ROBBINSVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — The first days of May in Robbinsville, Snowbird Cherokee artists and community members gathered to see the official installation of a 400-square-foot mural honoring women of the Snowbird Cherokee community.
The long-awaited project was initially launched in 2019, when the Graham Revitalization Economic Action Team (GREAT) was awarded a $50,000 grant for the project as part of its Inclusive Public Art initiative.
The grant came from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR), which holds community engagement as central to the projects it funds.
Doreyl Ammons Cain, of the Appalachian Mural Trail, and TJ Holland, Snowbird Cherokee Community member, led the team of artists in Graham County.
Holland, who passed away tragically in September 2020, was the cultural resource supervisor for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, as well as the director of the Junaluska Memorial Museum in Robbinsville.
Cain and Holland held a series of community gatherings and listening sessions to help compose the final design.
With the design complete, a series of mural painting workshops were held with seven local Cherokee artists. These artists took the lead in painting portrait panels of their ancestors, Snowbird Cherokee women, to be installed on the mural wall.
Community members said the loss of Holland added an additional layer of urgency and importance to the project through honoring Holland, his love for his community, his great knowledge and his contributions as an artist.
The Snowbird Women mural panels were placed on the outside of the old VFW building in historical downtown Robbinsville in early May and PBS-NC, in partnership with ZSR, was there to document the project.
Community leaders said the show of community spirit lives on in Robbinsville as Snowbird Cherokee artists and community members gather to paint and complete the installation of the Snowbird Cherokee women’s stories.
”TJ is smiling up there,” said Nikki Nations, Cherokee artist.
The Snowbird Women’s mural is already placed on the Appalachian Mural Trail, where the mural can be viewed once it’s finished. The mural trail will be updating the mural’s progress online.
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