We hope that this mural may be the beginning of many more good things to happen in Triangle Park. We want to create a colorful gathering place to brighten up Just Folk's summer block parties and gospel events, and we also want to set the stage for further organization of spoken-word, story-telling, music happenings & dance performances. We aspire to create a space that fosters meaningful creative urban black & cross-cultural experiences, something we truly need more of in the city of Asheville, NC.
The concept of creating a mural in Triangle Park has been the basis of a new partnership between Just Folks, an organization dedicated to preserving local African-American culture & activity downtown, and the Asheville Design Center (ADC), a local non-profit dedicated to community-driven design (www.ashevilledesigncenter.org). Painter and community-arts organizer Molly Must is project coordinator (www.mollymust.wordpress.com).
Triangle Park is located on South Market Street in the heart of “The Block,” Asheville’s historic black business district. Though situated just 100 feet behind the dense boutiques and storefronts of Biltmore Avenue, the park, and the Block itself, remain relatively unknown to many Asheville residents and visitors despite the area's geographic significance.
From the late 1800s until the 1980s, the Block served as the economic center of Western North Carolina’s black community, housing hundreds of black-owned businesses. Yet today the Block holds little evidence of this past vitality. Several factors contributed to the Block’s economic decline including desegregation and suburbanization, though the most significant impact was brought by Asheville’s decades-long Urban Renewal projects that targeted and displaced many vibrant African-American communities*.
Built on the idea of re-visiting the past as a means of looking forward, the mural aims to illustrate and honor the Block’s rich history of African-American entrepreneurship and community life, as a means of giving context to the current landscape. The design of the mural pays tribute to the people who made their livelihood in the East End, Eagle, Market & Valley St neighborhoods, and also pays tribute to some of the historic institutions of the area including the Stevens Lee High School, Catholic Hill School, and the Young Men's Institute (YMI).
We hope that by celebrating and illuminating this story we may provide contrast to Asheville’s current downtown economy in which minority-owned businesses make up a dis-proportionate number relative to the city’s diverse population. We hope that this mural will serve to help remind us where we have come from, why the city is shaped the way it is today, and how we might plan for a better future.
This mural is a celebration of public history & urban life in the city of Asheville, and a vision of hope! It has been said that "hope is a form of planning."
*Like other cities across the US, Asheville received millions of dollars from HUD over several decades to clear what was considered slum neighborhoods. Approximately 508 acres of African-American residential neighborhoods surrounding the Block were cleared in the East-Riverside Re-development Project (a plan born in the late sixties), immediately disrupting the Block’s patronage base. "In theory, urban renewal would enhance the landscape of cities and provide displaced residents model housing. In practice however...replacing these neighborhoods were wide roadways, highways, and new multi-story buildings. Residents, some of whom were homeowners, were either relegated to substandard public housing or forced to relocate elsewhere." -Sarah Judson, Department of History, UNCA.
To read more take a look at the NC Humanities Council Crossroads Publication Twighlight of a Neighborhood article: http://www.nchumanities.org/sites/default/files/documents/Crossroads%20Summer%202010%20for%20web.pdf
- (28 days)