SmART Initiative: African American Music Trail
Photo by Cedric Chatterley.
African American music traditions constitute some of North Carolina’s richest cultural assets. Our state was home to some legendary figures of jazz and blues, including John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller, and Elizabeth Cotton. Today, artists like Shirley Caesar, Luther Barnes and Maceo Parker represent North Carolina to the world through their internationally acclaimed music.
A collaborative project of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (DCR) and N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) with local arts council partners, the AAMT recognizes the achievements of musicians from eastern North Carolina. It is documenting and developing the music and cultural assets of eight eastern counties to grow local economies through cultural tourism and employment opportunities for musicians.
Kinston has emerged as the primary hub for the AAMT project because of the strength of partnerships among the N.C. Arts Council, the City of Kinston, the Community Council for the Arts, and the local arts community — and in particular, the accomplishments and engagement of its musicians, among whom rank Maceo and Melvin Parker and three of their colleagues in James Brown’s iconic band of the 1960s.
Benefitting from folklorists’ inventory of music assets and numerous community engagement sessions in 2008, landscape architect Kofi Boone and an N.C. State University design team developed a plan for Kinston, which has informed subsequent design efforts. Boone is working with landscape architects Fernando Magallanes and Terry Naranjo, architect Victor Vines, and visual artists David Wilson and Brandon Yow to design an AAMT gateway park in downtown Kinston. Funding from the Golden Leaf Foundation supplements DOT funding for the gateway park. It also supports artists Hanna and Jodi Jubran’s design and construction of a canopy for an existing bandstand in Pearson Park overlooking the Neuse River.
A cultural district overlay and infrastructural and artful trail amenities will provide a comprehensive vision for AAMT attractions and pedestrian-friendly linkages among scattered sites and neighborhoods. The Pilot Study includes a concept for a Musicians Village intended eventually to provide housing for Kinston’s senior musicians and a venue for them to play music and disseminate traditions to younger generations.
In addition, Kinston’s business community and city government are fully engaged in downtown revitalization, paving the way for a future cultural district. The new Mother Earth Brewery joins acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant, the Chef and the Farmer, and public art and design improvements to the property adjacent to the Arts Center in fostering a fresh identity for downtown Kinston.