New Art Mural at the Raleigh Convention Center

News posted Oct. 23, 2017 - 12:55 pm
Nina Simone

On Saturday, Oct. 21, international artist Olek installed a crocheted mural on the facade of the Raleigh Convention Center. Raleigh residents helped to create the mural, a 40 feet wide and 20 feet high depiction of musician Nina Simone, a North Carolina native who was recently nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

More than 140 volunteers attended a series of workshops with Olek, a New York-based artist known internationally for her large-scale crochet artworks. Participants worked with the artist to learn the techniques needed to create the artwork locally. More than 100 participants each completed a two-feet by two-feet crocheted section of the mural. Olek returned in October to stitch the individual pieces into a cohesive whole.

Sarah Powers, the director of Raleigh Arts, was thrilled by the community response.

"It’s exciting to not only bring in an internationally known artist, but it was just as exciting to work with such great volunteers and partners to create this mural," she said. "Raleigh Arts is also proud to be part of a national art project that will connect communities across the country."

Born in North Carolina, Nina Simone became famous for her musical talents, thoughtful lyrics, and advocacy of equality. Olek chose the quote "Here Comes the Sun," from the title of one of Simone’s albums because it exemplified hope and a brighter future.

Gene Davis, who chairs the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, felt the piece conveyed a sense of love.

"Olek’s selection of North Carolinian Nina Simone as the extraordinary woman celebrated in her immense crocheted community public art hanging from the Raleigh Convention Center serves to remind us not only of Dr. Simone’s vocal and lyrical genius but also of her use of music to advocate for civil rights for African-Americans and women," he said. "Olek’s Nina Simone piece is a fitting expression of Love Across the USA because it serves to remind us to love everyone – no exceptions.”

Olek enjoyed collaborating with residents to create the piece."

It was so inspiring to see how the community came together to pay tribute to this amazing woman. I hope the stories, debates, and conversations we shared will continue long after the project, and that we can spread a culture of empathy and positivity around the country."

Love Across the USA is a public art project with the goal of bringing the community together through open workshops and public art installations. To date, Olek and community members have created portraits of Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman in New York State. The pieces celebrate women’s rights, equality, and freedom of speech by depicting the accomplishments of extraordinary women from throughout U.S. history.

This project is made possible by the Office of Raleigh Arts and the Raleigh Convention Center. Partners for this public art project include Optic Artworks and Emily Alexander, Red Heart Yarn, Artspace, VAE Raleigh, CAM Raleigh, Anchorlight, Rebus Works, McConnell Studios, Top Greene Community Center, Chavis Community Center, Black Girl in the Arts, Raleigh Murals Project, Habitat for Humanity, American Underground, Gridworks, HQ Raleigh, The Carrack, Deco, Arts Now NC, Black on Black, The Forge Initiative, Red Hat, and Lump. Special thanks to Kelly McChesney, Jenn Hales, Barclay Wiliams, and Kim Curry-Evans.

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