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The Daily Planet's Opinion: July 2017
Tuesday, 04 July 2017 10:05

Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon worth saving

We heartily commend the four prominent African-American artists who quietly got together and pooled their money to top competing bids in a recent successful quest to buy the childhood home of Nina Simone, Tryon’s most famous resident, in nearby Tryon for $95,000. 

Until a few years ago, the humble, 660-square-foot, three-room clapboard house was unknown even to many Tryon residents.

However, those who did know that 30 E. Livingston St. was the birthplace of the singer, soul legend and civil rights icon feared that the house’s appearance on the market late last year might result in demolition by its new owner. (Simone died in 2003 at age 70.)

In February, the purchase was made by conceptualist Adam Pendleton, sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher and abstract painter Julie Mehretu. 

Thanks to their efforts, those interested in jazz and blues music, or the civil rights movement, will be able to make a pilgrimage to Simone’s childhood home. They describe the purchase as an act of art but also of politics — and as a gratifying chance to respond to what they see as a deepening racial divide in America, when Simone’s fiery example of culture warrior seems more potent than ever.

To its credit, Tryon dedicated a bronze statue — by sculptor Zenos Frudakis — memorializing Simone, on Feb 21, 2010. The statue depicts Simone nimbly playing a floating, undulating keyboard in front of the old town theater in a park. Simone’s daughter gave some of Simone’s ashes to Frudakis, who sealed them in a bronze heart within the statue’s chest.

Both the homeplace plan and the statue are fitting recognition of Simone’s contributions.


 



 


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