It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life… for Nina Simone’s historic birthplace in Tryon, that is. Celebrate efforts to preserve the legendary singer and civil rights activist’s local(ish) roots August 17 with an evening of feel-good Simone classics performed by her daughter, Lisa Simone, at NCMA’s Theater in the Museum Park.
“The legacy of Nina Simone is North Carolina history,” says Tiffany Tolbert, senior field officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), one of many groups partnering to present the concert. “We want to connect people across the state to her.”
Connecting through music is a Simone family trait. Daughter Lisa Simone has made her own name for herself as an award-winning actress and jazz vocalist: she was on the original cast of both The Lion King and Rent on Broadway, earned a Grammy nomination as part of the band Liquid Soul, and co-produced the Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary about her mother’s life, What Happened, Miss Simone?
This time, Lisa Simone takes the stage to support the rehabilitation of her mother’s childhood home in western North Carolina. Last year, the NTHP designated the site a National Treasure—one of only two in North Carolina and less than 100 nationwide. Since then, the N.C. African American Heritage Commission (NCAAHC) has led the charge to channel “a lot of love and effort and support offered into this legacy space in order to preserve it,” says NCAAHC director Angela Thorpe.
Restoration of the circa-1930 660-square-foot house began in April, and in May a group of visionaries and engineers met to imagine a creative next use. It might be a community art center; it might be an artist workspace. Plans are still in the works, certain to “demonstrate how art and preservation practice can combine to honor her legacy… and inspire new generations of creators and preservationists,” says Tolbert.
“Preserving and activating places like the Nina Simone child-hood home uplift stories of African American achievement and bring those stories to life.”
The concert anchors Nina Simone Weekend at NCMA, presented by the museum, the NTHP, the NCAAH, the N.C. Arts Council and Come Hear North Carolina. Proceeds from the event, which also include music master classes, other performances and a documentary screening, benefit rehabilitation of the Nina Simone childhood home. —Jessie Ammons Rumbley
For tickets and more information: ncartmuseum.org. For more ways to get involved in saving the home, follow @NationalTrustforHistoricPreservation on Facebook and @savingplaces on Instagram and Twitter