News Column

Planning Charette at Community Council for the Arts gives locals a look at plans and designs for str

August 23, 2014

By Junious Smith III, The Free Press, Kinston, N.C.



Aug. 23--On Wednesday, members of the North Carolina Arts Council listened to the opinions of the residents on planning and design.

Two days later, the council came back with a blueprint based off local concepts.

On Friday at the Community Council for the Arts, a follow-up to the "Corridors of Connectivity" meeting where members of the North Carolina Arts Council and other groups presented some of their plans for the design of Queen and Herritage streets.

Landscape Architect Glen Walters gave a presentation based on some of the ideas of the citizens such as vibrant signs and walkways providing information about the African-American Music Trail.

"I thought this week was really great and we have a good direction on the priorities of the city," Walters said. "In all honesty, we weren't as aware of the music history and we felt a lot closer to Kinston through the inspiration of the artists. It's inspired us to bring that in with our designs."

Chris Beachem, senior program director for creative economies at the North Carolina Arts Council, said the ideas were exciting, but implementing them could be a daunting task.

"In the big picture, it takes a lot of money and time, so we have to find little side pieces and start on what we can do," Beachem said. "I do a lot of work in Durham and people have said 'there's not much happening here,' and then I'll say 'Were you here 15 years ago?' There has been significant growth there and 15 years down the road, it will difficult for someone who hadn't been to Durham in 30 years to identify it because of the tremendous growth.

"To a certain extent, I see Kinston moving in the same way. The progress made will be steady and people need to keep pushing and working. I believe in five years there will be significant change to South Queen Street and I would be very disappointed if that's not the case."

Kinston Mayor Pro Tem Joe Tyson attended the meetings and said it will take time for the project to come into fruition and nothing is set in stone.

"I thought the meetings were productive," Tyson said. "I liked the input from citizens, but everyone has to know this is strictly a plan. Hopefully, we can use this in the future to seek grant money for the future."

Kinston resident Sonny Bannerman said he enjoyed what he heard Friday.

"There's some good stuff that came out of this meeting and I think it's going well," he said. "Like (Joe) Tyson said, this isn't something that will happen overnight. The meetings have good intentions and it's essential for progress."

Kinston resident David Bell said the series of meetings left him with concerns.

"People outside of the cultural heritage pertaining to the project are always in control," Bell said. "When it comes to Confederate memorabilia and heritage, you don't see other people of other interests or cultural backgrounds on the boards or steering committee or being contracted and economically empowered to present someone's history. Last I checked, the South lost the Civil War, but the city of Kinston celebrates like they won.

"All I learned was how real exclusion is. I never thought I'd be excluded from my own culture and I hope I'm around one day to see the completion of the park."

Edwin Jones, a board member on the arts council, said the plan enacted Friday is something required to acquire funds when they become available.

"One concern I had is working on reviving the depressed area of South Queen Street," Jones said. "The designers and body agreed it was a top priority. We realize the Kinston Music Park celebrating African-American heritage isn't moving as swiftly as we would like and look forward to the grand opening in the near future.

"This is so special to our community, so when it rolls out we want it to be right. This will not only affect Kinston, but Eastern North Carolina, the eastern United States and the world. There are many renowned musicians who came from here and of the eight-city trail, we're the hub. We're just hoping for patience and when it does open, it will greatly reflect what Kinston is all about."

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 and Junious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

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(c)2014 The Free Press (Kinston, N.C.)

Visit The Free Press (Kinston, N.C.) at www.kinston.com

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Source: Kinston Free Press (NC)


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