Rural Project

by Lillian Burke, 2018

The Rural Project


In 2018-2019 we are focusing on the issues facing small town and rural communities in the Southeast in the 21st century.

The dominance of industrialized farming and the shrinking of domestic manufacturing have transformed the landscape of much of the South. In its wake, we see communities struggling with many of the same issues faced by underserved urban populations: poor access to education, health care, and opportunities for advancement. We will be identifying rural communities and rural-based artists in 2018-2019 to develop projects around the stories and experiences of this often overlooked and disrespected part of our community.

Spells for the Freeman Closing

Join us for the closing reception and catalogue release for Spells for the Freeman / Liberation of Land Through Breath by Cedric Umoja. Free and open to the public!


The Rural Project Premiere

Join us for the film premieres from the 2019 Indie Grits Labs Fellows and Rural Project artists.


The 2019 Fellows


In a series of artist-led educational workshops, public forums, exhibitions, and project development sessions beginning in September 2018 and running through the festival in March 2019, a selected Fellowship of artists (filmmakers, artists, activists, community organizers, etc) primarily residing in South Carolina will work with Columbia-based community stakeholders, partnering organizations, and rural communities to develop and create projects exploring the Rural theme. Artworks will be revealed by the Fellowship during the 2019 Indie Grits Festival, taking place March 28-31.

Lillian Burke

Lillian Burke, born and raised in South Carolina, is a filmmaker, musician, and part time farmer. She received her bachelor’s degree in Media Arts from Antioch College in 2016. Drawn to more diy and experimental forms of media, her artistic philosophy embraces subjectivity, vulnerability, and doubt. After finishing college, Lillian moved to her family farm in Saluda, SC where she became fascinated and increasingly invested in the story of the small rural town that she is now working to document. Today Lillian works at the Nickelodeon theatre and is involved with Indie Grits Labs as an educator, a filmmaker, and as a project coordinator for the Rural Project.

Kelly Creedon

Kelly Creedon is a documentary filmmaker whose uses intimate storytelling as a means to explore communities and the questions that unite and divide us. Her work has been featured in Vimeo Staff Picks, National Geographic, the Los Angeles Times, Reel South, and the PBS Online Film Festival, among others. Her short documentary In This World screened widely at festivals around the country, and her editing credits include the feature-length documentary Farmsteaders (2018) and the documentary short Santuario (2018). In 2018, she was awarded a NC Arts Council Artist Fellowship.

Ian Dillinger

Ian Dillinger is a South Carolina native who has been found frolicking in the wetlands and waterways of the Lowcountry since he could crawl. Growing up in a creative family, Ian took every opportunity to deconstruct, build, and explore the world around him. Time spent traveling has given him a wealth of inspiration and empathy for the lives of people all over the World. It is the margins and rural places that he finds most fascinating. Ian’s artistic drive is to document the folks that make their living off the natural resources around them, and to provide insight into culture and traditional of previously unheard rural voices.


Mahkia Greene

Mahkia Greene is a Columbia based filmmaker. Her love for film emerged at a young age, when she began shooting and editing home movies and short films with family and friends. Mahkia graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Media Arts from the University of South Carolina in 2016. Since then she has done her best to incorporate her own identity as a young queer, black, southern woman in her art. Currently Mahkia is a media education instructor for Indie Grits Labs where she teaches two media based afterschool programs, TakeBreakMake and Come Around My Way.

Thaddeus Jones Jr.

Thaddeus Wayne Jones Jr is a filmmaker, writer, director, and artist from Hampton South Carolina. Thaddeus began his interest in film at an early age by making videos with classmates and writing stories in his gifted and talented classes. During high school Thaddeus worked as a photography assistant, learning the basics of lighting and photography. Thaddeus spent many years after high school discovering his talents and understanding his shortcomings he now uses what he has learned about himself, people and his environment to influence his art, rather it is narrative films, documentaries, or photography Thaddeus strives to give voice to the voiceless.

Yulian Martinez-Escobar

Yulian Martinez-Escobar lives in Charleston, South Carolina. His avid interests include languages, traveling, and culture, which have defined his artistic style. Yulian first cultivated an interest in the fine arts in his native Colombia as an actor in his college theater company. He later went on to become a self-taught photographer and videographer. He especially enjoys capturing candid portraits of people he meets in his travels, from Scotland to Peru to Senegal and the Gambia. As a foreigner, he wants to explore and document the lives and diverse backgrounds of other people who have ended up in the United States.


Cedric Umoja

Cedric Umoja was born in San Francisco, California, but is based out of Columbia, South Carolina. Cedric Umoja developed his style under the instruction of Tony Cacalano, a Yale MFA and veteran fine artist, whose own teachers included Jack Tworkov, one of the founders of the now Famed New York school. Cedric has painted mural in San Francisco’s Mission District, Charleston’s Alicia Alley, and in 2017, organized and completed a collaborative mural on Columbia’s Millwood corridor. In addition to his street art, Umoja has had solo exhibitions at Sumter Gallery of Art, South Carolina State University, and The Goodall Gallery at Columbia College.

Rural Project Exhibitions

Waste and Want in the Rural South


On View January 31 – March 10, 2019

Thaddeus Jones and Ian Dillinger explore the conventions and culture of the rural southern landscape. Their images evoke conversation about the evolution of rural spaces and strive to give voice to those who call these places “home”. The pair of 2019 Indie Grits Fellows present unique perspectives and capture what they believe to be the essence of a culture stuck in the margins of the South.

More about the opening reception:

Among Strangers: Cuba and Saluda in Conversation


On View November 08 – December 21, 2018


Among Strangers: Cuba and Saluda in Conversation is an exploration of what it means to be a stranger. Yulian Martinez-Escobar and Lillian Burke will exhibit a series of collages and photographs that document their connections and conversations throughout their travels in Cuba and Saluda, SC.

More about the opening reception:

The Southern Disposition


On View until September 27, 2018


As our first foray into the Rural Project, The Southern Disposition is an exhibition of photographs from a diverse group of Southern artists. Having sought work that “addresses and challenges the social, cultural, and physical landscapes of the South,” we are excited to showcase submissions from over 30 photographers, stationed throughout the Southeast and beyond.

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