Meet the 2014 Visual Arts Scholars

Self portrait_Chandra McCormick Keith_Portrait_LRKeith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

New Orleans, Louisiana

Photography, Film

As a husband and wife team, photographers, Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun have dedicated their lives to documenting African American life in New Orleans and its surrounding areas. Both natives of New Orleans, McCormick and Calhoun have rooted themselves as pillars of their Lower 9th Ward community serving as historians, mentors, and advocates for Black people. Their archive includes stories on laborers on the loading docks of the Mississippi River, sugar cane plantations on River Road, day laborers working in sweet potato and cotton fields, as well as spiritual practices in Louisiana’s Black churches. In addition, they have produced an extensive body of work on Angola Prison, focusing on its incarcerated men and the impact of the prison system on their families. Their photographs have been included in exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Philadelphia African American Museum, Civil Rights Museum, and New Orleans Museum of Art. They have received several awards from the New Orleans Press Club, and their photographs of Angola State Prison were published in Aperture Magazine in February 2006. McCormick and Calhoun lost two-­thirds of their photographic archives when their home and studio were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Despite most of their work being lost in the storm, they were able to salvage many of the negatives and turn them into a series reflective of both the damage caused by Katrina as well as to preserve the story before the storm. They continue their work as educators and mentors to emerging artists and youth in their neighborhood in the Lower 9th Ward, offering visual arts, writing and photography programming as part of their organization, L9 Center for the Arts.


IMG_91867036429539Chris James

Little Rock, Arkansas

Photography, Multimedia, Poetry

Chris James is a Little Rock, Arkansas native who has found his passion in the world of words. He lives the life of a poet, writer, spoken word artist, playwright and Director, photographer, entrepreneur, band manager and father. Chris is the man responsible for the birth of The Roots Theatre Group which he recently launched the beginning 0f 2013. The first official production under this theatre group is Chris’s original choreopoem play, The Odds Against U.S. = Urban Statistics. He premiered his second original stage play, Confessions of a Sinner, August 17th, 2013. In 2012, Chris orchestrated the largest Trayvon Martin Rally in Little Rock which attracted many radio interviews.  Chris is also the Founder and former Editor of The Essence of Blackness Street Newspaper which was a publication that focused on news, literature, and educational information that targeted African read1American people. The publication was distributed throughout Little Rock, Arkansas from December 2011 to December 2012.  In 2010, Chris established a program called MY ART IS… which he and others recruited young aspiring artist from high schools such as North Little Rock Academy and motivated them share their talents in front of student bodies as well as other outside groups.  Chris has traveled to several states across America sharing his performance style poetry from Southern Fried Poetry Slam to featuring in various schools, churches and venues across Arkansas. He has graced over 100 stages.  Chris is a proud member of spoken word poetry Troupe known as FOREIGN TONGUES which cultivates some of the most established poets and writers in Arkansas. Chris believes that words have power so he continues to share his lyrical stories with audiences in hope to inspire and motivate. Words that describe Chris James would be idealistic, ambitious, Godly, futuristic, simplistic, and ever-striving.



Soraya Jean-Louis McElroy

New Orleans, Louisiana

Multimedia, Painting, Collage, Prosesoraya

Soraya Jean­Louis McElroy is a Haitian born, New York and Brooklyn raised mixed media queer womanist artist currently living and loving in New Orleans. Her love of black womyn and families,  motherhood,nature, Afrofutrism, comics/graphic novels and the African Diaspora are central themes in her work. Soraya’s work as an organizer, mentor, counselor, doula and medical anthropologist focusing on women’s health and African folklore strengthen her commitment to resisting oppression and facilitating healing through  imaginative creative/art activism. Soraya has participated in several group exhibits in various New Orleans cultural institutions, such as the: Mckenna Museum of African American Art, The JuJu Bag, Antenna Gallery, The Jazz and Heritage Gallery and a solo show at Café Rose NiCaud. Her works have been used in zines , a book cover- Spring Chicken’s Revenge: Tall Tales and Small Stories by Amari Johnson, Summer for the Sistah‘s community response cards, inaugural Audre Lorde week posters and most recently she was a contributing artist in Near Kin: A collection of Words and Art Inspired by Octavia Estelle by- Sybaritic Press and the make-up and costume designer for Monica McIntyre’s album It Soon Come . She is currently working with various community organizations and enjoying her beautiful family. Soraya is constantly  conceptualizing and creating new work and was’s featured artist in February.

Website: https//

Lisa MandleIMG_5994

Marshall, North Carolina

Painting and Drawing, Fiber/Textiles, Dance, Multimedia

“I grew up in the home of a musician and a painter who both encouraged me to express myself through art. I thought everyone had this opportunity until my early teens, where I s1 up cycled sweatertruggled to fit into the mandated public school curriculum. Fortunately I had the rare opportunity to be part of an apprenticeship program with a DC theater company, and toured the public schools performing and teaching with an ensemble theater troupe throughout middle and high school. I received a BFA from MICA in 1983 with a focus on drawing and painting as well as theater design. Since graduating, I have worked as a freelance artist; as a clothing maker, a special event designer, costumer, set dresser for film, mural painter, creativity teacher for children and adults, movement teacher, collaborator in directing and performance, designer and builder of green residential spaces, garden and outdoor space designer, and group art facilitator. I seek to share the art making experience through showing and collaborating as well as cultivating and teaching tools for creative expression as a human function; for the evolution and development of the personal, the cultural and the political truths and struggles we move through our lives.”



Peter Eversoll

Durham, North Carolina


Peter Eversoll is a photographer who works primarily on documentary projects and photography based community advocacy efforts, both in the USA and abroad. Additionally, he works with farmworkers in Eastern North Carolina, and is a co-founder of the farmworker advocacy non-profit NC FIELD ( He has also taught painting and contemporary art at La Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo in Mexico, and Photography at the Living Arts College in Raleigh, and has an MFA from La Academia de San Carlos, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. In 2007-08 he was Visiting Artist at FARO de Oriente in Mexico City, and was Artist in Residence at Golden Belt Studios in Durham, NC in 2009. He has exhibited his work throughout the USA and Latin America. From 1998 to 2004 he earned his chops as a dairy farmer in Oaxaca, Mexico.


Europe and Carnival 630Lorna Shelton-Beck

Charleston, South Carolina

Fashion Design

Lorna is a Jamaican American who works to preserve and promote the culture of the Caribbean. In 2006 she launched Charleston Carifest, a Caribbean Carnival. She manages Carifest from choosing the theme of the year, to working individually and collectively with costumes. Lorna makes carnival costumes of wire, paper, feathers, hot glue, fabric, and trimmings of stones. Lorna is an artist who has the commitment to making work in, with, by, for and about her community. A carnival is meaningful as a collective process. And Lorna is searching to break barriers between disciplines and cultures, while respecting everyone’s skills and possibilities.
Website: www.charlestoncarifest.comlorna


Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.