The 50 States Project

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About

What began as a road trip to paint and photograph communities in all 50 states has grown into something much bigger: a study of before and after in a country irreversibly altered by the events of 2020.


In November of 2019, DC-area artists Kate Fleming and Tom Woodruff set out to travel to all 50 states in one year. Kate is a painter and Tom is a photographer; their mission was to paint and photograph their way across the country, documenting this specific and turbulent moment in our country’s history. The project’s mission is to conduct serious artistic inquiry into the present state of the nation, learning and sharing the stories of our fellow Americans and engaging with communities across the country. 17 states and 4.5 months into the project, the pandemic put their travel plans on hold and the artists returned to their hometown of Arlington, Virginia.



The 50 States Project asks: How can we document America right now — setting aside nostalgia and preconceptions, and teasing out what is unique to this exact moment in time? 


What can we literally see today that we couldn’t see yesterday and won’t see tomorrow? These questions were written during the conception of the project, more than five years ago. They’re even more relevant today.

Over the past year, the project has grown to document both life in social isolation and the social upheaval of the past year. Now, they’re getting back on the road in 2021. The project is uniquely poised to document the country before, during, and after the pandemic. It was always the artists’ intention to document change — no one could have guessed the magnitude of the change they would have the opportunity to record. 



A core element of the project is travel; it was built on the spirit and tradition of the American Road Trip. 

In its current form, it explores the way in which travel — followed by a period of motionlessness — are both intrinsic to the experience of the past year and the artists' understanding of the nuances of the built and natural environment across the country and at home, as well as how those spaces contribute to our sense of place and sense of self.

Kate has created over 100 paintings this year and Tom has shot over 50,000 frames. As the artists lean into the opportunity to document the before and after, they are also conscious of how the changes in the project reflect back the changes we have all undergone. The arts provide an important lens and perspective on our changing world, and this project physically and philosophically presents an opportunity to engage and grapple directly with that challenge.



Updates
The Perils of Landscape Painting

Kate made this teeny tiny painting a couple of weeks ago in Greenville, North Carolina. The gas station pictured here was right across the street from a gravel factory — which means there was a whole lot of gravel dust flying through the air and into the oil paint! Kate's painted a lot of landscapes, but the landscape itself doesn't usually end up IN the painting.  


1639 days ago by Kate Fleming
Our Sticker Collection

Our sticker collection is growing! We're collecting stickers from each state to put on the headboard of our van bed — and we may or may not have returned to South Carolina (and taken a half-day detour to Hilton Head) specifically to find a sticker... Worth it!


1639 days ago by Kate Fleming

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