The Black Belt Artist Project

The Black Belt Artist Project

The University of Alabama connects creative generations

The University of Alabama, a Canon Solutions America customer, was recently featured in a USA Today Article for their Black Belt Project. The article received widespread pickup because it is a fantastic highlight of the University of Alabama’s service learning project.

The Black Belt Artist Project, lead by Professor Christopher Jordan, began as a service learning project, which then became a summer course. “The idea was to bring the classroom into the community, so students could have real world experience,” he said.

The Black Belt stretches across the South, including a wide swath of Alabama. Originally named for its dark and fertile soil, the area has a large African American population that first arrived as enslaved workers.

For the students, it was a chance to develop their skills. The students also learned from the older artists, who were often self taught. “I think the students really benefited by speaking to older artists, mentors in their own backyard in Alabama,” he said. “And realizing there is such talent and wisdom in the region.”

Canon Solutions America supported the project by helping the students create a book that was born from interviews with countless artists in the region. The school’s graphic design students created it and the photos were exhibited on campus. 

The artists in the Black Belt Artist Project included basket weaver Betty Bain, quilter Mary M. Pettway, painter and sculptor Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas. “To have people come and sit down and talk and pick my brain about what I do, it was exciting,” said Andrew McCall. “The students were young people. I felt like I had something to contribute to their learning.”

Professor Jordan says, “I am so very proud of these young people. They have demonstrated creative skill and a passion for history at the same time.” When asked about the next steps, Jordan says, “I can picture a future sunny day when we’re traveling the back roads of Alabama meeting all kinds of other artists.”