Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Monday, June 1: Our first day in Hale County, Alabama, and Kelly and I were in Greensboro, the county seat, 9 miles up the road from New Bern, home to the Rural Studio. We decided to stop in H.E.R.O., the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization, a housing resource center that's run by Pam Dorr, a former Rural Studio Outreach student from 2003-2004.

Drawn to the Warrior River valley by a video of Sam Mockbee and the rural studio, Pam left California to help build houses for Hale County’s rural poor and has never left. She has one of those disarmingly infectious smiles that breaks so broadly across her face that her eyes momentarily disappear. Within seconds of meeting me, she's already invited us to attend a party at H.E.R.O. that evening and all but insisted that we talk to some of the Project M / Americorp volunteers who are just now walking through H.E.R.O.'s breezy, open space.

When we turn to greet our erstwhile tour guides, I was momentarily dumbstruck: who should be standing before me but Ryan LeCluyse! Ryan graduated from the UNCSA Visual Arts program in 2007 and has been attending the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) studying graphic design (he is also a Penland-Kenan Fellow).

One some level, it seemed like some karmic message that we were in the right place at the right time. It also just made sense: Ryan always had a more global perspective, and, wanting to engage in art that gives back, he was naturally drawn to the Project M’s mission “to inspire young graphic designers, writers, photographers and filmmakers by proving that their work can have a positive and significant impact on the world.” Ryan will stay in Hale County for a year long sabbatical from his studies at MICA, he will work with John Bielenberg, founder of Project M, to train fresh troops of “M’ers,” as they’re called. For more on Project M, read:

This photo of Ryan was taken in Pie Lab’s Greensboro, Alabama location.

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