ASHEVILLE, N.C. – When the public art planning committee for Buncombe County, N.C. , whose seat is Asheville, requested proposals for a history wall and a kinetic sculpture for their new courthouse, they didn’t consult the African-American community.
Now the county commissioners have voted to suspend the project until they gather input from those citizens, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports.
In May, 2015 the commission set aside $75,000 for the artworks. Commissioner Holly Jones directed county staffers to consult with the City-County African-American Heritage Commission before approving any designs, but they failed to do so. And County Manager Wanda Greene appointed an all-white planning committee to garner design proposals.
“I asked specifically for the [Heritage Commission] to be included months ago in an open meeting,” Jones told the Citizen-Times in late October. “It’s important that history projects are inclusive of our entire community, and historically, the African-American community has been looked over. I was under [the impression] they were being included.”
The county was slated to select artists and designs at a public meeting on November 1, but instead voted unanimously to suspend the selection process until there was more input from the African-American community. All six proposals will be rejected, but the artists will be encouraged to reapply.
Sasha Mitchell, chairwoman of the African-American Heritage Commission, said at the public meeting that her board had not met to discuss the art project, but that, speaking as a private citizen, she was encouraged.
“We welcome the opportunity to participate,” she said. “We’re eager to be part of the recorded history in more ways than we have been.”