Artists building, designing first pieces of public art for African-American Music Trail
Photo: Charles Buchanan / The Free Press
Sandi Landis, director of the Community Council for the Arts, shows a mock-up of the
proposed Neuseway Park bandstand canopy, designed by Hanna and Jodi Jubran of J&H Studios in Grimesland.
The structure will be made of metal and wood
December 24, 2011
Kinston Free Press
After seven years of talking to musicians and compiling the rich history of music in Kinston, the first pieces of public art for the area’s African-American Music Trail are taking shape.
“The project stemmed from knowing what I thought was a handful of African-American musicians (from Kinston) who had made their mark on the music scene throughout our nation,” Sandy Landis, executive director of the Kinston Community Council for the Arts, said last week.
Landis said she realized, after getting into her research, “it came to my attention we weren’t just talking about a handful of musicians.”
Kinston is the birthplace — and has been a draw for — many prominent black artists of the 20th Century.
Well-known local artists include saxophone player Maceo Parker, and Nathaniel “Nat” Jones, the bandleader for James Brown, as well as the writer of many of the R&B great’s hit songs.
Jones was one of at least five Kinston natives who played in Brown’s orchestra.
The area also drew national recording artists such as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, who played at the former New Dixie Tobacco Warehouse at South Queen and Springhill Streets.
Landis said 4,000 to 5,000 people would come to a show at the warehouse, and the audiences were often mixed, even though Kinston was racially segregated until the 1960s.
“It was alive with the sale of tobacco during the day, but at night it would turn into this amazing music venue,” she said.
The warehouse has long since been knocked down, but the 4-acre vacant lot is slated to become what Landis called “the trailhead” of the African-American Music Trail.
The Trail will start in Kinston and wind through eight counties, including Greene, Jones, Pitt, Wayne, Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe. Visitors who follow it will be treated to public art and other displays highlighting the black artists and the music scene in those communities.
The lot at South Queen and Springhill will become a park area, with public art created by the team of David Wilson and Brandon Yow, who have also created pieces for the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte.
Kofi Boone is an associate professor of landscape architecture at N.C. State University’s College of Design; he is working with the artistic team and licensed landscape architects to design the park.
“The new park will provide an important public space focused on sharing the rich legacy of African-American music with residents of, and visitors to, Kinston and Lenoir County,” Boone — who is serving as the landscape designer — wrote in an email.
Landis showed basic models of what the park and the art displays might look like, but she stressed they are still in the early design stages and could change over the next year.
She said it is likely the land will be graded next summer, and the project could be complete by late 2012.
“We are hopeful that the park will support broader cultural economic development and be a significant stop on the African-American Music Trail,” Boone stated.
Another art project for the Trail, which is much further along, is a wood and metal canopy for the bandstand in Pearson Park.
Landis showed a detailed model for the canopy, which will be created by another artistic duo, the husband-and-wife sculpting team of Hanna and Jodi Jubran. They have also created the Monument to a Century of Flight in Kitty Hawk, with fellow artist Glenn Eure.
The early stages of work on the canopy have commenced, and the Jubrans are expected to be working on it this week.
The Music Trail project has brought together representatives of the local government, Pride of Kinston, tourism officials, the North Carolina Arts Council and more.
“We were talking about a long, rich, deep heritage, and that story needed to be told,” Landis said.
David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or email@example.com.