Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

Hidden Treasures Series
Haywood Street Congregation Fresco
by
Suzelle Sinclair

suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net

 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,
for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

~Hebrews 13:2

Miss Mary’s meatloaf. There are many things that bring people together at Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina, Miss Mary’s famous meatloaf is one of them. Helping to lead the Downtown Welcome Table ministry, Mary is the central figure in the Haywood Street fresco. The fresco depicts how the Haywood Street ministries brings community together to feed the body and spirit, and the Haywood Street Congregation’s mission, “Relationship, above all else.”

Haywood Street is a United Methodist mission congregation and faith-based nonprofit founded in 2009 by Reverend Brian Combs. It has grown dramatically since that time. Before the pandemic, several hundred folks gathered on Wednesdays and Sundays for food, fellowship and worship. During my recent visit, April Nance, Fresco Host, told me, “While we continue to be able to provide boxed hot meals to the community, we are anxious to be able to return to serving the community at the Welcome Table and to resume worship services inside. People from the entire community, the unhoused, working poor, students, and business professionals alike would gather to eat at the Welcome Table and worship together.”

The fresco is a reminder of the importance of relationship at Haywood Street. Principle Artist Christopher Holt and a team of artists created this amazing work of art using real people of Haywood Street as models. Christopher is a western North Carolina native and studied the art of  fresco under the legendary fresco artist, Benjamin Long. If you remember, Ben Long is the artist responsible for the Ashe County frescos that I wrote about in my column, “Churches of the Frescos” . Ben’s son, Anselme Long, was also one of the artists involved in the creation of the Haywood Street fresco. The work is filled with real-life figures and meaningful details, too many to include in this column. To find information about each of the individuals depicted in this fresco, go to visit.haywoodstreetfresco.org. At the website you will find an interactive map of the fresco and each individual’s special story. You will also find information about the themes and imagery, the fresco process, and the artists who created it.

As I sat and studied the many significant details, I thought about each individual’s story. I felt a sense of connection to each of them as I closely studied their faces, each beautifully depicted in its own way. Each personality occupies a special place, playing a unique role that is an integral part of the overall narrative.

PAINTING BY SUZELLE SINCLAIR

As I walked outside, I recognized familiar faces among those gathered there. I had become aquatinted with them from their portraits in the fresco. Yet, somehow, the beauty of the fresco had changed their appearance to me. I could see beauty that I had not seen before. Making eye contact with someone I did not recognize, and sharing a friendly hello, I now saw the beauty in his face, in the lines that tell his story. As I turned to leave, I reminded myself to look for the divine beauty and recognize the divine purpose that exist in all people, those I know, those I meet along the way and in myself.

For more information about the Haywood Street Fresco and what you need to know about planning a visit,

go to: visit.haywoodstreetfresco.org

For more information about the Haywood Street Congregation mission and ministries, including how to donate,

visit: www.haywoodstreet.org

“Theirs is the Kingdom” Documentary about the Haywood Street Frescos will be a part of the 2021 RiverRun Film Festival, virtual showing available on May 10, 2021, for tickets visit: www.riverrunfilm.com

For more information about “Theirs is the Kingdom” Documentary, visit: www.theirsisthekingdomfilm.com.

CHARLOTTE WEATHER