The childhood home where famed singer and civil rights icon Nina Simone was born has suffered through failed restoration attempts over the years and currently sits in terrible shape, complete with crumbling ceilings and sagging floorboards.
However, the structure’s seemingly inevitable fate—to crumble away with time—has come to an end. Four black artists are bringing the house back into the spotlight, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is designating the house, located in Tryon, N.C., as a “national treasure.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation intends to restore the building so that it can be used by future artists, the New York Times reports.
Four African-American artists were the ones who managed to save the house in the first place after it went on the market in 2016, with many assuming that it would be demolished.
Conceptual artist Adam Pendleton, sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher, and abstract painter Julie Mehretu all bought the house together in order to preserve Simone’s legacy, the Times notes. Their purchase caught the attention of the National Trust, which had just launched a $25 million campaign—the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund—to preserve historical sites relevant to African-American history.
“African-American women in jazz and in civil rights: Their legacy is often undervalued, and there’s an ongoing struggle for recognition,” Brent Leggs, the director of the National Trust’s campaign, told the Times.
So the house was designated a national treasure, a rare label that has been bestowed fewer than 100 times across the country, according to the report. The organization will be working with the local community, local organizations and the World Monuments Fund to come up with a long-term plan for how to preserve the space. Full restoration will cost about $250,000, Leggs predicted.
The four artists will obviously be involved in helping to decide the future of the building; one idea is to turn it into a home for an arts residency program, inspiring young artists.
“I’m not interested in turning the house into a museum,” Pendleton told the Times. “I’m much more interested in restoring it so that it reflects what it was like when [Nina Simone’s family] the Waymons lived there. I think it’s important to note that it looks like a very humble dwelling.”
The most important thing, obviously, is that the building stays standing, a strong symbol even in (if not especially in) these times.
“Nina’s politics challenged what America was at the moment she was alive—and challenged what America could be and what it would become,” Pendleton added. “I think those are questions that don’t die.”