Payments incomplete for Simone sculpture

Published 4:31 pm Friday, December 9, 2011

The crowd at the dedication of the Nina Simone Plaza on Feb. 22, 2010. (photo by Leah Justice)

Fundraising ongoing
Donations toward the Nina Simone Plaza in downtown Tryon, which features a sculpture of the famous Tryon-born singer, have slowed to the point that Frudakis Studio, Inc. is still owed $55,000. Frudakis Studio prepared the statue for the plaza dedication on Feb. 21, 2010.
So far, the studio has been paid $51,000 of the total $106,000 contract price. Frudakis Studio President Rosalie Frudakis said the company was originally paid $45,000, and it owed the foundry $65,000 for the casting work.
“We weren’t only not paid for our work but were left owing money,” Frudakis said. “We had to take the money out of another project to pay the foundry.”
Nina Simone Project Director Crys Armbrust said he agrees the debt to Frudakis Studio needs to be completed and asks the community for support toward finishing the project. He said fundraising is continuing and he plans to make completing fundraising his top priority to ensure the studio is paid.
The Nina Simone Plaza is also not yet complete, with the project planned in stages. Sculptor Zenos Frudakis of Frudakis Studio has designed a final piece to the sculpture. Armbrust said plans are also to reface the plaza and place names of donors there.
“The economy has certainly compromised projects, especially community projects,” Armbrust said. “That debt needs to be acquitted.”
Rosalie Frudakis said her studio lowered the price of the sculpture because of the importance of the piece. Normally, she said, a sculpture of this magnitude would have cost at least $150,000 because of the piano in the sculpture being a separate piece. Frudakis Studio put other work aside in order to concentrate on the Nina Simone project because Zenos Frudakis, Rosalie Frudakis said, “wanted to do his best.”
She also said while the project was one of the nicest with which Frudakis Studio has been involved, someone needs to be held accountable for completing the payments.
“But for getting paid, it was one of the nicest projects we ever worked on,” Rosalie Frudakis said. “We weren’t expecting to make a huge profit, but wanted to pay all our hard costs. The foundry had to scramble to make payroll.”
Armbrust said organizers are in the process of getting the Nina Simone Project certified as a 501(C)(3) nonprofit. The project is currently run through the Tryon Downtown Development Association (TDDA), Armbrust said. The Nina Simone Project includes grants for area youth and plans to have an annual festival celebrating the life of Simone.
Nina Simone was born in Tryon as Eunice Waymon in 1933. Her musical talent was first noticed at the St. Luke’s CME Church and Waymon, later Simone, became known as the “high priestess of soul.” Simone died in 2003 in France, where she made her home in her later years. Tryon’s dedication was held on what would have been Simone’s 77th birthday last year.
“There is only one place in the world that can claim to be the birthplace of Nina Simone,” said Armbrust. “It is very unique.”
Armbrust also mentioned the movie that is currently being filmed about Simone, titled “Nina,” starring singer Mary J. Blige. Armbrust said he has invited producers to use Tryon for some of the filming, such as the statute for the beginning or end of the movie and to hold a premiere for the movie in Tryon.
Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the Nina Simone Project can do so by sending it to TDDA, P.O. Box 182, Tryon, N.C. 28782.

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