WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Bill Carpenter has been the executive director of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) for about three years now. He came over after he was a professor at High Point University for about a decade.
One thing he loves is reading.
“I’m actually always really interested in how language works and how we perceive ideas and imagery through language,” Carpenter said.
One book where language plays a key role is the banned "Maus." A nonfiction graphic novel centered on the Holocaust, it’s a favorite of Carpenter’s. It became a center of conversation this year when a county in Tennessee banned it, citing concerns of profanity, violence and nudity.
“I think it’s important to understand what it is about these books that might make other people super upset or, a better way of putting that, might be uncomfortable or uneasy,” Carpenter said.
Though people have been using it to drive their political beliefs, Carpenter said it’s not the only factor driving their support for certain books or lack thereof.
“It’s not a partisan thing all the time,” he said. “It’s really about people wanting to articulate what their community values are.”
To help people in the Triad be able to understand their comfort level, SECCA started a program called Banned Book Summer. Once a month this summer, it’ll hold a discussion about a different banned book to talk about its themes and how it relates to our current social and political climate.
"We just thought it’d be a great way to start engaging the community in conversations about what is art and what is literature and how do we know what’s appropriate and what’s not,” Carpenter said.
It was also a way to reflect on our history as human beings, even though that history isn’t always positive.
“These books often remind us that human life is messy, right?” Carpenter said. “Human life can be dirty, human life can be painful and hard.”
Sometimes the discussions can be that way, too. But being able to be creative and have open discussions keeps Carpenter going every single day.
“SECCA’s just a place of opportunity and possibility, and it’s exciting to be able to come in and really foster that and to give so many community groups and community partners access to this rather amazing facility,” Carpenter said.