Celebrating African-Americans through Public Art

Happening Now


Celebrating African Americans Through Public Art is the recently re-branded Visiting Artist Project (VAP). Since inception, the project aims to focus on the goal to enhance under-served communities address needs in the city’s public art collection by setting into motion a mission to create public art that emphasizes public inputThe City of Asheville in conjunction with the Public Art and Cultural Commission (PACC) in Asheville, North Carolina launched  the Visiting Artist Project (VAP), which began in 2018. The VAP aimed to enhance under-served communities, address needs in the City’s public art collection, and enable collaborative, mentoring relations between a nationally and internationally recognized artist (or artist team) and a selected group of local artists. For its inaugural 2018 project, the intended focus was on the history, contribution, and experience of the African American community of Asheville.

In 2018, the City of Asheville’s Public Art and Cultural Commission announced the creation of the  Visiting Artist Program. The 2018 partnership is funded by the City’s Percent for Public Art Policy, sponsored by the Public Art and Cultural Commission, and after the selection of  Art Ecologie the project is now being guided by a local leadership team of artists, arts and culture educators, activists, and event promoters.  




Part of the uniqueness of this project is that it aims to be as open-ended as possible: with respect to medium, design, and location. In keeping with this, we wanted to invite submissions from as wide a range of artists as possible, which included, but was not limited to, local artists. For a project of this size and significance, we were looking for artists with demonstrated experience with major public art projects as well as community engagement experience through the arts. Having received nearly 60 submissions from local, national, and international artists, we left the selection process to a Leadership Team made up of key voices in the artistic and African-American community of Asheville, and members of Public Art and Cultural Commission (PACC). In addition to artistic quality, experience, and artistic community engagement, the Leadership Team was also looking for artists and projects that would engage local artists as partners in the execution of the project by earning a stipend ($1000) as well as valuable experience working on a major public art project. 

The goals of this project are to broaden The Public Art and Cultural Commission’s engagement with the African American community, and diversify the City’s public art collection, and to support over a dozen current efforts by our local African American community meant to honor and celebrate the past, present and future of African American arts, culture and life in Asheville.




This project is largely funded by the City’s percent for Public Art Policy that is about $50,000 that has been dedicated to paying the visiting artist for all the design, community engagement, fabrication, and installation needed to make the project a success.


Installation Sites

Much of the community discussion during the July 2018 site visit centered around where the artwork should be sited.  The leadership team settled on three proposed sites for a permanent installation, and ultimately the decision was made to have the sites proximate to THE BLOCK, a historic African-American corridor that runs near the intersection of Eagle and Market Streets. These sites connect with other developments and arts and culture projects, and will be highly accessible to the public. Documentation of the project will also be available to the public, so even if it’s not a permanent installation, we’ll insure it is connected to the community and highly accessible to the public.


Corner of  Eagle and College Street                                             Corner of Biltmore and Eagle Street



Meet the Artists


The City of Asheville is pleased to announce that Art Ecologie featuring: Monique Luck, Flavia Lovatelli and Francisco Gonzalez has been selected as the inaugural Visiting Artist. Art Ecologie’s has proposed to transform the area with a multi-dimensional cube installation of metal/wood and bright imagery representing the past and the future, at the corner of South Market and Eagle streets. The Art Ecologie Collective will create a collaborative community experience exploring the history of the African American community in Asheville, NC’s BLOCK. The collaborative artworks will be incorporated into a celebratory multi dimensional public art installation. For more info on their work, please visit: artecologiecollective.com


Local Artists

The City of Asheville is pleased to announce that local artists Joseph Pearson, as the mural artist and Phyllis Utley, as the literary artists have been selected to engage in this community-informed public art project. Alongside Art Ecologie and with project management and support provided by Artists Designing Evolution (adé PROJECT), local artists will provide needed leadership, guidance and engagement of the inclusion of authentic memory, legacy, and images that represent THE BLOCK. The work that was formerly known as the Visiting Artist Project has been re-branded as Celebrating African Americans Through Public Art (CAAPA), and through this process the stated goal to honor THE BLOCK will be met with celebration, collaboration, and creativity. 


Contributing Mixed Media Artists

Stephens-Lee Summer Camp (youth and counselors), Dr. Dwight Mullen,  Dr. Dolly Mullen, Cleaster Cotton,  Tarah Singh,  Youth Artists Empowered,  Mrs. Shirley Whitesides, Joy Maat,  Melody Henry, Liz Williams, Kamya Jackson, Maria Watkins,  J. Michael Haithcock,  Gloria Estrada,  Brenda Estrada,  Evie Thomas, Roy Harris.


Community Membership Committee

Darin Waters, Brent Skidmore , Viola Spells, Katie Cornell, Shirley Whitesides, Michael Carter, Sheneika Smith, Valeria Watson, Sekou Coleman and Nex Millen.





January 1 to March 22 – Community Leadership team is formed.

March 22 to May 1 – Community Call for Project Manager

May 15 – Project Manager contracted, and brought onto team.

June 15 – Southside Stories, featuring Word on the Street + Delta House Life Development youth took place at Edington Center.

June 17 – Leadership Team met, moving work forward. 

June 26 – Project updates shared, THE BLOCK monthly meeting

July 9 – Aug 30 – Call for Local Artists. 

July 15 – Leadership Team met, moving work forward. 

July 20 – Southside Rising for Culture hosted by Southside Rising and Word on the Street at Edington Center.

July 31 – Project updates shared, THE BLOCK monthly meeting

July 25 to July 26 – Community Art Workshops, facilitated by Art Ecologie Collective, and hosted by adé PROJECT at YMI Cultural Center.

August 19 – Leadership Team met, moving work forward. 

August 26 – ENCORE Community Art Workshop, and artist statement workshop, facilitated by Mrs. Shirley Whitesides, and hosted by adé PROJECT at Delta House Life Development. 

August 28 – Project updates shared, THE BLOCK monthly meeting

September 4 – Local artists selected, and welcomed into project.

September 20 to September 22 – Goombay Festival, “Bringing it Back 2 THE BLOCK”

September 16 – Leadership Team meeting

September 25  – THE BLOCK meeting

October 17 to October 19 – African-Americans in Western NC & Southern Appalachia Conference 

October 21 –  Leadership Team meeting 

October 30  – THE BLOCK Meeting 

October 31 – Installation of work projected by this date

November 18 – (Final) Leadership Team meeting 



September 17 – Final Artist Proposals were submitted.

September 20 – Public feedback survey added to Open City Hall (open until Thursday October 4th). Paper surveys made available at the following community centers: Stephens Lee, Tempie Avery Montford Center, Senior Opportunity Center, Rev. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center, the Harvest House, Burton Street Center and Shiloh Center.

September 20 – Public Feedback Party (AAAC Refinery)

October 9 – VAP Leadership Team ranked proposals and created recommendations.

October 11 – Selected final proposal presented at PACC meeting for final approval (City Hall, floor one in the conference room from 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.)

October 12 – Announcement of the selected artist(s)/proposal

October 18 to October 20 – Finalist(s) presented at African Americans in WNC & South Appalachia Conference. VAP presented in Mountain View Room of UNCA Sherrill Center.

October 22 to December 20– Community feedback and inquiries were received to help inform next steps in the project + process.


Contact Information


 For general questions about the City of Asheville’s public art program contact:

Steph Monson Dahl, City of Asheville Strategic Development Director



For more information on this project, or with questions, please contact:

Cortina Caldwell, Project Manager


Updated 11/07/2019


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