In 2007, the Church Street project garnered interest from the South Carolina Heritage Corridor. Because of this, funding was provided to gather oral histories of the “Black Pioneers” who lived and worked on Church Street. Their memories were chronicled in the documentary film “Trading Church Street: Pride, Prejudice and a Parking Lot,” which premiered in 2008. Interest stimulated by the documentary spurred development plans to build a park here, on the original Church Street site.
This phase of the Church Street Heritage Project highlights the 1950s era of the street to salute this formidable and flavorful chapter of our past as it serves as a link to the future. It is a public art installation inspired by the words of the people who lived it and is titled “We were here.” It captures the character of the educated, successful business owners of Church Street in a bygone era while celebrating hard work and pride of ownership as a model for today.
As few artifacts of the era remain, this collaborative work with “The Black Pioneers” and professional artists gives our community the opportunity to visualize and appreciate the little-known history of Church Street. It is a tribute to the era, recalling its significance for current and future generations.
After more than two years of work on the public art phase, the installation titled, “We were here” will be unveiled at a dedication ceremony on November 19, 2017 at the park site. This collaborative work attracted the participation of a varied field of professional artists from the Upstate of South Carolina and beyond. The Church Street story will be told in three different mediums as interpreted by artists in collaboration with “greatest generation” African Americans, known as “The Black Pioneers.” The Black Pioneers group has been chaired by city council member Dr. Beatrice Thompson and includes Alphonso Norris, Frank Mauldin and Mary Frances Wardlaw.
The art elements and participating artists are as follows
An installation of clay mosaic reliefs featuring highlights of Church Street scenes created by a design/build team including Scott Foster (lead artist) architectural illustrator and fine artist of Anderson, SC and Sharon Jones, ceramic engineer and tile artist of Pendleton, SC with participation from Joshua Davis, clay artist of Starr, Diann Simms, watercolor artist of Anderson, SC and Zan Wells, sculptor of Greenville, SC.
Three large marble sculptures in the form of “bench people” created by internationally renowned sculptor Madeline Wiener of Denver, CO. The sculptures are of a man and a woman engaging a child in a storytelling pose. Described as “huggable,” they invite public interaction
An original short animated film capturing the essence of Church Street through the decades created by professional animator David Donar, a Clemson University professor. The images will be accompanied by an original score with music appropriate to each era as they demonstrate the rise and fall of Church Street.
Led by Beth Batson (project director) of the City of Anderson and Kimberly Spears (artistic director) of the Anderson Arts Center this project is unique to the region. Anchored by Anderson’s previous success in the public art arena, the distinctive installation is set to be a regional draw and a cultural tourism destination.
Audio Narration by Paul Elston