Tennis player Venus Williams and artist Adam Pendleton recently announced that they’ve raised nearly six million dollars to preserve music legend Nina Simone’s childhood home.
Reported by the Los Angeles Times, the pair helped sponsor a gala and auction at Pace gallery in New York. Held along with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the profits went above the targeted amount of $2 million, raising approximately $5.28 million in funds for the home.
The auction exhibit included the art of Pendleton, Mary Weatherford, Anicka Yi and Stanley Whitney. Works by Cecily Brown, Sarash Sze, Robert Longo, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher and Kulie Mehretu were also included as part of the exhibit.
Previously, Pendleton, Johnson, Gallagher and Mehretu purchased the home in Tryon, North Carolina in 2017 for roughly $95,000, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, after it was facing demolition. Together, with the fund, the artists have set out to restore the house and, with the money they’ve now raised, preserve the house as a “museum” for Simone.
“She was one of a kind in her songs, her melody and in her presence. She made so many sacrifices of herself, of her career, of her livelihood because of what she believed in,” said Williams in a video shared by Pace Gallery. “These are her roots and to preserve her home is important in preserving her story.”
Born in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21, 1933 as Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Simone became one of the most influential musicians of all time during the twentieth century with tracks such as “Feeling Good” and “Mississippi Goddam.”
Eventually earning the title of “High Priestess of Soul,” Simone first started playing music at the age of three when she learned how to play the piano by ear. With her talent, Simone became classically trained and, with her community’s help, studied at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music.
At the age of 24, Simone signed with her first record label although her time with the label would be short as she moved to Colpix Records. Under Colpix Records, Simone established her reputation as an improvising live performer, earning her spots at concerts such as the Newport Jazz Festival and propelling her in the music industry.
In the 60s, Simone was also heavily involved in the civil rights movement, performing at concerts for groups such as the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. As a reaction to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, she released the iconic protest song “Mississippi Goddam,” a song that was often referred to as her “first civil rights song.”
As she became ingrained in the Black Power movement, Simone continued to reflect her role as a civil rights activist in her music with songs such as “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” as well as “Four Women.”
Under record labels such as Colpix Records and RCA, Simone went on to record over 40 albums between 1958 and 1974, selling over 1.5 million albums globally. For her achievements in music, she was nominated for four Grammys, won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2000 and has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.