Along with the Civil War history and great dining options, another reason to visit Kinston, North Carolina is the art. It is everywhere, and most falls under the umbrella of the Kinston Arts Council. There is a public art trail transforming downtown Kinston into a visual mecca. One of my favorite public art pieces was the mural called Goose in Flight. I also loved the neon sign at the Mother Earth Lodge where we stayed on our hosted trip to this historic town.
There is a nature center with a planetarium that is quite amazing. On the side of the planetarium is a mural and the grounds though they had been recently flooded were lovely.
Sandy Landis, Executive Director of the Kinston Arts Council said the council was established 50 years ago and that the council is one of the oldest non-profit arts organizations in the state of North Carolina. She said the secret to their success is that they reinvent and refresh. Keeping things fresh offers new visual sights year after year throughout the town and Lenoir County. The Community Council for the Arts building itself is a three level 30,000 building that once was the Summerill McCoy Produce market that dates back to around 1910.
Today the building holds current exhibits, permanent exhibits and offers budget friendly studios to artists to sell their wares. “We have a clay studio, a private artist studio and a place where they teach music lessons and jazz programs,” Sandy said.
At the council they offer art of new and established artists. One of my favorites was a cotton picking picture by “Chick” Jordan Wooten. “He painted this from memory, he was also a part of the music trail and often wrote poetry to his pieces,” Sandy added.
The Kinston Music Park is located in Sugar Hill, a district of town that once was the hub of African American music where according to a site brochure, “…musicians including Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong played.”
The park has a 12-foo thigh, 23-foot wide sculpture with images of famous jazz, rhythm and blues, soul and gospel musicians from Kinston and surrounding communities. There is a stage where musicians can perform and several art pieces on display. I love the quote on the brochure that shares how different backgrounds, races, and economic groups can come together though music. It states, “Just remember, music is a healer.”
One of the most impressive things to see in Kinston was their smart Program. They took one dilapidated neighborhood, refurbished the houses, painting them bright colors and placing a fence around them. The homes are then rented to artists and they are able to work and sell their art from their home studios. The definition of art is encompassing including chefs, sculpture, writers and more. While there, Rose Hammitt and I walked the downtown and through this beautiful neighborhood. Across the street from this district is an area of old historic homes, some in good shape some not, but they hope they to will be renovated.
The entire town of Kinston has been going through a major revitalization and part of the draw is the beautiful, gawk worthy art!