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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

Local artists petition for approval of BLDoM art project

WED. | 10-14-20 | NEWS

SAT. | 10-10-20 | NEWS

     Following the many instances of violence against African Americans, both this summer and historically, a movement to declare that Black lives do matter has begun. In Greenville, beginning this past June, there have been efforts by 18 local Black artists to create a piece of public art on 1st Street recognizing the value of Black lives. 

     “I was actually contacted by Assistant City Manager Ken Graves,” art teacher Randall Leach said. “Kevon Gainer…wanted to paint Black Lives Matter just on a random street and he started putting it out there, ‘Hey, meet me on this Saturday, I’m going to do this.’”

     The Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge heard about Gainer’s idea and contacted him. They then went through with the formal process of getting the project approved by City Manager Ann Wall; however, the approval process was soon extended.

     “The city itself had agreed to line the letters,

BLDoM Graphic REALREAL.jpg

Graphic by Tierney Reardon

like make them in white first, so that we had a white base, [and] then each individual artist was going to paint their own expression of whatever…and [the city] sent that to the engineering department,” Leach said. “Then that night, before the city was getting ready to paint, we were called by Ann Wall on a Zoom meeting and notified that this project had been shut down.” 

     After receiving some pushback from community members, a new plan for getting public art projects approved was created. On Monday, Oct. 5, the City Council decided that art proposals would now be sent to the City Council, despite concerns about the members’ lack of knowledge relating to art and the Pitt County Art Council’s 14 years of experience. However, a partial exception was made for the art projects that had already been approved prior to this decision. 

     The art proposal for the Black Lives Do Matter art project will be presented to the City Council on Oct. 19 by members of a subcommittee. Then, the City Council will vote for the project’s approval on Nov. 9. No guidelines have been published stating what art will be deemed acceptable as of yet, but the project did meet the Pitt County Arts Council’s requirements, which addressed not only the acceptability of the art, but also the safety concerns associated with painting on a street. 

     “We have the traffic grade paint, which is so that your tires won’t slide as you ride over it, [and] they actually researched the fact that when you do have something in the middle of the street, traffic slows down on those streets, so it’s really safe,” Leach said. 

     There was an additional request made by the City Council for the statement to be clarified to show that the project is not associated with the Black Lives Matter organization, leading artists to change the wording from “Black Lives Matter!” to “Black Lives Do Matter.”

     If the project is approved, it will be located on 1st Street, near the Sycamore Hill installation in honor of the Black church that used to stand there. This location has been carefully chosen by the artists because of its historical connection to Greenville's Black community, which used to be centered in the area that is now Uptown, prior to efforts to gentrify the area. 

     “In the 1960s, that whole community was ... pushed out of that community by raids and fires in order to do what was called the Greenville Urban Renewal Project,” Leach said. 

     If the project is approved, the street mural will become the first public art project in Greenville done entirely by Black artists. 

     “I think it’ll be major,” Leach said. “There are Black artists [who] are working and they’re just not known because their name and their stuff is not out there, and so this here will open the door for a lot of these artists and other artists to get recognition, but also to make connections.”

     In addition to the 18 main artists who are involved in the project, volunteers and community members will be chosen by the artists to help. Many members of the Rose community will be involved as three of the main artists, Jeremy Richardson, Marlon Westray and Megan Ellison, are Rose alumni. Leach is also planning to allow current Rose students to volunteer to help paint. Artists have been given the opportunity to create their own vision for their letter, but there will be a thin white outline of each letter to help to make the painting cohesive as a whole. 

     While fundraising for the project has been put on hold, all those who are in support of the Black Lives Do Matter art project can show their support by signing the petition at and by sending letters of support to the Executive Director of the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, Holly Garriott, at

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