By Cameron Lee
March 20, 2023
Photo: Laurent Benhamou / AP
Tennis superstar Venus Williams will co-host a dinner gala and an online auction to raise money for the preservation of Nina Simone’s childhood home, according to The National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2017, four artists came together to purchase the property in Tryon, North Carolina after prior rehabilitation efforts were unsuccessful. Adam Pendleton, a sculptural artist, and a member of the group that purchased the property, will co-host the gala and online auction in support of the Nina Simone Childhood Home preservation project spearheaded by the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.
The benefit gala (which will include a ticketed dinner) will be hosted at Pace Gallery’s 540 West 25th Street flagship in New York on May 20, followed by an online auction conducted by Sotheby’s. The artworks in the sale are co-curated by Pendleton and five-time Wimbledon champion and entrepreneur, Venus Williams.
“I’m so excited to be a part of this expansive project centering on the life and legacy of Nina Simon,” Williams communicated through the press release. “Each of the artists Adam and I have selected for the auction has a unique, powerful voice, and we’ve been moved by their generosity and enthusiasm for this important cause.”
Venus Williams and Adam Pendleton are spearheading a multifaceted benefit in support of @SavingPlaces‘s Nina Simone Childhood Home preservation project.
Join us May 20 for a gala, online auction co-conducted by @sothebys, and exhibition of works on sale: https://t.co/wlwyAYf5W6 pic.twitter.com/IAzOs1nLDA
— Pace Gallery (@PaceGallery) March 13, 2023
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933, the musical prodigy first learned to play piano in the three-room 650-square-foot house. Waymon adopted her stage name Nina Simone in 1954, and would become the celebrated singer-songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist we know her as today. Verve Records and UMe will celebrate Simone this year in honor of what would have been her 90th birthday in February. The campaign features new music (which includes a previously unreleased live album recorded at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival), a compilation album, music video, and merchandise.
Since fundraising for the Nina Simone house project began, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has raised nearly $500,000. Through the upcoming auction and gala, they hope to raise $5 million for the ongoing preservation efforts of Simone’s childhood home, according to the press release.
In August of 2021, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund published a community engagement report outlining two directions for the project. One option would be to maintain the home without any additions of modern amenities, providing an opportunity to preserve the authenticity of the space that was experienced by Simone. The second option would be to fully rehabilitate the historic home, adding an expansion structure to accommodate modern amenities, and allow for year-round artist residencies.
Online bidding will be open to the public at 11 a.m. EST beginning Friday, May 12 and closing Monday, May 22 at 3 p.m. EST. The artwork in the auction will also be available to view in person at Pace’s West 25th Street gallery in New York throughout the course of the sale from May 12-20. To inquire about purchasing tickets for the gala dinner, contact NinaSimone@pacegallery.com.
To make an individual donation to the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s Nina Simone Childhood Home preservation project, you can visit SavingPlaces.org.