Drive by the corner of 14th Street and Cameron Avenue, and the rich history of the community adorns a wall of 14th St. Discount, like photos collected for a scrapbook.
There are paintings from historic images of the 14th Street School and the community swimming pool that played an important role in the neighborhood. Images commemorate businesses like Hairston’s Pharmacy and Safe Bus Company, the only black-owned city bus company in the nation that ran a fixed route for the general public, which began in this community. There are portraits of such community leaders as N.C. Sen. Earline Parmon and N.C. Rep. Larry Womble. Other paintings capture the excitement from a performance of Daddy-Oh on the Patio, the disc jockey who played music from the roof of a drive-in. Bus lines form an underlying thread that connects the images.
Jiwan Johnson said he lives two streets down from the mural.
“To me, it means a lot,” Johnson said, and he appreciated the artists listening to the community about what it wanted to capture in the mural. He said that famous black leaders are already well known, and the neighborhood wanted to highlight its own leaders and history.
“We didn’t want faces everybody already knew so when they see it everybody would just pass it,” he said. “We actually have people that lived here. That’s people we know. It’s just wonderful. All the elderly people loved it. So many people come by, stopping, having flashbacks. It made some of the young people ask questions.”
The mural was funded by grants from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and the City of Winston-Salem. It resulted from a collaboration of community members with artists Marianne DiNapoli-Mylet and Donell Williams, thanks to leadership from Marva Reid, president of the East/Northeast Winston Neighborhood Association, who declined to be interviewed for the story.
City Councilman Derwin Montgomery, who represents the East Ward, said that artists connecting with the neighbors in the area was key to the project.
“They talked to the community about what they wanted to see,” Montgomery said. “It was very much based on what the community wanted. The way this was done was unique.”
“I live in that community,” Montgomery said, “and having the side of the building transformed was powerful. Now it’s something that is really a hallmark in the neighborhood. People gathered to tell the stories.
“What this community has done and continues to do is to build community pride in the community’s history and heritage, not just for the old who know the stories, but also for the younger people who are growing up. I’m hopeful we can find more opportunities to do more of this in our older neighborhoods that have so much rich history.”
DiNapoli-Mylet, who has painted numerous murals throughout the city, said the research began in June, and they learned more about the community as they painted from August to November, and neighbors stopped to share their memories.
“It was just one story after another about the people on the wall,” she said.
Williams agreed. “There were days we couldn’t even get our paint brushes on the wall, there were so many people who wanted to give us feedback about how they felt about the subject matter. It made us feel like we were doing the most relevant thing in our lives.”
Mayor Allen Joines said he was impressed with the work on the mural. “It does create a sense of community in that area,” he said, “The neighborhood association and city have been working hard to create pride and ownership of a progressive community. I see this as a tangible example celebrating the history of the area and of the African-American leaders.”
Art that comes “from the people” who may or may not be professional artists, gives people and the community surrounding them dignity, hope and uplifting, said John L. “Moe” Moore III, principal of JOMA Arts&Consulting LLC. Moore was born in Winston-Salem, graduated from Parkland High School and then from Morgan State University with a degree in theater arts. He worked as an actor in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Through JOMA Arts&Consult-ing, he has worked across the country with nonprofits and arts organizations, and he has seen the power of art projects first-hand from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles.
“In particular, this kind of work is important in communities where sometimes hope is hard to come by, sometimes you feel like you’re running after your tail, where you might see anything on a given day on a corner that you pass by,” Moore said. “But art is always about hope and uplifting and giving you a sense of purpose, a sense of value, a sense of direction where ‘I am somebody,’” he said, referring to the spoken word chant led by Jesse Jackson.
The Arts Council designed the Community Enrichment Mini-Grant process for grants up to $500 to help fund collaborations that might develop on short notice and might not fit in the traditional annual grant cycle, said Dara Silver, director of Member Services and Grants.
“The premise is simple: Use art and bring people together,” she said, and the 14th Street mural did just that. ... “They’re bringing people together from diverse backgrounds for a common purpose.”
The Mini-Grant initiative is open to individual residents, student and community groups, as well as local businesses in Forsyth County. The next deadline for applications is April 25.
Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods (NBN) helps communities identify their assets and leverage their gifts, skills and talents to build up their neighborhoods, said Paula McCoy, executive director.
NBN provided a grant to Mami Wata Cultural Arts Collective, according to Dee Washington, program officer at NBN. Mami Wata is described in its mission statement as “an intergenerational artistic collective of women that exists to nurture, educate and facilitate transformation through exposure to history and culture and through the universal language of the arts-dance, drama, music, literary and visual arts — with an emphasis on the African Diaspora.”
Amatullah Saleem, one of the four cofounders of Mami Wata and president of Happy Hill Neighborhood Association, said that when Mami Wata held a story arts workshop in the neighborhood, organizers realized they needed to do more groundwork in their Happy Hill community with parents who are often working two to three jobs while raising their families.
NBN’s grants give residents the opportunity to pilot and/or extend their neighborhood-building work, Washington said.
“The grants support resident-led community development, sustainable neighborhood change work, and ultimately the ‘power of the people’ to make a difference and build together,” Washington said. “Having joy, storytelling, and culture shared in one space allows neighbors to relate about their daily experiences as well as project them into visioning where they would like to be. The arts is a wonderful tool for community building.”