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CoastLine: Nnenna Freelon, The Clothesline Muse, and Williston's 100th Year

Nnenna Freelon as Grandma Blu in The Clothesline Muse - playing UNCW's Kenan Auditorium March 28th.

This broadcast of CoastLine originally aired on March 25, 2015. 

The clothesline:  it’s an old-fashioned, even quaint, installation that’s fading from modern culture, but the metaphor it offers is the centerpiece of a new show called The Clothesline Muse playing Kenan Auditorium this Saturday. 

Two of the creators of that show are also collaborating with UNCW and New Hanover County Public Schools through a two-week artist residency at Williston Middle School.  Williston is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, but its history actually goes back quite a bit further.  And these two artists are helping students at Williston learn about that history and create an art project which chronicles it.   The students’ final piece goes on display Friday at the Arts Council Gallery on Front Street in downtown Wilmington.

On today’s edition of CoastLine, we meet one of the creators of The Clothesline Muse, and we find out how the clothesline metaphor relates to the history of the Williston School.

In-studio guests:

Nnenna Freelon is a six-time Grammy-nominated jazz singer and one of the creators of The Clothesline Muse. 

Bobbiette Palmer is the Production Manager of The Clothesline Muse.

Listen to Segment 1 here.
Listen to Segment 2 here.
Listen to Segment 3 here.


Listen to the short story here.

The Williston School in Wilmington is celebrating its 100th anniversary. 

As part of this milestone, UNCW and New Hanover County Public Schools are collaborating on a two-artist residency at Williston.   WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports that six-time Grammy-nominated jazz singer Nnenna Freelon and her daughter are helping students collect and archive Williston’s history through art and the spoken word. 

[Nnenna Freelon singing "Separate your Whites and Colors"]

That erupted spontaneously from Nnenna Freelon during a gathering of Williston Alumni in the school cafeteria earlier this week.  The song is from Freelon’s show The Clothesline Muse -- about 80-year-old Grandma Blu who’s headed to a nursing home – but not before she educates her granddaughter about her history.  And it’s that unwritten wisdom from community elders that Freelon says she hopes Williston students have come to appreciate during this residency.   

"We are stirring it up here in Williston.  And we came here as troublemakers.  I just want to tell you the truth.  We came here to stir up some trouble, stir up some memories, and to tell the truth.  Because our young people only get part of the story.  They need the whole story. And the key to that is you. If our children don’t understand that history, it’s nobody’s fault but our own."

The students’ final project, an artistic interpretation of Williston’s history, opens in the Arts Council Gallery as part of the Fourth Friday Gallery night in downtown Wilmington. 


Information on the Williston School art installation at the Arts Council Gallery in Wilmington: 


Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.