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 Museum Design

Science Museum’s Math Gallery soars with a stunning Zaha Hadid design.
New gallery tells stories of how math underpins the world. The design for the Gallery responds to the ambition of David Rooney and his team to present mathematics not as an academic concept, but as a practice that influences technology and enables the environment around us to be transformed. Mathematics and its tools have always played a central role in the evolution of the human understanding of nature and the constructed world: for example, Sir Isaac Newton’s methods to derive the laws of gravitation, Henri Poincaré’s extension of the Cartesian geometries to the planetary system and Lord Kelvin’s use of the mathematical technique of curve-fitting to predict the tides.

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Mathematics underlies all science, so for a science museum to be worthy of the name, math needs to be included somewhere. Yet math, which deals mainly in in the abstract, is a challenge for museums, which necessarily contains physical ones. The Science Museum’s approach in its new gallery is to tell historical stories about the influence of mathematics in the real world, rather than focusing directly on the mathematical ideas involved. The result is a stunning gallery, with fascinating objects beautifully laid out, yet which eschews explaining any math. (If you want to learn simple mathematical ideas, you can always head to the museum’s new interactive gallery, Wonderlab).

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Hanging from the ceiling is an airplane – the Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’, built in 1929 for a competition to build safe aircraft – and surrounding it is a swirly ceiling sculpture that represents the mathematical equations that describe airflow. In fact, the entire gallery follows the contours of the flow, providing the positions of the cabinets below.

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Mathematics has had a profound influence on architectural shapes and forms (known as morphology) and their origins, basing them on sound structural principles. The enhancement of the performative aspects of design with respect to the built environment, its manufacture and ultimately the comfortable navigation by people within these environments, forms an integral part of building on these foundations.

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In a section on “form and beauty”, there is a modern replica of a 1920s chair based on French architect’s Le Corbusier’s Modular system of proportions, and two J W Turner sketches from his Royal Academy lectures on perspective.

Beautiful Old World Movie House

The Wonder Theatres were five giant, lavish movie palaces that opened around
New York City in 1929 and 1930. While cinemas were plentiful at the time, the Wonder Theatres were a cut above the rest. Built as Loew’s flagship theatres, the opulent venues were designed with all the fabulousness of the Jazz Age, and went on to provide an escape into the fantasy of Hollywood and luxury throughout the Great Depression and Second World War.

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The last of the Wonder Theatres to open was the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, today known as the United Palace Theater. It debuted on February 22, 1930, with showings of the films Their Own Desire and Pearls and vaudeville performances
starring Al Shaw and Sam Lee. The theater is a sight to behold. The lavish interior, much of which is filigreed, features authentic Louis XV and XVI furnishings and ornate chandeliers, while the blocky exterior is reminiscent of Mayan architecture. Its eclectic architectural style, designed by Thomas W. Lamb, was described by The New York Times as “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco” and a “kitchen sink masterpiece.” With more than
3,000 seats, it is still the fourth largest venue of its kind in Manhattan.

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Movie palaces eventually fell out of vogue, however, and the grand Wonder Theatres fell into decline and abandon in the late 60s and
through the 70s. Today, two of the theaters (the Jersey Theatre in Jersey City and Kings Theatre in Brooklyn) still serve as cinemas and performance venues. Another two (the Paradise Theatre in the Bronx and Valencia Theatre in Queens) became churches.
The United Palace Theater, located in upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights, found a second life as a unique mix of both.

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The former Wonder Theatre still functions as a church, as well as a movie house with a 50-foot screen, and a performance venue that has brought in acts as diverse as Adele, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, and the Berlin Philharmonic. It also serves as a cultural and community arts center, opened by Reverend Ike’s son Xavier Eikerenkoetter, who now oversees operations of the historic venue.

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Atlas Obscura

Beautiful Museum

If you are ever driving from Nashville to Memphis something you won’t want to miss is the Tina Turner Museum. As a huge fan of her, her music is as apropos today as it’s ever been. In fact, I suspect Lady Gaga takes inspiration from her performances.  Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, she became a Swiss citizen in 2013 and relinquished her American citizenship.

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The one-room Flagg Grove School was one of the first schools for African Americans in the South, built in the 1880s. It was originally located in the small town of Nutbush, where Turner grew up and attended grade school in the rustic building in the 1940s.

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The school, among the first in the South for African-Americans, was built in the
1880s by her great-uncle, Benjamin Flagg.

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