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Guest Blogger: Eric Mullis, Triptych Collective


hrough lectures, panel discussions, book signings, workshops, walking tours and more, Levine Museum offers a wide variety of fun, learning opportunities. The Museum provides historical context for contemporary issues, thoughtful community forums, and explorations of the sights, sounds and ideas of the Carolina Piedmont.

The Museum also supports and participates in various community programs throughout Charlotte and the Southeast.  One of those is coming up in April at the Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa. We asked Eric Mullis of Triptych Collective to talk about the performance piece, “Poor Mouth,” here on our blog.

Do you see a familiar face?

I became interested in developing a performance piece about the history of NoDa after reading [Museum historian] Tom Hanchett's book, "Sorting out the New South City."  The Triptych Collective is a group of performance artists interested in bringing a unique blend of live music, dance performance and visual art to non-traditional spaces in order to make thought-provoking performance art more widely accessible. The Triptych Collective calls the NoDa neighborhood home since we perform there regularly and local venues are so supportive of our work.  I learned that the NoDa mill village was developed at the turn of the 20th century and became the home of mill workers who came to Charlotte from area farms. They found steady work and developed a close-knit community that worked and spent leisure time together. As the Great Depression drew near, mills across the Southern Piedmont began to "stretch-out" their employees, asking them to work longer hours and to run more looms without raising their pay (effectively ignoring the then, recently passed federal minimum-wage law). Mill workers were consequently presented with a difficult dilemma: do they strike for fair pay even though they may not be re-hired? Further, if they strike, will they be evicted from the company-owned mill houses that they lived in?

Poor Mouth is a performance art piece that strives to portray this history in order to honor the mill worker families that lived, worked, and died in the mill village. The work also asks viewers to consider how the history of NoDa affects our experience of the neighborhood today. Do we have an obligation to remember the mill worker families? How would that obligation shape our sense of NoDa as a place?

The piece includes live dance by the Triptych Collective, music by NoDa-based band Ancient Cities, and text by Dr. Tom Hanchett.  Tom consulted the Collective about the history of the NoDa mill village and performed with the group in November of last year, in front of the abandoned Johnston mill and on December 12 at the Chop Shop in NoDa.  This work was developed with the assistance of a Cultural Innovation grant provided by the John S. and James L. Knight foundation and the Arts and Science Council.

We invite folks to come check out the next performance on April 24 at 8pm at the Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa.  Also, keep up with the development of our work on our Facebook page and on our website (

Eric Mullis is a founding member of The Triptych Collective as well as musician, dancer and choreographer. 

What community programs have you enjoyed? 

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