josh-hailey1Take an eccentric artist, a twenty year-old van, a camera and a road trip across the United States and what do get? Josh Hailey’s Photamerica, a project that aims to “capture modern America visually, state by state, place by place and person by person.”

After spending 500 days on the road interviewing everyday Americans, Hailey is returning to where it all started, Fondren, opening a temporary school, production studio and pop up art installation in December.

Hailey began moving in to 3009 North State Street, the former Castle House Antiques Market, late last week in preparation for an October 6 open call. Photamerica is seeking teachers, students willing to learn art and skilled part timers in the arts, education, marketing, or fundraising.

The students and part-time workers will learn video editing, graphic design, music production, photo editing and other related skills that will hopefully inspire them to join Hailey in finishing the Photamerica exhibit and book. JTran, Hailey’s band with Tre Pepper, will put together four albums as companion pieces to the photo and film portion. And Hailey’s girlfriend, Brittany Schall, a respected New York artist, will join him in the venture, too.

Classes will be held every day at 5pm. To see a class list, ages and requirements for that class, visit their online class calendar. Hailey says, “This is what I like to do: involve the community and give back.”

For a Good Cause

What may be more important in the grand scheme of Hailey’s return is the non-profit he has formed. heARTalot encompasses multiple projects, all of which engage and create communities through the arts. The charitable effort will benefit from the December 23 showcase, a fundraiser, in the North State Street space.  That night will be the culmination of interviews and photographs from Hailey’s time spent on the road, along with art created during the three months of classes heARTalot will offer. Hailey says, “It’s a group show then and will be similar to the retrospective I did downtown two years ago.”

Following the December event, Hailey is heading into local schools from January to March, giving a “Ted-style” talk, a photography workshop and other art classes.

Where It All Began

To understand Photamerica and Hailey’s quest, rewind to late 2011. He says the economy was a mess, rents were high and people weren’t buying anything. “Everyone knows the arts are first to go when the economy goes,” he says. There was more that he wanted to do.

Around the same time, Hailey had been hired by the Mississippi Development Authority to work in the state for four months, interviewing the work force, documenting Mississippi. “I fell in love with Mississippi and felt (my work was) trying to help out and bring more business here,” he explains. “I was so inspired doing that, I decided to put all my passions in one thing. I decided I would activate people, interview people, make art and do what I do as an artist. In essence, I made my office, gallery and business mobile.”

Hailey launched a Kickstarter project that raised nearly $24,000 and provided money for fuel for his road trip. He couch surfed and says it doesn’t take much to feed him.

Photamerica and Hailey’s Fondren school and pop up gallery are a chance for him to show what he has found that works in communities across the country. “We’re trying to find solutions and understand how people feel about America and what it means to be an American in modern times,” Hailey says. He hopes the project is thought provoking. “Hopefully, it captures a wider picture of America in 2012-2013.”

Interested in being a part of Photamerica, the school, heARTalot or other creative efforts with Hailey? Email or visit the Facebook event page.