Last year, the artists Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher and Julie Mehretu collectively purchased a house in Tryon, North Carolina, determined to save the dilapidated property from being bulldozed by a new owner. It was the childhood home of Nina Simone, the musician and Civil Rights icon, who was born in the small, Blue Ridge Mountains town in 1933. On Tuesday, the property was named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, ensuring that it will be protected for the foreseeable future. The organization intends to turn the site into a cultural facility. As Stephanie Meeks, the president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a press release:
“Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before. 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.”
Spearheading the project is the Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund—set up by Ford Foundation and the actress Phylicia Rashad—and it will work alongside the artists who purchased the property to develop programming at the site. “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,” Pendleton said in the release.