Public art will celebrate Saint Agnes hospital

📸: @leslieshoots

You might not know this historic landmark in Southeast Raleigh. But you should.

Saint Agnes Hospital provided care to Black patients and trained Black nurses for 65 years. Known for its quality standards, it drew patients from across the Southeast.

St. Agnes Hospital Nursing School, St. Augustine’s College, Raleigh, NC, 1949. Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina

Despite its historic significance, no signage recognizes the structure at the edge of Saint Augustine’s University, a historically Black university.

Envision Saint Agnes would change that. It’s a public art project sparked by students’ ideas, celebrating the history of the hospital.

Saint Agnes Hospital, which operated from 1896 -1961, was special and innovative for its time, said project coordinator and Saint Aug visual arts professor Linda Dallas. Anyone who showed up at their door, regardless of economic situation or race, would be served.

The group hopes that the artwork they create celebrates that, she said.

“This is an institution (Saint Agnes) that understood Black Lives Mattered at a time when every law and every institution said otherwise. And these people defied that.”

Saint Augustine’s University students Donald Glenn, Jermaine Goods, Deja Huggins, De’jah
Jenkins, Chelsea King and Cameron Philyaw designed a public art installation to inform, enhance and
engage the surrounding community.

Part of the project will include The Healing Gate, a mosaic of 3,000 vinyl tags. The tags are made up of uplifting messages from the community, Linda said. 

The group plans to begin the installation of the Envision Saint Agnes Hospital project public artwork in September. 

“We also plan to have an October program celebrating the hospital and the project. At this time, it is not certain if that program will be on site or virtual,” Linda shared in an email.

One of the tags that will be used for the Healing Gate.

Focused on community engagement, the project so far included an initial on-site community event attended by 200 people, about a quarter of whom had been born at the hospital. 

Art inspired by the event helped raise funds with an exhibit at Block gallery. Grants helped, too. Now, the project is 3/4 of the way to its goal, but you can still help.

Help the project: Donate to the project at VAE’s site and look for the event in October.

But before the Envision Saint Agnes Hospital public art project is installed, there are two other reasons you’ll want to see the site from outside the gates:

It’s the first stop on Sunday’s Southeast Raleigh scavenger hunt, for new and existing neighbors of Southeast Raleigh. [learn more]

Art for justice murals: There will be another art project coming to the Saint Agnes site, as well.

“Starting in mid-August 2020 and running through mid-September, the exact dates are yet to be determined, there will be an exhibition, A Space For Reflection, on the Saint Agnes Hospital site of the murals created for the shattered downtown storefronts,” Linda said.

The artworks reflect on the hurt, anger and frustration that culminated in the protest this spring. This exhibition will be in tandem with Shaw University.”

LEARN MORE: Sign up for the New Neighbor Project’s Southeast Raleigh guides for more SE Raleigh history
READ MORE RALEIGH ART: Mother-daughter children’s book about staying at home

Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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