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Downtown News

VISIONARIES: A Changing the Narrative Art Project

February 18, 2020 by Katie Mitchell

When you see Zaharia Ford-Byrd’s painting, currently housed in the Arts Council of the Valley’s Smith House Gallery, of a Stars and Stripes wrecking ball slamming into a bright, colorful, enlivened house, you might recall artist Hugo Gellert’s image of a strapping, muscular man wielding a sledgehammer over the quaint town beneath him. Gellert’s image, however, was used in a 1946 pamphlet titled “THIS IS IT,” generated by Norfolk’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority to promote the “creative destruction” involved in urban renewal initiatives. The simultaneous resemblance and contrast of these two images highlights an urge to conveniently blur the line between progress and violence. Hearing the voices of the urban residents on the receiving end of the wrecking ball lends the balance needed to understand the consequences of urban renewal and opens a space where it’s possible for healing to begin.  more