Beautiful Childhood Home Preservation

Nina Simone’s Childhood Home Preserved

Singer, pianist, songwriter, and civil rights activist Nina Simone, who died in 2003, made a lasting impact on the U.S., and now four artists are working to make sure her legacy lives on by saving her childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina.
NinaSimone_house_25The home, a three-room, 660-square-foot clapboard pier and beam house, is where Simone—born Eunice Waymon—taught herself to play piano by ear at the age of three. It had been vacant for 20 years, until going on the market in December 2016. That is when artist Adam Pendleton received an email from Laura Hoptman, a curator of contemporary art at The Museum of Modern Art, letting him know that Simone’s childhood home was for sale. When Hoptman mentioned that she had also emailed artist Rashid Johnson, Pendleton had an epiphany. “I had an aha moment and said, ‘Wait a minute, we could purchase this house together. It could be a collective act, a collective gesture.’” With Johnson on board, they recruited artists Ellen Gallagher and Julie Mehretu. “We both agreed that it would be a more meaningful gesture if other artists were involved,” he says. Together the artists purchased the home for $95,000 in March 2017.
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An Activist and Musician from the Very Beginning

Nina Simone’s distinctive voice, sultry blend of classical, blues, and gospel music, and penchant for activism have ensured that the artist’s decades-long legacy still endures today. In her childhood home, she developed a love for her piano and experienced racial discrimination that would shape her world view and social activism later in life. Her mother was a devout Methodist preacher, and her father was entrepreneurial (he had worked as an entertainer early in his own life). Though the Great Depression undoubtedly affected the family’s beginnings, they still provided Simone with opportunities to strengthen her passion—and talent—for music.
NinaSimone_Plaza_03_As a young girl, Simone accompanied her mother’s sermons and the church choir on the piano during services. After hearing Simone, then age 6, accompany the community choir at the Tryon Theater, two women convinced her mother she needed formal piano lessons. One of the women, Mrs. Muriel Mazzanovich, was a local piano teacher. She taught Simone at her house in Tryon for the next four years and organized the Eunice Waymon Fund to raise money for Simone to continue her training after she left for high school.
NinaSimone_interiors_4To thank those who supported the fund, Simone performed her debut recital at the Tryon Library in 1943 at age 11. However, living in a Jim Crow-segregated South, Simone’s parents were forced to give up their seats for white audience members when they arrived at the library. Even then a fierce defender of what she believed to be right, Simone refused to play until her parents were returned to their rightful place in the front row.
NinaSimone_house_5Simone’s piano education continued with the aid of the Eunice Waymon Fund, while she attended an all-girls boarding school in Asheville, North Carolina. Following graduation, she moved to New York City in 1950 to attend a summer program at Julliard with plans to apply for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; however, she didn’t receive the scholarship or admittance to Curtis—allegedly due to her race. Simone instead worked odd jobs before returning to music as an accompanist and private teacher. Eventually, she began playing piano and singing at a bar in Atlantic City. There, Simone changed her name, and her career as the High Priestess of Soul took shape.
NinaSimone_interiors_6Much later in her career, Simone returned to Tryon after she had just spent several years living in France and touring Europe. By this point, the artist had built a career, as well as a reputation for expressing her views on civil rights and the racial injustice experienced by African Americans through original songs and covers such as Mississippi Goddam, I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free, and Four Women.

Simone maintained personal friendships with noted Civil Rights leaders and activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The turbulence of the 1960s, and tragic events such as the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, motivated her to express her ideas and emotions through explosive live performances and recordings.
NinaSimone_house_7Throughout her career, Simone exhibited musical genius that couldn’t be denied or ignored. She spoke and sang about topics like standards of beauty for black women, oppression, and righteous anger motivated by hundreds of years of slavery and systemic racism. She traveled the world and performed for over four decades, often following momentous historic events like the Selma to Montgomery March and Dr. King’s assassination. She was, in short, a motivating figure for audiences around the world.
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A New Future for Nina Simone’s Past

Years later, when Simone’s childhood home had long been empty, it was in danger of demolition. Prior rehabilitation efforts were unsuccessful, and the house went up for sale again in 2017. The artists didn’t have an interest just in Simone’s art—they felt that buying, preserving, and restoring the home was itself a political act, particularly in the wake of prominent movements such as Black Lives Matter and the perpetuation of the racial divide in the United States.
NinaSimone_house_9Like Simone, each artist finds ways to connect their work to African American identity and history. Pendleton uses language to re-contextualize history through re-appropriated images. Johnson’s work combines “racial and cultural identity, African American history, and mysticism,” according to his biography on Artsy. Gallagher reinterprets advertisements for products targeted towards African Americans. Mehretu creates renderings of urban grids to reexamine cultural definitions of place. The artists plan to apply their collective artistic vision to reinterpret Simone’s home into something that reflects her dynamic, complex legacy, but they cannot do it alone.
NinaSimone_house_11With leadership and guidance from the four artists, the National Trust—along with the Nina Simone Project, World Monuments Fund, and North Carolina African American Heritage Commission—is working to preserve Simone’s Tryon home. The National Trust will develop a rehabilitation plan that aligns with the home’s potential future use; identify future ownership and stewardship models for the site; and create additional protections to ensure that this symbol of Simone’s early life and legacy will endure for generations to come.
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Learn more about Simone’s life and music here

Want to contribute to the preservation of her childhood home? Click here.

Beautiful Infinite Blue Hotel – Sorrento, Italy

Being in a state of quarantine, my planned excursion to Italy had to be put on hold. Actually, as everything has a way of turning out alright, I’m ok with that because it gives me more time peruse wonderful stories about Italy that I previously never seemed to find time for. I’m discovering some of the hidden treasures that I’ll take with me…some this September. And if September shall come and go and still I cannot fly to Europe? Well then, I shall peruse even deeper until the time comes when I can. Below is a story from Cereal magazine for all to peruse and enjoy.

“I STAND ON A BALCONY WITH TILES LAID IN DIAGONAL STRIPES, LOOKING OUT INTO THAT INFINITE BLUE UNTIL I AM SUSPENDED IN IT.”
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White concrete frames a square of uninterrupted blue. The cloudless sky, the iridescent Tyrrhenian sea, even the land stretching out either side — pastel-painted Sorrento to the left, Vesuvius to the right — is cast in a haze of blue. An impressionist’s dream.
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swooning over this blue tile

The concept of infinite blue was architect Gio Ponti’s driving inspiration when he built Parco dei Principi, his slice of 1960s modernism on a coast of faded antiquity. When it opened in 1962, the hotel was something new for ancient Sorrento: a clean-lined, contemporary edifice on the tufa-stone cliff. Inside, the bright, wide-open spaces were pared down and decorated entirely in white and blue.
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Ponti was commissioned to build Parco dei Principi when his friend and colleague, the Neapolitan engineer and hotelier Roberto Fernandes, bought the neighboring property, the ballet-shoe-pink 18th century Villa Cortchacow. The villa was originally owned by the Count of Syracuse and then by a Russian prince, who had a mock Gothic castle half-built in the grounds lest his cousin, the last tsar of Russia, should come to stay. Ponti’s challenge was to transform this — perhaps thankfully — unfinished castle.
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Gio Ponti was one of the most pioneering architects of the mid-century, with an extraordinary portfolio of buildings that championed forward-looking principles. He was driven by the ideas of transparency and lightness. His diamond-shaped Pirelli tower in Milan soars; his ethereal Taranto Cathedral in Puglia, delicate as a paper cut-out, is known as ‘the Sail’. “He loved to create little spaces of lightness, through elements in the design,” says Caterina Licitra Ponti, his great-granddaughter, a passion for her great-grandfather’s work alive in her eyes.
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And so in Sorrento, as in Taranto, he uplifted the castle’s solid stone walls so that the new building seemed to hover above the clifftop, wrapping the interior in a white concrete skin, perforated with spaces that allow the light and the sky to penetrate the framework. On approach, through verdant subtropical gardens, the blue of the sea is visible all the way through the glass-walled ground floor.
gio-ponti-hotel-parco-dei-principiOf all Gio Ponti’s 100-odd buildings, Sorrento is the only hotel where you can still stay, fully immersed in his art — for as well as the building itself he designed every last detail. He was not just an architect, but a designer — of interiors, furniture, industry, cars — an artist and a ceramicist, a writer and a teacher; and at Parco dei Principi his passion for so many disciplines converged in one triumphant paean to modernity.

Work was his passion. Every moment was one in which to create. Her grandmother, Lisa — Ponti’s daughter — recalls him waking each morning at 6.00 am. He used to have coffee in bed while he sketched and wrote letters on a tray of his own design — daily correspondence to friends and colleagues about every devilishly intricate detail of his projects, right down to the tablecloths and tiles.
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In the lobby, blue and white glazed pebbles are set into the walls, their cool, shiny-smooth surfaces reflecting infinite depths of radiance, chosen, Ponti wrote, for their ‘lightness and grace’, their ‘reflexes of light and sky’. Down in the hotel’s subterranean levels, where there is nobody else about, I put my cheek to the cool of them. It is clear Ponti created this place not just to look at but to touch, too, so that his work would engage and bring delight.
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On the bright upper floors, the hotel’s bedrooms are stripped back to the bare essentials, each element designed by Ponti in mid-century modern style and made in Italy: a bed, a chair, a footstool which doubles as a suitcase stand, and a dressing table facing the sea, where I sit and write this story on its smooth Formica top the color of the sky.
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Shaded from direct sunshine by the building’s perforated sheath, the room is cooled naturally by the shades of blue and white, and by the ceramic tiles underfoot. Of all Parco dei Principi’s carefully curated details, these ceramic tiles are perhaps the most enduring. Ponti made 30 different designs, all in the dark blue, pale blue, and white of the local seascape — some geometric, some figurative, featuring moons, stars and leaves. They are configured differently in each of the hotel’s 96 rooms.

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“I always think of the endless possibilities of the art,” Ponti observed, of creating these tiles. “Give someone a square measuring 20 by 20 and although people have been turning them out for centuries, there’s always room for a new pattern… There will never be a last design.” Here again, the concept of infinite blue. His dream was to make a permanent mark — infinite, like the blue of the sea and the sky.VFMLID=1074137304212f566e64500cfc882084ebdd0bb1c
I stand on a balcony with tiles laid in diagonal stripes, looking out into that infinite blue until I am suspended in it. Below me, a sailing boat cuts across the bay, its wake drawing a straight white line through the water. Above me, a gull hangs steadily for a moment, then soars away into the sky. Borne on the wind, light as air. Gio Ponti is everywhere.
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Parco de principiGio Pontioktober 1997

Cereal magazine

Beautiful Toys by Charles & Ray Eames

Serious Fun

Taking inspiration from the humble cardboard box, Ray and Charles Eames created toys and furniture to spark the imagination of kids and adults alike. A central tenant of the design philosophy of Ray and Charles Eames was an embrace of play as an end in itself, the idea that creativity should be unconstrained and unburdened. While the couple will always be remembered for their contributions to furniture, design and cinema, it was their approach to experimentation, and their interest in seemingly tangential topics such as clowns, that inspired their seemingly endless sense of wonder and a constant drive towards exploration and improvement. As champions of those beliefs, it only goes to follow that they’d also be some of the world’s foremost toy designers.

Ray and Charles Eames took child’s play seriously. They invented playthings, furniture, and films to spark, but never limit, the young imagination. Given their own ideas of fun, these toys tended to emphasize composition, structure, and building, giving children the tools of their own adult trades in miniature (and giving some adults the chance to make like children again). Many of their designs embrace what kids and parents have long known: that the box an item comes in, especially if it’s a very large item, can be more exciting than the contents.

So it comes as no surprise that the Eameses improved the box itself, as a portfolio of photographs unearthed from the Herman Miller Archives reminds us. The humble cardboard box offers children their first chance to make space for themselves, whether that’s a race car, a robot, or a house, sprouting from the shipping container the Eames Office designed in 1951 for the Eames Storage Units (ESUs).

Printed in a colorful red and black design, and featuring the distinctive Herman Miller ‘M,’ the heavy cardboard carton, reinforced with wood splines, had only to be re-nailed to the bottom wood skid, after the furniture had been removed, to be made into a playhouse youngsters would love, reads text from a draft press release. A separate leaflet offers instructions on “How to Make a Playhouse,” but it should have been self-explanatory: dotted lines suggest locations for an entrance and a view out, as well as jaunty awnings.

In one fell swoop, the Eameses managed to combine adult and child fun, eliminate waste, and add excitement to the mundane process of delivery. The up arrows, as well as the deep V of the logo “M,” designed by Irving Harper for the company, suggest the possibility of upward expansion into a miniature townhouse or skyscraper, should a child or parent need more furniture.

The ESUs themselves were also a kind of demountable toy for grownups. Made of perforated steel extrusions with diagonal bracing, they could be configured as low credenzas or high bookshelves. Buyers could customize the interior arrangement, selecting plywood drawers or doors, and perforated metal or enameled Masonite filler panels. Owners could also take them apart and rearrange or add on, treating the furniture as a series of modular boxes‑ furniture as toy.

As adults designing playthings intended for children, the Eameses found more inspiration in boxes. The Toy, manufactured by Tigrett Enterprises in 1951, offered children the chance to make their own prefabricated structure, one more colorful and flexible than Carton City. The Eameses had first been in touch with Tigrett about manufacturing large, bright, paper-and-cardboard animal masks based on those they used for skits and photo shoots in the late 1940s. The Memphis-based company was run by the highly entrepreneurial John Burton Tigrett, who made his fortune selling the Glub-Glub duck and may have been looking for more patentable products. The masks never made it out of the prototype stage, but the simpler and more geometric Toy did.

The Toy combined thin wooden dowels, pipe cleaners, and a set of square and triangular stiffened-paper panels in green, yellow, blue, red, magenta, and black. Children could run the dowels through sleeves on the edges of the panels to strengthen them, and then attach these struts at the corners. Initially sold in a big, flat box via the Sears catalog, the Eameses soon redesigned this packaging as well, creating a far more elegant 30-inch hexagonal tube, into which all parts could be rolled and stored.

The first version of the Toy made spaces big enough for children to inhabit, like the cartons. The Little Toy, released in 1952, was scaled more like an architectural model, allowing children to radically reinterpret the dollhouse. (The office later prototyped a modern model house for Revell, but it never went into production.) The Little Toy boxes, which feature a grid of colorful rectangles and words, resemble the panelized arrangement of the Eames House façade and the ESUs, and all of these products, at their various scales, were being developed at the Eames Office within the same few years.

Charles Eames once said of the work done out of the Eames Office, “We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next.” The connection to the ESU cartons and The Toy is immediately apparent in the longest-lived of the modular, paper-based playthings to come out of the Eames Office, the House of Cards.

In the voiceover for “Toccata for Toy Trains,” Charles Eames says, “In a good old toy there is apt to be nothing self-conscious about the use of materials. What is wood is wood; what is tin is tin; and what is cast is beautifully cast.” He could have added, in reference to the couple’s own toys, what is cardboard is cardboard, and then talked about the qualities that make it an ideal building material: its strength, its low cost, its ability to withstand a judicious number of cuts and slots.

Why Magazine by Alexandra Lange

Beautiful Thoughts

Some days are easy going and good and somehow we arrive at the end of it a little wiser, happier, or maybe the same but unscathed.  Then there are days we question our very worth and sometimes we don’t even know or understand why we derailed off the happy train. It’s those days that we need the extra kindness of friends and strangers, a smile, an acknowledgement that you are seen and even valued. We need a beautiful sight, a flower, a tree, a child, a beautiful human, something funny, the water or the forest, or at least the memory of such.

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We need to give our smile to someone else because they may be feeling the same and need a little confirmation, a little love, too.  You can never know the complete affect your little act of kindness can have on the world. So today, as easy or as confusing as it may be, I choose to let the universe flow through me as a confirmation that life is beautiful. And,  I vow to let the people I love and the strangers I make eye contact with, feel valued and seen, and acknowledged. So I ask you to just smile at someone, make eye contact and say hi, you just never know!  Let’s be better humans!

Photo taken somewhere on Puget Sound between Kitsap and Seattle

Beautiful Photography

We all go through childhood, but no two experiences are alike. Whether it’s culture, class, and/or geography, it all shapes these formative years in a powerful way. But despite these differences, as young people, we each explore the world around us with the same sense of wonder and imagination. These varied snapshots highlight a universal truth about life—this juxtaposition of emotion starts when we’re young and never ends. We just grow older and wiser. Can you see yourself in any of these?

01.pic olga ageeva.jpgPlaying with light, by Olga Ageeva, Russia

02.pic oriano.jpgLooking Out, by Oriano Nicolau, Spain

03.pic anna.jpgThe Horse Whisperer, by Anna Ajtner, The Netherlands

04.pic olga.jpgSleeping, by Olga Ageeva, Russia

05.pic hutchins.jpgLooking For the Queen, By Hutchins, Poland/USA

06.pic zhou.jpgChildren of the Indian Ocean Seaboard, Guomiao Zhou, China

07. batman annaBatman, Anna Kuncewicz, Poland

08.chelseaClassic Couch Potato, Chelsea Sibereis, USA

09.boyhood.jpgBoyhood, Alicja Pietras, Poland

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Double, Karen Osdieck, USA

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Plums, Mariola Glajcar, Poland

Beautiful Sketchbook

For 36 weeks in 04, Oliver Jeffers and three other artists sent a sketchbook back and forth across the Atlantic between them, each artist responding to the spread that proceeded the one before. When it was finished, the book had traveled over 60,000 miles. WOW, what a great idea with amazing results is all I can say.

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Beautiful Photography Exhibit in NYC

Charting the course of photography over the past 150 years is just one of the joys of MoMA’s new exhibition.
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See works from photography’s 19th-century origins right up to more recent masterworks, by artists from Brassaï to Carrie Mae Weems. Learn more

Beautiful Pierre Auguste Renoir

Happy Birthday Pierre-Auguste Renoir, born in Limoges, France (1841). He began painting when he was 13 years old, first on porcelain, then later painting on fans. He went on to form the style of painting known as Impressionism, along with the painters Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley. Renoir became severely disabled by arthritis starting in 1902, but he continued to paint. By 1913, he was completely crippled, and he instructed his assistants in creating several of his last sculptures.
Renoir said, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

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Beautiful iPhone Photography

I’ve become mesmerized lately by following the
magical work of Richard Koci Hernandez.
H
is photos tell a magical, mysterious story and
I can’t get enough. Every day I look forward to his
latest post on Instagram. Take time to enjoy it.
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“The more often we see the things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.”
Joseph B. Wirthlin

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“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.” Albert Camus

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“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King, Jr.