Artist Profile: A Lesson in Unity

Charlottesville changed everything for me,” Pete Fanning remembered. “I guess I was naive. I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t aware it was so

Three Local Artists Tell a Story of Race and Solidarity

Charlottesville changed everything for me,” Pete Fanning remembered. “I guess I was naive. I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t aware it was so mainstream. It really shook me.”

In 2017, when a Unite the Right counter-protester was killed on the Charlottesville Mall, the country—and those of us in Charlottesville’s backyard—was left reeling from such a public glimpse into the country’s widespread racism and white supremacy. 

“I remember turning on the TV and being floored that this was here and an hour away,” Fanning said. “Seeing the fighting in the streets just tore at my heart and stayed there.”

As many artists do, Fanning took to his craft to process the horrific events, not realizing that the basis for his latest book, Hometown, was being formed. Just a few years later when Fanning and his son attended a local high school football game and saw a racial rift between the two opposing teams, Fanning saw the full story unfold.

“My kid was too young to notice. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind,” he said. “That’s when I wrote the first chapter.”

Art by Jon perry

From there, Hometown, a young adult fiction, effortlessly flowed to the page. Fanning pulled from his memories of Charlottesville, the high school football game, and his own experiences to weave a tale about life, racism, unity, and a little bit of football. While this is a book for children ages 13 and up, Fanning recognizes that anyone can take away something from Hometown, which will be available for purchase where all books are sold in April.

“This book is for kids who want to make things better for their siblings,” Fanning said. “It’s like a passing of the guard—we’re trying to find a space for everybody.”

As he finalized Hometown and started going through edits, Fanning reached out to his friend and fellow-artist Jon Perry who had created cover art for Bricktown Boys, a book Fanning published in 2021.

“I reached out to [Jon] for Hometown. As a Black man, he has this vision. The first thing he showed me was a piece featuring the two [main characters] and a monument. But inside of the monument was a burning Confederate flag. We got into a friendly pushback,” Fanning said. “Writing this book I discovered my own little habits and the way I see things. It’s a book about unity, but he saw it in different ways that I never, as a white guy, would think about.”

Fanning and Perry connected over the story and the ways in which they each related to different characters in the book. From there, Perry created story and cover art that put into visuals the characters’ journeys from division to understanding. 

Fanning also reached out to Quincy Cunningham, a local musician, to write and produce a song for the book’s trailer, which can be found on YouTube and on Fanning’s author website.

“Quincy had just released some music on Facebook and it caught on pretty big,” Fanning said. “He had written a song about Virginia and I was blown away by it. He got back to me and was interested in doing the music for the Hometown trailer. Hearing his music, I knew it was going to be good. He’s a little younger than Jon and myself, so we have that perspective too.”

With such a collaborative effort in telling the Hometown story—from Fanning’s words to Perry’s art to Cunningham’s music—the creative process in and of itself has been a lesson in crossing lines and meeting people where they are. While the three artists come from different backgrounds, they worked together to flesh out the true narrative of the story and see Hometown from each other’s perspectives. 

“Discussions of race are so eye-opening at times,” Fanning said. “It’s one thing to write it down—it’s a story and I’m closed in an office, writing my thoughts. It’s a whole other animal to put it out in the world where we live. Yeah, it’s racial but it’s more about unity. So I’m telling the story in the best way that I can.”  

Hometown is being published by Immortal Works, a publishing house that focuses on clean genre fiction for general audiences. Hometown will be available for purchase in April via Amazon,
Barnes and Noble, Target, or online at Fanning will be releasing another book later this year.

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