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  • Writer's pictureIsaiah Ellsberry

Divided We Fall: The Future of Fayetteville


All-American City Award 2023. Photo taken by FAYNC Magazine Staff Photographer JaLantai McClendon.

Image Edited by FAYNC Magazine Art Director Christina Miles


Dear local creatives, confidants in artistry, and residents of our amazing city,

As an emerging artist navigating the vibrant yet often opportunistic landscape of our city's art scene, I know the hardships of this city too well. After investing over three years of community service, maintaining a mentor role in our school system, and curating over fifty events throughout the city. I find myself grappling with a disheartening reality: the glaring absence of a unified community. 

There’s a great divide within our city, especially among artists. It's a sad truth that weighs heavy on my heart and ultimately drives me to initiate this conversation—a conversation that demands our collective attention and action. In a city overflowing with talent, variety, and imagination, one would anticipate a flourishing local area of creatives, sustaining, supporting, and uplifting each other. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is not even close. There exists an unmistakable feeling of separation, competition, and indifference among us.


MLK Parade 2023. Photo taken by FAYNC Magazine Staff Photographer JaLantai McClendon.

Image edited by FAYNC Magazine Art Director Christina Miles


Can we just be real for a minute: our city brags about the wealth of talent, diversity, and creativity? From the vivid murals embellishing our walls to the intimate galleries tucked away in cozy corners. Yet, despite this abundance of art, artists still find themselves fractured, disconnected, and isolated. Why is it that in a city overflowing with artistic expression, so many of us feel solitary in our craft? Why do we struggle to find support, camaraderie, and solidarity within our community? These are questions that demand answers, and it's time we confront them head-on.


The truth is, that the lack of unity among us only serves to weaken our collective voice and diminish our impact. Instead of coming together as a cohesive force, we remain divided—competing for recognition, resources, and opportunities. We view fellow artists not as collaborators but as rivals, perpetuating a toxic culture of individualism. Even to this day, artists are consumed by a persistent quest for approval from local leaders in our community.


Rhythm & Paint 2023. Photo taken by FAYNC Magazine Staff Photographer JaLantai McClendon

Image edited by FAYNC Magazine Art Director Christina Miles


Nevertheless, there are organizations and people throughout the city that ensure the fair treatment of artists. Local organizations like The Arts Council of Fayetteville Cumberland County are known for encouraging artists to apply for grants and even attend lecture-style classes about navigating as an artist. Poetry-N-Motion and Lost Voices are also organizations dedicated to community and extending opportunities for emerging creatives. Not to mention, venues like The Coffee Scene host the longest-running open mic event in the city, with over 23 years. 


However, the city can never grow if our future lies on the backs of a few safe spaces and support. The venues that once filled in as safe havens for creative expression are being transformed to benefit business agendas, more worried about overall revenues than the development of the creative. A blatant example of this is expressed when examining the expenses paid to local artists.


In most cases, artists in our city tend to be undervalued and underpaid. This standard of mediocracy has created an expectation of “paid through exposure”. This means that a venue can profit from the performance/content of an artist, while also highlighting their establishment as a platform for the community. Meanwhile, the artist receives compensation that possibly covers their gas or maybe gas and food at best. In most instances, artists receive no financial compensation at all. 


On the contrary, the select few artists who do receive reasonable compensation are often considered “the golden children” of the city and recycled for future events/bookings. Thus, a divide among us is created. Artists pass each other by in the city, as strangers, but are we not all members of the same home? Rather than lifting each other, we tear each other down, entrapped in a system of jealousy and hatred.


But it doesn't have to be this way. So, where do we begin?


First and foremost, we must create open conversations and honest communication among ourselves. Let's break down the barriers that separate us—whether they be physical, social, or ideological—and create spaces where all voices are heard and valued. Let's collaborate on projects that transcend the boundaries of genre, medium, and tradition, celebrating the rich creative nature of our crafts.


Poetry Night led by El'Ja Bowens 2022. Photo taken by FAYNC Magazine Staff Photographer JaLantai McClendon

Image edited by FAYNC Magazine Art Director Christina Miles


Furthermore, let's advocate for the resources and support systems that our community desperately needs, whether it's affordable studio space, grants, funding opportunities, or mentorship programs for emerging artists. We should work together to ensure that every member of our community has the tools they need to thrive.


But perhaps most importantly, let's cultivate a culture of empathy, compassion, and mutual respect. Let's celebrate each other's successes, lift each other in times of struggle, and recognize that we are all in this together. 


After all, a rising tide lifts all boats, and by supporting each other, we can elevate our entire community to new heights.


Where could the feeling of unity that once characterized our ancestors be? Where could the soul of support that filled our creativity be? It appears to me that we got lost along the way, cast away in an ocean of independence and creative responsibility. Be that as it may, it isn't past time to recover what we have lost. We should continue to mold our community like clay, piece by piece and step by step. We should contact our community leaders, extend a hand of fellowship, and give support without expecting anything as a tradeoff.


All things considered, I hope these are not just perceived as words, but as a message from my heart. I believe the first step is simply showing up.





Poetically Yourz,

Zae

FAYNC Magazine Staff Writer/Editor

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2 Comments


antoniamarie15
Feb 15

Wow! What an amazing piece 👏🏾 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 This is why I want to use my platforms to uplift and promote creatives in our area because there are so many who don’t get the recognition they deserve. Just imagine the force we could be if we all came together. Imagine local businesses paying local creatives to take their marketing to the next level. I mean the possibilities are truly endless with the amount of talent we have here. And the sad part is, a lot of us have the vision and not the funds. I’m truly grateful for Arts Council of Fayetteville for being an amazing resource for creatives!

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ljbmilez
Feb 15

Wow! Very well articulated! The same applies to our church community! We are stronger together as a unified body! Actually, the entire community as a whole with each entity functioning individually as well as collectively, contributing resources and support without a focus of self gain and clout, will result in the construction of a fortified body that has no choice but to rise up higher and higher, everyone benefiting! Let's talk about it! Whew!!!

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