Over $5 million raised to preserve historic home

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Nina Simone’s childhood home one step closer to becoming a cultural hub


TRYON–The childhood home of Nina Simone is one step closer to being fully restored after millions were raised in an online art auction hosted by a New York City art gallery this month.

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The art auction, co-curated by tennis champion Venus Williams and artist Adam Pendleton, totaled $5.4 million in sales and culminated with a benefit gala at Pace Gallery in New York. Those funds will go toward preserving the home where Simone was born, located on Livingston St. in Tryon. The auction was held from May 12 to May 22 and was hosted in partnership with the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. 

The benefit gala was held Saturday and featured appearances from Williams and the contributing artists, as well as live musical performances, and raised about half a million dollars, according to the gallery.

Pendleton, part of a four-person LLC that purchased the property in 2017 for $95,000, said that he and his partners began planning the art sale and gala in 2019, but it was postponed due to the pandemic.

“Nina Simone is one of the most important musical artists of the twentieth century,” says Pendleton. “I’m inspired to be able to protect her legacy by preserving her childhood home. Her music, her vision, cannot be forgotten.”

All 11 pieces of art sold in the auction tie back to Simone in some form by honoring her legacy and her impact on music and civil rights activism.

“Each of the artists Adam and I have selected for the auction has a unique, powerful voice,” Williams said.

The Nina Simone Childhood Home preservation project aims to restore Simone’s birthplace and has plans for it to serve as a cultural hub, honoring the icon’s legacy for generations to come. The exterior of the home has already been partially restored, and construction should resume this fall.

Pictured left to right are Brent Leggs, Adam Pendleton and Crys Armbrust at the gala on Saturday (Photo submitted)

“The weekend’s activities and results demonstrate in a powerful way the ever-increasingly iconic status of a Tryon daughter, who achieved international fame both as a singularly unique voice in the American songbook and as a firebrand of the American Civil Rights movement,” said Crys Armbrust, head of the Nina Simone Project in Tryon. “We are most fortunate indeed to have achieved our end results, and both the Nina Simone Childhood Home and Tryon shall benefit in numerous, and, as yet, untold ways.”

Simone, born in the home in 1933, spent the first 17 years of her life in the clapboard three-room house before going on to become a world-renown musical icon and civil rights activist.