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Brooklyn Street Art

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Street Artist OLEK and Volunteers Create NINA SIMONE Tribute in Raleigh, NC

Posted on November 1, 2017

Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Nina Simone; Three of the women whom Street Artist Olek would like us to remember from U.S. history, and who have been recently featured in public crochet portraits. Her most recent portrait done with help from the community brings art made by the public to the public in a country-wide project called “Love Across the USA”.

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

Sparked a year ago leading up to the US national election where a woman was on the ballot, Olek says that despite the negativity that followed, “it inspired me to create a project that would celebrate the accomplishments of women, many of whom had been forgotten throughout U.S. history.”

Today we go to Raleigh, NC to see the most recent banner of Nina Simone crocheted by Olek and a small army of volunteers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nina_Simone, the American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the Civil Rights Movement.

We spoke with Olek about this selection of Ms. Simone, who coincidentally has been nominated this year in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

BSA: Nina Simon fought hard battles, she lost some and won many. She won her right to be recognized as an artist in the USA after having to prove herself in European capitals first. With this portrait you elected to highlight the bright side of her and her art. Is it because you also want to be optimistic about our future even during these dark times we are all experiencing?
Olek: Why, with Nina Simone, do we always have to think about the battles she lost?  I prefer to think about the positive things she accomplished both as an artist and an activist. I remember when I was in elementary school I was given one of her tapes. I had no idea who she was and didn’t understand a word, but I loved the music.

Later, when I learned her name and more about her story, I hated how the media tended to focus on the negatives.  As a black woman living in that time, fighting for what she believed in, she was exhausted and had little help.  Her husband, who was also her manager, exploited her and gave her drugs instead of helping her.  Despite everything, she positively influenced so many people around the world.

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

BSA: What kind of inspiration did you learn from Nina Simone and her feminist take with her music especially with her song “Four Women” which is considered by many to be a very influential song with the black feminist movement in the 60’s?
Olek: The song “Here Comes the Sun” has accompanied me through many difficult installations.  I played the song on loop while in Rochester, NY working on the Susan B. Anthony mural for Love Across the USA.  We worried the installation would be delayed because of bad weather, but after listening to the song all morning, we arrived at the site and the sun was shining.

Nina Simone has been so well known in Europe and is finally starting to gain the recognition she deserves in the U.S. with her nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  We had no idea about the nomination when we first began working on the piece, but when we found out a couple weeks ago, we hoped that this mural would help her to earn the votes needed to be inducted.

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

Olek. Nina Simone “Here Comes The Sun” Love Across The USA. Raleigh, North Carolina. October 2017. (photo © courtesy Olek)

To learn more about Love Across The USA click HERE

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