Featured photo: Artist Damien Mathis portrayed David Richmond in graduation regalia in his sculpture. (courtesy photo)
The paint is peeling and the landscaping needs work. The windows are dingy; some could stand to be replaced. The East White Oak Community Center is in need of repair.
Enter Sunny Gravely Foushee.
Foushee, who grew up in Greensboro, took dance classes at the community center as a young girl. Recently she went back to the building and saw it was falling apart. Soon after, she joined the Preservation Greensboro board.
As part of this organization that funds revitalization projects in Greensboro, Foushee has given grants to minority artists who have not always been funded to the same extent as white artists by the organization.
“I noticed there weren’t any African-American organizations that we were pressing to preserve,” she says. “Since then, we’ve been amplifying the East White Oak Community Center, the Magnolia House, etc.”
With the support of Preservation Greensboro and a $4,800 matching grant from Creative Greensboro, the community center is creating a sculpture garden to honor David Richmond, one of the A&T Four, and Truman Gant, East White Oak co-founder and community leader.
The A&T Four led the 1960 Greensboro Sit-In at Woolworth’s that kicked off the Civil Rights Movement. Richmond’s descendants plan to be at the sculpture unveiling on June 25.
Richmond was born and grew up in Greensboro. He did not graduate from NC A&T State University because of the threats he received over his activism. A&T awarded him a posthumous honorary degree in 1990.
Artist Damien Mathis portrays Richmond in graduation regalia in his sculpture. He’s wearing a blue cap and black gown.
“When you honor someone, you have to honor them, their descendants and how the world changed because of them,” Mathis said. “It’s a great responsibility and I feel honored to be part of it.”
Mathis was able to meet with people who knew Richmond in his life and said he was surprised by how little information he found online. His previous work includes sculptures of Harriet Tubman, Lois Mailou Jones and Jacob Lawrence. He hopes his work will give a voice to the past.
Foushee chose both Mathis and the other artist, Vandorn Hinnant, out of several applicants. Hinnant, has had several sculptures already featured around the Triad in both public art commissions and solo exhibitions.
For this project, Hinnant designed a steel bench with a mahogany seat. The bench fans out at the sides and has a white oak tree in the back.
“The idea of bringing people together to uplift them is always at the forefront of my thinking,” said Hinnant. “Everything I create is intended to be for the edification of humankind.”
Foushee’s hope for this project is to bring both beautification to the community center and to uplift hidden historical figures. She herself is an African American woman from east Greensboro and says she has not seen a lot of attention to the amenities on this side of town.
Many of the buildings she loved as a girl are now falling apart.
“Over the years, all these resources have depleted,” said Foushee. “This is the perfect time to pay attention to those areas and give back.”
The East White Oak Community Center is located at 1801 10th St. in Greensboro. The sculpture unveiling takes place this weekend. Learn more on Facebook.