Nina Simone Project

Scholarship, Sculpture, and Music Festival

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From the Nina Simone Project


The Eunice Waymon-Nina Simone Memorial Project exists to honor the remarkable life, musical legacy and civil rights activism of Nina Simone, and to inspire and support talented youth to reach their full potential.


The Eunice Waymon—Nina Simone Memorial Project (NSP) purposes to establish and promote educational scholarship, to commission a Nina Simone sculpture, and to establish an international music festival in Tryon, North Carolina, with supplemental venues in the broader Western North Carolina region.


The Eunice Waymon-Nina Simone Memorial Project undertakes to accomplish four related goals.

  • Support a broad-based education program, including:
    • the creation of an endowed Nina Simone scholarship
    • the development of an educational jazz curriculum highlighting the musical contributions of prominent North Carolinians to the songbook of American popular music
    • the archival preservation of Simone’s material record
    • the promotion of Simone as an important Tryon, Polk County and North Carolina cultural and heritage resource
  • Commission a life-sized, memorial, bronze sculpture for a public art installation
  • Develop a Trans-World Music Festival in the name of Nina Simone as a signature Tryon, Polk County, North Carolina event
  • Provide outreach partnering opportunities for Simone’s designated charities:
    • cancer research in underserved communities
    • arts programming in public education
    • prevention of abuse against women
    • AIDS research, education, & care
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Creating Public Space: the Nina Simone Plaza

Reprinted from Tryon Daily Bulletin, October 2009

Tryon’s South Trade Street has benefitted lately from a number of new construction projects.  Several of these rehabilitation projects derive from individual initiatives which fall under the purview of the Tryon Downtown Development Association, notably the New Market fencing, the historical marker for the Tryon Horse and the Nina Simone Plaza.  Each of these projects points toward Tryon’s upcoming 125th anniversary celebrations which begin in March 2010.


After a month of focused effort, the Nina Simone Plaza is nearing completion.  The Plaza, located at 54 South Trade Street, will soon be the home of sculptor Zenos Frudakis’s over-life-size bronze sculpture of the internationally-famed, Tryon-born chanteuse Nina Simone. 

Frudakis’s sculpture has recently been previewed in the nationally-distributed magazines ‘Jet’ and ‘DownBeat.’  Subsequent periodical press coverage leading up to the sculpture dedication will include, among others, the internationally popular ‘Jazziz’ magazine.  Formal dedication of the Nina Simone sculpture is scheduled for 21 February 2010—Simone’s birthday.  Fuller details will follow.

The narrative of the making of the Nina Simone Plaza demonstrates an amazing example of cooperation and community building between the private and corporate sectors. 

The site location—selected by Nina Simone Project sculptor-of-record Zenos Frudakis—is land owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad Corporation.  Extensive discussions in 2008 with the upper executive administration of Norfolk Southern resulted in a generous and extended lease to the NSP of the whole acreage falling between New Market, Pacolet, McCown and South Trade Streets.  

Having secured the site location at what is essentially Tryon’s southern gateway, and knowing that all traffic turnabouts were to be abolished on state and federal highways, the issue then became merely one of design and implementation.

The concept design for the Nina Simone Plaza is by NSP executive director Crys Armbrust.  The design builds upon a number is elements latent in the physical fabric of Tryon’s downtown district, most notable is the prominent use of stone as a building material. 

Utilizing the circa 1970s stonework of the Hudson brothers around the magnolia tree as an anchor, the earlier work was mirrored with a gathering space connecting in between.   The repeated use of midnight blue and autumn wheat stone purposefully reflects a metaphor central in Simone’s life and activism—the harmonious interaction among people of all races. 

The curbing, derived in consultation with NCDOT, acts as a clearer delineation for the southbound traffic lanes of US 176, which, incidentally, also comprises the NC Scenic Byway.     That definition is further enhanced by the 19th century wrought iron stanchions acquired from Dick’s Castle in Upper New York State by Doug Arbogast of Tryon Auctions.

The inclusion of an obelisk in the Plaza is a nod to Simone’s lifelong moniker as the High Priestess of Soul.  Its dimensions, based on the Wilcox needle in the old Tryon Cemetery, were copied by Armbrust, with the assistance of Grace Ingham.  The inscription on the obelisk reads “To honor the forgotten, the helpless, and the hopeless.”  That phrase acknowledges a number of Simone’s personal charities, namely cancer research in underserved communities, preventative programs to address abuse against women and funding support for A.I.D.S. research.

Another feature in the Plaza is a re-circulating fountain which emulates the Park on Trade fountain and provides visual harmony throughout Tryon’s central downtown design.  The millstone in the fountain is a gift of University of Massachusetts professor Bonnie Strickland.

The whole of the new stonework surround has been admirable accomplished by the expertise of Herbert Jackson and his T.H. Masonry crew from Rutherfordton.  Able assistance for required stone removal was generously donated by Dennis Nagle’s crew of Mountain View Sunrooms & Screens.  And Henson’s Inc. should be recognized for their generous donation of partial costing on materials.

The appointments in the Nina Simone Plaza include four donated benches.  Two of them are of the same design adopted by the TDDA for the central downtown district; they have been donated by George & Wanda May and Bernice Ravan.  The remaining two benches are of single-run, seven-foot long granite and have been designed and donated by Kathleen Carson of  Simply Irresistible Gallery and Bill Crowell of Saluda Forge.

Many individuals and companies have given of their time, talent and treasure to accomplish in the Nina Simone Plaza a world-class memorial by a world-class sculptor of a world-class performance artist.  After many years, Nina Simone makes a final return to her birthplace—echoing the words and sentiments of her Rudy Stevenson cover: “I’m Going Back Home.”

To learn more about how you might participate in the Nina Simone Project, visit