WMF Joins Partners to Transform Nina Simone House
Last week, our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that Nina Simone’s birthplace in Tryon, North Carolina, was their newest National Treasure. World Monuments Fund is proud to be one of several partners that will now develop a sustainable new use for the home of the iconic activist and musician.
Growing up in Tryon, Nina Simone taught herself the piano at age 3, performed in public for the first time at the neighborhood church where her mother preached, and experienced the constraints placed on black females in the rural Jim Crow South—a theme that would deeply inform her music and political activism.
In recent years, the three-room clapboard structure had fallen into disrepair and was put on the market in 2016. Alarmed by the condition of the home and the risk of losing this connection to Nina Simone entirely, four African American visual artists—conceptual artist and painter Adam Pendleton, the sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, the collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher, and the abstract painter Julie Mehretu—purchased the property in 2017.
“Last year, my fellow artists and I felt an urgent need to rescue Nina Simone’s childhood home—a need sprung from a place of political activism as well as civic duty,” said artist Adam Pendleton. “A figure like Nina Simone—an African American woman from a small town in North Carolina who became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement—is extraordinarily relevant to artists working today. She constantly expressed her commitment to the democratic values our country espouses by demanding that we live up to them. We are honored to partner with the National Trust to further protect her legacy.”
Working in partnership with the property owners, the local community, the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, World Monuments Fund, and the National Trust will seek new protections, evaluate preservation needs, and conduct market and feasibility studies to develop a new use for the home that was once a symbol of Simone’s parents’ middle-class success.
Last week’s dedication was celebrated in Tryon, North Carolina, with guided tours of the home and a free live concert. In March, World Monuments Fund also hosted a special evening in New York City to support our friends and their mission to save Simone’s birthplace.
“Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “And while her musical and social justice legacy burns bright, her childhood home has been neglected. We’re delighted to work with the home’s new owners and the local community to chart a new future for the property that will honor her tremendous contributions to American society and inspire new generations of artists and activists to engage with her legacy.”