Josiah Golson believes that art can be the bridge for community conversations.
Josiah grew up in Chattanooga, and attended UTC for his undergraduate degree. After moving back from studying law in Texas, he found his true passion was art. He realized that there was no consistent programming in Chattanooga that was connecting art with social dialogue. He wanted to change that.
800 was inspired by a group of artists from the early 20th century called The Eight who pursued “art for life’s sake” instead of “art for art’s sake.” Each 800 session is an artistic workshop based around a theme or a topic and all supplies are provided. The goal is to be as mobile as possible in order to take art to different communities, so sessions are held in different locations throughout the city. They meet every other Monday.
800 serves as a networking space for local artists, but Josiah always wants “non-artists” to attend and participate. He likes it when non-artists come because they’ve inspired new topics and are able to contribute in ways that make for rich discussion. During a typical session, Josiah asks all the participants to pick out the mediums they’d like and then walks them through one or two exercises based on the topic. He keeps it short, so nobody overthinks their piece. The rest of the evening they discuss their pieces, engaging in conversation about the differences and similarities between their pieces. The group is able to connect through people’s shared experiences and also stretch their perceptions when they hear a story that differs from theirs.
Causeway’s four month incubation process gave Josiah the chance to test his ideas during a pilot phase that he felt was a great resource.
Community support for 800 has been overwhelmingly positive and has been especially championed by the art community. Josiah says he loves seeing people arrive as strangers and leave with connections and new friends. Josiah’s biggest obstacle has been finding sustainable support, which he says has forced him to think innovatively as he finds resources and partnerships.
Josiah would like to see 800 inspire and empower a diverse group of artists to engage Chattanooga through conversations about their art, as a way to connect to the audience these artists are being exposed to.
Each Causeway Challenge is framed around a question. Community members apply with their idea, then a panel of community experts chooses several projects to receive grassroots funding and support from Causeway to implement a pilot version of their project.
Josiah applied to Causeway Challenge II which asked: How can we make Chattanooga a city where people from all backgrounds live, work, play and learn together? His project, along with three others, won a $10,000 grant and participated in a 4 month incubation period to test and refine the idea.