"Brushstrokes" Paints Picture of Community's Transformation

Friday, October 13, 2017

A UNC Wilmington student film documenting a community’s transformation through art has been selected for the 23rd annual Cucalorus Film Festival.

Brushstrokes” follows Janna Robertson, a professor in the Watson College of Education, and hundreds of volunteers as they create a 240-foot mural in a neglected section of Wilmington known as Northside. The documentary was directed by film studies student Jillian Carney '17 and funded by the Building a Better Wilmington Campaign, a program housed in the Department of Public and International Affairs at UNCW. The campaign’s goal is to increase the visibility, effectiveness and sustainability of nonprofit organizations in southeastern North Carolina.

“It's not every day that an assigned project becomes your passion,” Carney said. “Dr. Jeffrey Brudney and Rachel Fox, my producers, came to me with this idea. After spending one day at the mural, I was hooked and wanted to do everything I could to properly showcase this community effort.”

Brudney, the Betty and Dan Cameron Family Distinguished Professor of Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector, leads the Building a Better Wilmington Campaign.

Cucalorus is a non-competitive festival that showcases more than 250 films. “Brushstrokes” was selected for the shorts category, and will be screened Nov. 9 at 10 a.m. at the Cape Fear Community College Union Station. The mural is located at the intersection of 10th and Fanning streets in downtown Wilmington, four miles east of the community college.

“We are so blessed that we are able to debut our film minutes away from the mural,” said Carney. “Film is a wonderful medium that adds depth and emotion, and our film does just that. I would encourage everyone to come see the film, then go visit the mural.”

The “Forest of DREAMS” mural is a collaboration between UNCW and DREAMS of Wilmington, a center dedicated to inspiring and empowering children through the arts.

Robertson led the beautification effort, which involved 612 volunteers and local artists who painted more than 60 fantasy creatures and a legacy tree honoring residents of the Northside community. She solicited 76 organizations, including schools, churches, nonprofits, businesses and individuals to sponsor a creature of their own design. The project began in March 2016 and took 12 weeks to complete.

Robertson involved UNCW undergraduate and graduate researchers to make the project a learning experience as well as a community event.

“I wanted the Forest of DREAMS mural showcased in the documentary because Northside is beautiful with wonderful, friendly residents,” said Robertson. “People from all walks of life transformed a neglected wall into a whimsical forest with magical creatures. With so many artists and volunteers, we wanted their stories told too.”

-- Venita Jenkins