block Art Gallery, Apr. 2 — May 18

Jessie Richardson, Jr., race car driver, Wake County Speedway

Jessie Richardson, Jr., race car driver, Wake County Speedway

“Southern Vernacular” On Display At Raleigh Municipal Building

The art exhibition “Southern Vernacular,” sponsored by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, will be on display April 2 through May 18 in the Miriam Preston Block Art Gallery at the Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex, located at 222 W. Hargett St.

“Southern Vernacular” features striking photographs by Clifton Dowell and multi-media presentations about North Carolina’s people and dialects produced by the North Carolina Language and Life Project (NCLLP) of North Carolina State University. This is the second exhibition in the 2009 25th Anniversary Municipal Building Exhibition Series.

An opening-day reception for “Southern Vernacular” will be held Thursday, April 2 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Block Gallery. The reception will honor the 2009 Piedmont Laureate Jaki Shelton Green, whose poetry will be featured in the second floor gallery cases. Ms. Green’s publications include “Dead on Arrival,” “Masks,” “Conjure Blues,” and “breath of the song,” which was cited as one of two Best Poetry Books of the Year by the Independent Weekly. In celebration of National Poetry Week, Ms. Green will be offering a public reading of her work at the opening reception beginning at 5:30 p.m.

In “Southern Vernacular,” Clifton Dowell presents photographs from two series: “Short Track, Photographs from the Asphalt Oval” and “Depot District: A Commercial Neighborhood in Raleigh, NC.” Together, they present a telescopic view of Southern ‘vernacular’ — those people and places that feel essentially and inherently Southern, framed by the particulars of unique locations. Mr. Dowell’s photographs, which capture the changing Southern landscape, include not only the young race car driver at the Wake County motor speedway, but also a hip downtown tattoo parlor, a gleaming new nightclub, and an old auto parts store.

Mr. Dowell is a former member of Antfarm Studios, an artists’ collective in Raleigh. A journalist, he holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and a certificate in documentary studies from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.

Complementing Mr. Dowell’s photographs are mixed-media pieces created by the NCLLP. The NCLLP’s work (which culminates in documentary films) presents the multi-faceted sounds of the South — from the ‘hoi toide brogue’ of the Outer Banks to Southern Appalachian English. Established in 1993, the NCLLP focuses on research, graduate and undergraduate education, and outreach programs related to language in the American South. The program is lead by Walt Wolfram, a William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English at N.C. State. The videographer for the NCLLP is Neal Hutcheson, whose production and directorial credits include “Mountain Talk” (2004), “Voices of North Carolina” (2005), and “Carolina Brogue” (2008).

Celebrating 25 years connecting local artists to community through ongoing exhibitions and public outreach, the Miriam Preston Block Art Gallery is located on the first and second floors of the Upchurch Government Complex. Managed by the City’s Arts Commission, the gallery was dedicated in 2006 to honor Miriam Preston Block, a former Raleigh City Council member and community leader. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. except holidays.

Established in 1977 as the official advisory body and advocate for the arts to the Raleigh City Council, the City of Raleigh Arts Commission proudly holds the distinction of being the first municipal arts commission created in North Carolina. Serving as the leading force to champion the arts with Raleigh citizens and their representatives, the Commission’s myriad activities foster, support, and promote the arts in the Capital City.

For more information about the upcoming “Southern Vernacular” exhibition and related events, call the Arts Commission office at 996-3610 or email Gallery Coordinator Sarah Blackmon at