My first memory of time spent at The Roll Up CLT shakes out to become clearer like a polaroid capture. Through the haze of late summer on southern porches, I recall a curated kinship, community, and a shared love of Black art in close space. In the passing of wine poured into red solo cups, I was introduced to the petite powerhouse known as Jessica Gaynelle Moss. While most galleries, institutions, curators and collectors remain committed to supporting the work of white male artists, others like Moss are taking it upon themselves to advocate for the Black creatives, who without aid, may never reach their full potential.
Moss is an artist, Black art advocate, and purveyor of potential. According to her bio, she is considered to be a “creator of platforms and spaces that invest in the historically excluded.” One such platform is that of her Charlotte, North Carolina based artist residency, The Roll Up CLT.
“Investing in my own community, watering my seeds in the places they were planted and vesting my interests in the neighborhoods that I came from, and that I call home.” Moss shared.
She dedicated a year to rehabbing a vacant property in the historically Black neighborhood of Camp Greene, and with the help of a $53,000 grant from The Knight Foundation, she was able to roll up it’s garage doors to its first resident, Zun Lee, in 2018.
Lee, who Moss had become acquainted with during an artist retreat in Chicago, is a critically acclaimed photographer best known for his photo essay “Father Figure”, documenting Black fathers and their children throughout Harlem and The Bronx. While Lee’s work is known worldwide, other artists of color are more in need of the type of backing and assistance that Moss and her program provide.
As reported by popular online portal Black Art in America, “Many collectors and curators make acquisition and exhibition decisions based on what’s on an artist’s CV.” Their participation and attendance of a prestigious art residency such as the Oxbow or the Whitney Independent Study Program is enough to launch a career.
Unfortunately for most artists of African descent, opportunities for residencies are sparse. The Roll Up CLT aims to level the playing field for Black artists who require this same type of launching pad. Participation in the program can last anywhere from 6 to 8 months. Artists are provided housing, access to transportation, and an unrestricted honorarium to provide food and supplies.
In exchange, artists are asked to do only two things. One, they’re required to engage with the community in any creative way they see fit, and two, (and perhaps most importantly), they are asked to be a good neighbor. In the neighborhood of Camp Green that has suffered at the hands of gentrification for decades, what’s most important for those who remain, is that their circular blocks feel like a safe haven. In fact, the program drew its name from the very structure of its community offerings. The rolling up of the garage door is a signifier to neighbors that there’s activity in the space that they’re welcome to take part in; like diaper distribution, free portrait sessions, community conversation, cookouts, or the passing of wine in red solo cups.
The pandemic was the cause for pause in offering housing in 2020, though it continued to hold virtual programming hosted by literary co-residents, educator and writer, Ashley Nickens, and writer Kia O. Moore. In December of 2021, The Roll Up CLT officially announced its next live in resident, visual artist and activist, Seitu Ken Jones.
While the program powers on in Charlotte, Moss has recently taken her talents to Pittsburgh where she serves as the administrative director of Sibyls Shrine, an arts residency for creative mothers of all genders and orientations.
To learn more about the work of Jessica Moss and her program, The Roll Up CLT, visit Jesseplane.com, or follow along on Instagram at @TheRollUpCLT.