Art Idea: Spinning Stools

This is an idea from August 2018, which did not come to pass. The coal ash seats were too expensive. So we are saving this for another time. Maybe in the future.


the main focus of The Lilies Project

The purpose of this project is to highlight the coal ash encapsulation research of NC A&T State University and transform coal ash into a positive benefit for the community. The goal is to install a series of coal ash-encapsulated wildflowers throughout Southeastern Stokes County, from Germanton to Danbury, NC. From the road, the art will look like wildflowers. People will be able to interact with them as a form of play and in community with one another.


The Concept for the Main Art Installation

I will design a mold that looks like a flower head to be placed on steel posts of varying heights. The flowers will function like spinning bar stools. The tallest flowers will be like a table, which does not spin, so that visitors can push themselves around on the stools. The lowest height allows children to safely engage with the art.   


The Design

The flower heads will be made up of encapsulated coal ash with NC A&T State University researchers. The stems will be created from steel with the assistance of local small business Performance Machine and Fab, Inc. All of the pieces will be powder-coated bright vibrant colors. An audio component could be included as well.

the inspiration


The Lilies of the Field is a reference to the movie starring Sidney Poitier, who won the first Oscar as an African-American for his role. Stokes County native, Jester Hairston’s wrote the song Amen, which is played throughout the movie. Poitier lip-syncs along to Hairston’s voice in the movie. The name of the movie comes from a conversation in the movie that references Matthew 6:28:

Why are you anxious about clothing?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.
They don’t toil, neither do they spin.

Multiple Historic Connections


Jester Hairston

Hairston was born in Little Egypt on the Hairston Plantation, which was flooded in the early 1970s to create Belews Lake, which provides cooling waters for the power station. Inspired by his grandmother, Jester Hairston collected spirituals through out the US. He also served as a UN Ambassador sharing the spirituals throughout the world and leading mass groups of people in song. The leader of his family, Hairston often spoke about the relationships he fostered between both the black and white side of the proclaimed nation’s largest family.


Moravian Roots of Walnut Cove

Additionally, the local cultural heritage is long influenced by the early Moravian settlers to the area. The connection between the original Town Fork Settlers and the Moravians generated growth in the area. Moravian William Lash founded Walnut Cove in the mid-1800s. The Moravian craftsmen used flowers on their highly-sought pottery. Symbolically lilies represent renewal, which we are also seeking for the community.


Greensboro Four Civil Rights Movement

In an effort to use one mold for the coal ash and to employ interactive play, I looked to Randy Walker’s art installation in honor of the Greensboro Four. This piece is part of Woven Works Park, located in the Innovation Cornerstone of the Downtown Greenway of Greensboro in close proximity to NC A&T State University. The image of the four counter stools are easy to identify as part of Greensboro’s contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. The serious and powerful content is presented in a light, playful, yet respectful manner.

The Celebrating Courage Weekend of August 2018 honored the integration of Stokes County with the story of London Students marching the counter at Vernon’s Grill and staging a sit-in based on the experience of their teachers, who attended NC A&T State University. It feels appropriate that Walker’s art would also inspire the installation of this piece.

Influence of Art & Play

Transform Worry into play

The idea of this project evolved after “sitting and spinning” in my thoughts. In working through the project, I recalled a practice known as “Welcoming Prayer.” The prayer welcomes negative thoughts and sits with them. In the midst of this practice, negative thoughts transform into a positive insight.

Music is the fabric of stokes county

Not only does music reference the gift Jester Hairston gave to the world, it also refers to the rich cultural heritage of music that lives on throughout Stokes County today. Each site will have a specific song inspired by the location.

Installation Concept Details

Among the wildflowers

Each site will highlight a song. The flowers will be installed in the ground based on the placement of the musical notes in the song. Each flower will represent a story. In the end, I hope to create an enriching tour of site specific stories of the Southeastern Stokes area. Stories will be available as they are captured. Visitors will have a chance to enjoy the installation or find deeper meaning through signage, printed materials and online information.

possible locations

Installations will be placed in a range of public places throughout Southeastern Stokes County, honoring many individuals who have positively impacted the community. Sites range from Germanton to Danbury, creating a crescent connected by Town Fork Creek and the Dan River, both of which converge at the Belews Creek Power Station and are part of Duke Energy’s discharge process. Site locations will be added as they are secured.


spin along with a song

From a bird’s eye view, the site layout is based on the placement of the notes on the sheet music. This example is for London Elementary and This Little Light of Mine, which is the theme song of the Celebrating Courage film honoring John L. Hairston. 


This layout demonstrates a side view of the layout of the seating. It will look like sporadic wildflowers growing from afar. However the placement is based on the musical notes of the first few measures of the site’s song.