The Daily Gamecock

Two Cities explores North Columbia community

Indie Grits kicked off Thursday night with the opening of an art gallery for Two Cities, the on-going project from Indie Grits Labs made to shine a light on the North Columbia community. The pieces created for the project will remain on display through Sunday at the Indie Grits Labs headquarters at 1013 Duke Avenue. 

Two Cities is a collaborative art project designed to start a conversation about the racial and socioeconomic tensions experienced by North Columbia communities. The project consists of everything from photography to film to comic books and even an aquaponic garden. Through a variety of creative expressions, the artists collectively shared a piece of the culture that resides off of North Main and Monticello Road.

“Because of the ... historical realities of racism and under-served communities, there is a story that needs to be told,” Pedro Lopez De Victoria, Indie Grits Labs Programming Coordinator, said.

One of the artists is Tahirah Spann who is responsible for the Grow Lab, a class designed to teach children how to grow their own food hydroponically with the goal of addressing nutritional problems Spann sees in North Columbia.

“It addresses food equity especially in this community where there is so many food-related or nutrition-related health concerns,” Spann said. “There’s a high rate of diabetes, diabetic amputees — just a lot of preventable diseases.”

Spann has a history in teaching children about agriculture at schools in California and South Carolina, and she believes that by teaching a younger generation about food equity and being health conscious, she is helping improve the community at large.

“My particular programming focuses on children because I feel like once they learn they are more likely to sustain it,” Spann said. “Adults, we're kind of set in our ways sometimes and we’ll try to do better but I think a lot of times we are often motivated by our children.”

Another creator named Benjamin Moore, who prefers to go by Fart.PDF, has multiple projects being featured at Indie Grits including a short film, an exhibit at Tapps Art Center that shows what a North Columbia living room is like and a mixed media collage book that he was handing out at the Indie Grits Labs house. With his book, Fart.PDF wanted to capture the feeling of driving down North Main and give the people there a voice.

“I wanted to make something that I could give back to the people involved,” Fart.PDF said. “That was my whole intention. I want to make this book with these people and be able to give it back to these people and feel proud.”

The collage, titled “Walking and the Art it Created,” is comprised from conversations Fart.PDF had with members of the community. There are many messages of people taking pride in being where they are from talking about being “closer to my brothers and sisters” or “a little more at home.” One quote from Damon’s Barbershop called North Main “the mecca of cutting hair” taking pride in having “the most, longest standing barbershops in the city.”

While “Walking and the Art it Created” does highlight North Columbia and the culture it currently holds, it also hints at changes with pictures of construction and a quote that reads “We’re moving forward with new roads.”

“The thing to take away from this project the most is just to appreciate North Main how it is and then to acknowledge that it is changing,” Fart.PDF said.

Through Sunday, the Indie Grits Labs house will hold entertainment pieces like a comic from Benedict College professor Curtis Onyando Heru that features a blend of photography and illustration as well as hard-hitting pieces like “Seen and Heard,” which addresses the barriers that women and minorities face in the community.

Whether it’s to see the work that the Two Cities team put together, listen to some of the musical artists, or catch a film at the Nick, De Victoria suggests that students should make it out this weekend.

“If you’re in Columbia and you don’t come to Indie Grits, then you’re missing out on a huge, huge piece of culture pie,” he said.

For more information on the Two Cities project and the full schedule for Indie Grits, go to