“Inner City Urban: Vine City,” An Exploration of Gentrification and Poverty in Atlanta by Rose Smith
Inner City Urban: Vine City
Atlanta, the Southern Hollywood, is highlighted for its trendy lifestyle and affluent culture in the arts and nightlife, but like any major city, there are parts that are often neglected and hardly mentioned. Vine City is a historical district in Atlanta–home of historically black universities, Clark, Spelman and Morehouse. The city is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lead the most revolutionary movement in the world, but this town once rich in ancestral spirit is now a Ghetto. Drugs, homelessness, violence and poverty are slowly killing the bodies and spirits of the black men, women and children that are forced to live there. The people are either too comfortable or struggling to leave. To make matters worse, millions of tax dollars went into the Mercedes Benz Stadium in their very neighborhood, but nothing is being done about the health and welfare of their poverished community.
If gentrification takes place, it will wipe out the people who will then become the missing pieces erasing the history of Vine City.”
Photographic Artist, Rose Smith took her passion for photography and anger toward the gentrification and abandonment in Atlanta and captured Vine City in this inspiring series, Inner City Urban: Vine City. She was inspired by childhood visits from North Georgia to the West End of Atlanta, where her cousins’ resided. The experiences sparked the quest to understand a part of the Black experience that she felt like she was missing. The project was also influenced by Gordon Parks’ A Harlem Family.
The photos capture the lifestyle of Black Americans within their neighborhood who are often misrepresented by mainstream media as criminals. Crime indeed happens within the inner city however crime also happens in the suburbs. The stories one sided and unjust. Viewers see a neglected community of dilapidated homes–boarded homes with “HELP US” spelled out, and walls once bare, are now canvases for an angry community, “F*ck the Police.”
The Zeal Life first covered the project in Sept. 2016 and the series has taken off. Inner City Urban: Vine City is now being displayed all around Atlanta until the end of the year. ” I actually foresaw this happening last year and I was excited to see my vision manifest. It gives this work a whole new meaning outside of the walls of a gallery space,” Rose states. She believes the work found a home in the streets of Atlanta, where they originated, referring to the installations as environmental art. ” I think it’s perfect to have these photos in an actual environment to see how people respond,”she adds.
The locations give the photographs a renewed perspective, but they do not change the mission of the work. As a matter a fact the gallery and city installations are very similar in nature, for her collaborative senior exhibition, she printed 6 of the photographs on newsprint representing newspaper covers and wheat pasted them onto wood panels, which are used to board abandoned homes. “I accomplished bringing the environment inside of a gallery space and creating a conversational piece.”
“Inner City Urban: Vine City sheds light on the qualities of a community that exudes the feeling of being half dead but still alive, exemplifying that there is still a great amount of hope and light seeping through the cracks of this dark conspicuous tunnel. It is an ongoing project alluding to the fact that not only do black lives matter here but more importantly, their history and stories matter. If gentrification takes place, it will wipe out the people who will then become the missing pieces erasing the history of Vine City.”
My cousins were raised in the inner city of Atlanta, while we resided in a middle-class predominantly white neighborhood in North Georgia. I remember spending weekends with them, walking around their neighborhood hearing gunshots firing off in the air.”
“I included the American Flag in its beginning stages of each stripe being unraveled to signify how my work is a social justice issue. Gentrification shows that we are still not equal and there is still a disconnect. Each strand of the flag hangs separately to represent that disconnect. We are more focused on individuality than on building community across America’s diverse culture.”
It is projects such as this one that encourages change, and what better way to bring awareness to sedated subjects then through art and passion, and that is exactly what Rose has done in Inner City Urban: Vine City. Each photo captures the spirit of this dying neighborhood, and because it is an on going project for Rose, we will continue to see these stories unravel.
Updated: Nov. 2017
Rose Smith is a writer and documentary photographer born in Memphis and based out of Atlanta, GA. She received her BFA at SCAD Atlanta in photography and has received the Atlanta Emerging Artist Award to continue this body of work. She also earned a grant for a public art installation – having 30 photographs from this series on display throughout the city until the end of 2017. She spends most of her time studying the aftermath of the African Diaspora and the Black Culture through reading, watching documentaries and discovering and rediscovering Jazz and Blues musicians. Through her extensive community involvement, she is invested in inspiring youth to discover their artistic abilities to impact their communities.
You can find Rose and more of her work on instagram @c.rosesmith and be sure to stay tuned for updates on this project here on The Zeal Life.