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Wesley Chapel CME, Corsicana, TX (Shard, Fragment, Fugue)

Dr. Alysia Harris Corsicana, TX

2021-24: History is an imperfect archive, a jagged and fractured window to the past. Despite the importance of Black contributions to Corsicana, Texas’s economic, cultural, and spiritual legacy, only shards of Black presence can be found in the town’s public history: a broken plaque, a faded tombstone, the frame of a house.

In this installation, poet and Meetinghouse Revival founder Alysia Nicole Harris frames the group’s work to restore the abandoned Wesley Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. This CME congregation was one of several Black churches in Corsicana dating back to the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era. Using a mixture of oral interviews, archival material, and personal poetic reflections on the restoration process, Harris platforms the stories of Wesley Chapel, past and present. She hopes this installation sheds light on the many Black place-keeping efforts happening across Texas.

During her research, Harris scoured the online records of local newspapers such as the Corsicana Daily Sun, Oil City Afro-American, and Dallas Express for any mention of the church. From these mentions, she creates blackout poems to enact on the public archive the same intentional erasures and omissions enacted on Black Corsicanans. However, this time, the blackout poems work in service of Black residents to reveal layered truths about life in rural Texas. These texts are arranged into identical 12 x 16 frames and then positioned among contemporary and archival photos of the building to create a grid of historical fragments that mirrors the church’s broken stained glass. While the picture remains incomplete, glimpses of the past come into view.

Alysia’s Grantee Cohort

A joint project of the Ministry in the City HUB and Walls-Ortiz Gallery at City Seminary, the Creative Community Care Virtual Residency brought together socially-engaged Christian creatives from New York City, Indianapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Corsicana (Tx) for peer mentor support, learning, and sharing. In 2021, residents developed local projects in their respective cities, exploring creative practices of care in the context of community. Projects engaged the concerns and questions of the pandemic period (mutual aid, care re-imagined for social distance, etc.) at the intersection of the arts, learning, faith, and the city. In 2022, the resident pairs offered public online workshops. In 2024, a traveling group exhibition will be on display, starting in Santa Ana, CA.

Alysia’s Ministry
Program focus: Arts