They are the voices of our conscious, the collective vision of autonomous artistic madness. With two Emmy’s, a movie, documentaries, an array of world poetry awards, a play at the largest festivals around the world, and no end in sight, Concrete Generation has already made a meteor-sized dent in the hearts and souls of audiences across the globe. Four sat down with the movement’s catalyst himself to find out more about artistic freedom, this epic group of muses, and the legacy they’re leaving across art realms and the world at large.
written by nicole camack
In your own words, who are you and what do you do? I was born as Charles Daniel Perry Jr., but am better known throughout the various art worlds as cpmaze. I fit in Concrete Generation as a passion personified, a fusion of forever and history books. I hope to be known as a metaphor.
Now, who is Concrete Generation?
A collective of artists committed to the nurturing of imagination and advancement of cultural awareness through performance-based arts, visual and literary based art forms, and outreach workshop programs. It’s not a flock of fly-by-nightclub cannibals craving limelight. Our passions aren’t pastimes we can put on shelves.
Help us envision how this all got started. Imagine an artistic frat house of sorts. A place where a twin mattress was leaning against a wall in the kitchen for whatever artists decided to crash there for the night…or two…or three weeks. What was built as a dining room is now where an entire band setup was stationed. Original works of art and photography littered floor to ceiling and the air in the house stayed creative. The house is where it all came together. It’s where traveling artists touring through our city and state came together, located in the NODA arts district in Charlotte.
Why the name “Concrete Generation”? I had a lot of conversations with a lot of artists and then one night it came to me. We are your Concrete generation. We are your walk of life, all walks of life. We are just like you…we’re all asphalt angels and paved men.
Describe the creative process. How do you start? How do you know it’s done? I think you have to harness the muse of miracles within every moment. Whether that’s tuning out in silence to create or being lost in the chaos of the moment. No artist is ever off the clock. The world around us, and how we recall it is the creative process.
Concrete Generation does it all, from concept to performance. Walk us through what’s going on in a typical production. In our play – Miles Coltrane: Blue (.) – we have a full jazz band playing from start to finish. As all of this is happening, we have ballet dancers, a jazz singer, and artwork showed simultaneously. The performers have the freedom to freestyle parts of the play. No version of the play is ever exactly the same. Sticking to one thing isn’t what provided our success. Giving all of yourself to your art is the way to go.
Let’s talk about poetry. What is your relationship with poetry and what do you want the world to know about a poet? Poetry is the pulse of damn near all things to me. A poet is God’s reporter. We’re constantly inter/viewing the world around us.
A poet is God’s reporter. We’re constantly inter/viewing the world around us.
What about fear? Being an artist can have its ups and downs and unpredictability. Fear is a hell of a motivator whether you’re an artist or a single mother or climbing the ladder towards success. Trying to dispel the starving artist myth fuels a lot fear, though. Sometimes the various gigs come in a rush and sometimes they dry up for a while. But since you’re never off the clock one has to juggle the times of producing art, and the proper times for the exhibition of it all.
What about the people who say, get a “real” job? I say, “I have one”. The question is …are you getting to live out your real dream?
What are some sacrifices necessary to live this life? Time is number one. It sucks up a lot or all of your time if you’re doing it right.
Undoubtedly there are sacrifices, but what is your favorite part of it all? I think the purpose of art is to start a conversation or dialog with someone you might have never thought to. Those conversations are my favorite part. Publishing and anthologies and press reviews are definitely incredible, but the conversations they spawn are beautifully amazing.
They say our lives flash before our eyes before we die. What moment or experience would you want to replay? There once was a couple from France who walked up to me after a show. They couldn’t speak English outside of this one word they used to convey their appreciation: “genius”. It damn near brought me to tears that such an art form transcends language barriers.
How do you respond knowing that what you do directly inspires people, turns lives around, and makes them feel alive? I find myself feeling awkward and awestruck. These same people turn my life around and make me feel alive. They inspire me. They make me believe that the art of art is still kicking, thriving, and alive. And I am proud to play my little role in making sure it continues to be.
How will Concrete Generation be remembered? As a generation that ran with the bulls.
Find Miles Coltrane: Blue (.), currently touring
North America. Charlotte dates: April 24-27
This interview was conducted early 2014.