If Moogfest is the collision of the arts and technology, Durham’s Blackspace is the perfect microcosm of the festival.
Blackspace is the brainchild of UNC professor and musician Pierce Freelon, founded in 2014 as a hub for Afrofuturism, art, digital media and social entrepreneurship. During Moogfest, it’s coming to life each day through a series of programs including “Beats and Star Wars Demo” at the Full Frame Theater and “Black Wall Street Beats” at his new Beat Lab at American Underground @Market.
In “Beats and Star Wars Demo”, Freelon and his team encouraged kids to record Star Wars- themed phrases into a phone. Saved in the cloud, the recordings were then available for Freelon to sample and tinker with. After a child from the audience made a beat using Freelon’s equipment, the beat and the recordings were mixed together to make a catchy Star Wars-themed tune that kept a captive audience of mostly elementary-age kids.
To conduct and staff programming, identify students and advertise its services, Blackspace relies heavily upon partnerships with local and international partners like Chapel Hill’s Marion Cheek Jackson Center and Creative Currents based in Panama. The company has also created its own sharing-economy of sorts. So far, unless Freelon has grant funding, program staff is not paid, but receives in-kind services—like free access to Blackspace’s studio—in exchange for mentoring and teaching the students.
Heavily influenced by Afrofuturist thinkers and authors like famed Octavia Butler, Freelon embraces vague, large concepts and goals like “black liberation,” but has taken a strategic approach to implementing the values into tangible programming that will build up the next generation.