Kinston’s Tobacco Barns

As a farmer’s wife, when I see art representing agriculture, it catches my attention.  On a recent hosted trip to Kinston, I saw these beautiful sculpture called  Kinston’s Tobacco Barns.  The sculpture was built in honor of Kinston’s rich tobacco history.

Tobacco history n Kinston is noted all the way back to 1759, when the General Assembly of North Carolina passed an act to establish three tobacco inspection warehouses in what was then Dobbs County.  At this time, the area was under the control of the British and it was at the site of one of these warehouses that “Kingston”, which would later be shortened to Kinston, was originally established. The named was in honor of King George III of England.

The Kinston Tobacco Market was quite famous and the epicenter of many of the people we talked to.  Everyone remembered farm trucks rolling into town and the smell of curing tobacco.  Whether you are a fan or not of tobacco, in those days, this was a huge cash crop that was the local farmer’s bread and butter.

Jan Parson of the Kinston Chamber of Commerce said that at one time, “Kinston was the foremost in the tobacco market and textile industry.”

“We were once the location of 22 tobacco warehouses,” Jan said.  Growing up on a tobacco Jan remembers when the top dollar tobacco was formed into a braid. In this part of North Carolina, they grew what was referred to as “golden leaf”.

Kinston Community Art Council Executive Director Sandy Landis said the town that has a huge art presence and that they honored the tobacco history with Thomas Sayre’s sculpture. Sayre’s background of using art with the cooperation of mother- nature and not leaving any debris behind made him the perfect sculptor for this agricultural art.  Sayre has massive sculptures, in Canada, Asia, Istanbul, Turkey, Thailand and the United States.

Thomas Sayre is referred to as an earthcast sculptor.  From Raleigh, Sayre was commissioned to design and build this massive project to pay homage to Kinston and Lenoir County’s agricultural and tobacco heritage.  He used the soil as part of the process. Thomas Sayre explained, “The form and content of this sculpture comes from the rich agricultural heritage, which in no small part formed the town of Kinston.  The sculpture refers to the distinctive proportions and shape of tobacco barns which stand silently on the flat-furrowed fields around Kinston and eastern North Carolina.”

This is just one of the sculptures in this town that if filled with art, but because of its link to agriculture it was special to me.


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