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Atlanta artist to launch new Montford festival

miya baileyMiya Bailey wants to give back to hometown, he says. Atlanta-based tattoo artist Miya Bailey has made sure that he never forgets his hometown. He tattooed Asheville's area code -- 828 -- on his hand. Long before he was tattooing the likes of R&B star Usher or top model Eva, Bailey was catching crawfish in the creek at Montford Park in the 1980s. Or learning how to apply makeup, and later paint, from artists working with the Montford Park Players. Or selling his first piece of art, a piece of pottery, at a neighborhood festival. Now, he is using those same hands to return the gift Asheville gave him this summer. With help from another Asheville native and Atlanta artist, Paper Frank, Bailey will launch the Little Montford Festival this summer. "I want to get the community together together as much as possible," he said, noting he wanted the block party-type event to welcome everyone from the urban to the hippie communities in the city. He is still finalizing his vision, but noted that it will feature free food -- he's thinking barbecue with some veggie options -- live music performances, art demonstrations, with a vendor component that would be part craft fair/part neighborhoodwide yard sale. He is producing the festival during his national tour, which will take him to Los Angeles, New York, Houston, and, of course, his hometown of Asheville on June 19-22. He will launch a European tour in the fall. Ultimately, he hopes the festival could expose a young person to a new creative venture. "I think if young people get exposed to seeing (an artist paint) live, it could spark something in them," he said, much like Montford Park happenings inspired his artistic achievements. An artist painting in Montford inspired Bailey to paint for the first time, he said. He says he visits the Montford Park every time he visits Asheville. "It's just so beautiful," he said. "When you see something every day, you might overlook it." His emphasis on community-building and also creating a truly diverse event this summer echoes his interests of breaking down barriers in his shop, through his work and having honest, direct conversations about race. Bailey featured Montford Park in "Color Outside the Lines," a documentary that chronicles the work of black tattoo artists. He put some $30,000 of his own money into the film. The production took three years, and featured artists from across the country, and in London and Amsterdam. Bailey told Asheville Scene last year he wanted his scenes in the movie to say something about Asheville, the city that shaped him. "I shot most of my scenes in Pisgah View and Erskine Street apartments," Bailey said. "I wanted to show people my scene, show me coming up, show that you don't have to stay at the bottom." "Both sides of Asheville are never seen. So in the movie, you'll see downtown, then Hillcrest. You'll see beautiful Asheville, and the Asheville people don't want to show," Bailey said. "I want people to understand there are people there in the projects, and understand that Asheville is not physically segregated, but mentally segregated," he said. "It's something I want to break." Born in Asheville's Klondyke public housing complex in Montford, he moved to the Hillcrest complex near downtown. The family moved back to Montford, and then West Asheville. He attended Asheville High School. His time in Montford, however, has a strong hold on him. "It always creeps up in my dreams," he said of that area. "I've always thought I was going to do something there to give back." Now, he says, he can because of professional success in Atlanta. He is in the planning stages, and is looking for people want to participate. He asks for interested people to give him a call at 404-644-1912. To learn more about Miya Bailey, or see some of his work, visit

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