Center for Design Innovation at UNCSA and WSSU

1949 Graduate nursing staff of Kate Bitting Reynolds Memorial Hospital. Photo and thumbnail courtesy of Linda Dark

1949 Graduate nursing staff of Kate Bitting Reynolds Memorial Hospital. Photo and thumbnail courtesy of Linda Dark

Present Absence, the name of this project, desires to describe and depict the robust African American communities that thrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries along the central corridor of East Winston-Salem (East Winston) that were instrumental in every stage of making the City of Winston-Salem possible. Traces of this history remain visible to older residents of the City, now scattered from their original core along the Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard Corridor (MLK Corridor), but visible to few others. From the 1950’s to 1970’s, decisions at city, state, and federal levels led to changes that either divided or erased African American communities, businesses, and institutions that created the conditions for thriving. Today, most narratives describe MLK Corridor Communities in East Winston in terms of poverty, inequity, and lack of mobility and opportunity. East Winston is rarely recognized for its rich history of businesses, schools, institutions, and community, or for the important contributions that built Winston-Salem. The picture of health that was the unique Kate Bitting Reynolds Memorial Hospital (Katie B., as the hospital was called affectionately) offers an ideal center for these histories. Partially funded by the Reynolds Family, Katie B. opened in 1938, allowing Black doctors in the city access to a facility that rivaled the one serviced by White doctors. The hospital’s excellent record drew the attention of the regional medical community, including Howard University, which entered into an agreement for Howard’s medical students to train with doctors at Katie B. This recognition of excellence continued for decades and became a staple of pride in East Winston. UNC School of the Arts has gathered a team comprised of local citizens and members of organizations including the African American Archive, Creative Corridors Coalition, Center for Design Innovation, Delta Arts Center, New Winston Museum, NC A&T State University, UNC School of the Arts, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County City Council, Forsyth County Commission, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Art Commission, Triad Cultural Arts, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, and more. Artist Owens Daniels will collaborate with the team and community members to gather stories and photographs that will come together into a large-scale photo mosaic mural honoring Katie B.’s important history.