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Arts and Entertainment

Mural program puts creatives to work in Historic West End
Initiative honors music giants
 
Published Saturday, January 23, 2021 8:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY
Artist Ricky Singh created a mural of musician Carlos Santana as part of an outdoor exhibit program that honors music greats in Historic West End.

CARES Act funding allowed Historic West End Partners to put artists to work.

The city of Charlotte distributed funding to Historic West End Partners and the NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association to help artists return to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic as well as create vibrant corridors. They used $6,535 of the CARES Act allotment to create an outdoor exhibit honoring music greats on the former A&P on West Trade Street’s 1600 block. The space was provided by Johnson C. Smith University and the Duke Endowment.

“The community has not only wanted to see a cultural market with a fresh food hub in it, but also a place for gathering and entertainment,” Historic West End Partners program director J’Tanya Adams said. “Music is at the core of our culture in various genres. We decided to look at a great in every genre. I know we are missing hip hop, but we have a hip hop piece coming. We did everybody who preceded hip hop.”

The vibrant space not only brings people together outside in a physically distanced manner, it falls in line with the mission of Historic West End Partners, which is to provide opportunities for corridor revitalization and reinvigoration.

The project began with a mural, “NC 8 Musical Greats,” on the side of the building facing North Bruns Avenue painted by T’Afo Feimster and Abel Jackson. Feimster worked with Adams on determining where to place the mural, and as the three-week deadline to complete the project began to close in, he brought in Jackson to help. The musicians include Nina Simone of Tryon, Roberta Flack of Black Mountain, Maceo Parker of Kinston, John Coltrane of Hamlet, Max Roach of Newland, Thelonious Monk of Rocky Mount and Chuck Brown of Gastonia.

“The universal language, they say, is music, but I also say it is art as well,” Feimster said. “With the pandemic and the isolation, so to speak, of individuals having to hunker down in place …it’s good that we can make visual images available outside so that they can come out and enjoy, and we can be able to bring it into the home virtually as well. It’s a win-win because the artists can continue to work and make money in the economic crisis that the pandemic is creating.”

The first mural was painted on the building, but the second part of the exhibit, which features national greats, was placed on canvas banners by Roz-Kareem Jackson’s R.A. Signs Inc., 6150 Brookshire Blvd.

“Being able to pour their art out into the community and beautifying the community—things that were eyesores are now such beautiful pieces. It’s such a beautiful thing,” Jackson said. “There are also a lot of young artists in the community who have not had a chance to reach this point yet. It also encourages them to want more and go home and get busy.”

Said Chad Cartwright, who created the portrait of Shirley Caesar: “It is something to beautify spaces that aren’t being used anymore. We created something in a smaller scale that was enlarged and print, and I love the way it came out.”

Eight murals by five artists highlight Caesar, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Stevie Nicks, Carlos Santana, Prince and Garth Brooks. They were placed on canvas banners in order to preserve the work, but also because the surface beneath was not conducive to serving as a canvas. All but the Holiday piece are 9-feet-by-16-feet works. Holiday, which was created by Abel Jackson, is 10-by-20. If the need to move the art arises, then they are preserved.

“What’s most interesting about it is you’ll see that it is not a traditional mural that is on a wall,” said Ricky Singh, who created the Santana mural. “The idea to rethink the use of space and art was interesting for me. It shows that we can do interesting things with those who have other talents, specifically Roz—to be able to take a canvas or a digitized piece to blow it up to this magnitude so close to Uptown and Beatties Ford Road is amazing, but not only that, it’s honoring a slew of musicians who often don’t get acknowledged for the work they’ve done.”

The murals face the CityLynx Gold Line, which now extends from the Elizabeth neighborhood beyond JCSU on Beatties Ford Road.

“When they are driving up and down these rails, they get to see this artwork,” Jackson said. “Maybe people will get on the rail just to see the artwork.”

Tiffonye’ Wilkins, who painted Franklin, Marley and Nicks, found the creative process simple. She listened to their music.

“All of my art is inspired by music,” she said. “I believe that art heals. I’ve healed myself, as well as others, through art. Sometimes paintings, the colors and the images, can say things that we can’t necessarily put into works. It takes us away a little bit. It’s an escape. You get to see things through someone else’s eyes, or a new perspective through your own eyes.”

John Hairston Jr. created the Prince and Brooks pieces.

The next phase of the project will be a mural highlighting the Charlotte 4, which Feimster would like to place to the left of the NC 8 Musical Greats. The four will include Anthony Hamilton, Fantasia Barrino and K-Ci & JoJo.

 

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