Over the past few weeks, I have enjoyed contacting past participants of the Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program. I have spoken on the phone and exchanged emails with historians and museum professionals across the state of Virginia. I have learned how the Top 10 Program has helped and motivated participating organizations.
I recently had a conversation with Shaun Spencer-Hester of the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum, located in the City of Lynchburg. In 2011, the first year of the Top 10 Program, the museum nominated a mosaic tile in its collection by Amaza Lee Meredith. Meredith was an artist and architect practicing in Virginia in the 1930s. She was an African-American woman and true trailblazer for her generation.
Amaza Lee Meredith studied at Virginia State College for Negroes. Later named Virginia State University, Meredith founded and directed her alma mater’s arts department in 1935. She ran the department from 1935-1958. Near the university, she designed and built her home, “Azurest South.” Designed in the International Style, the home was both modern and unique in Virginia at the time. Meredith resided in the home with her partner and fellow VSU professor, Edna Meade Colson.
Inside the home were mosaic tiles painted by Amaza Lee Meredith. A remaining tile was featured in the Top 10 Program. Meredith gifted the handmade mosaic tile piece to her relative, poet and civil rights activist Anne Spencer. According to Shaun Spencer-Hester, “It is especially designed and personalized by Meredith and themed with Spencer's published poem Lines To A Nasturtium. The tile work is an independent piece of art that once covered the walls in ‘Azurest South.’” Unfortunately, the mosaic tile continues to fall apart. Spencer-Hester remarked, “Since being featured in the program, the tile was hanging in our museum over the mantle. Recently, we had to take it down because it is deteriorating. The tile is breaking and it is powdery.”
The tile remains endangered as it waits to receive additional care. Nomination to the Top 10 Program did bring new attention to the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum. Shaun Spencer-Hester shared, “The people that I motivated to vote were excited to vote for this piece.” The museum was featured in this year’s Garden Club of Virginia booklet. Since its publication, 630 new patrons have visited the museum. The museum is also scheduling an article with This Old House next spring. The Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum has been recognized for its community activism and historic importance in Lynchburg. For the past 37 years, it has been run by an all volunteer non-profit organization.
Thanks to Shaun Spencer-Hester and the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum for updating VAM on the mosaic tile by Amaza Lee Meredith.
1. “Azurest South” in Southern Chesterfield County. Photo by Isaac Harrell.
2. Amaza Lee Meredith. Photo Courtesy of Virginia State University.
Kollatz Jr., Harry. "Amazing Amaza: Looking beyond Virginia with Azurest South." Richmond Magazine, June 28, 2012.
Spencer-Hester, Shaun. E-mail message to Rebecca Guest. June 23, 2014.
Spencer-Hester, Shaun. Phone Interview with Rebecca Guest. Personal interview. Richmond, June 12, 2014.
The Library of Virginia. "The Library of Virginia African American Trailblazers 2009: Amaza Meredith (1895-1984), Lynchburg and Petersburg." The Library of Virginia African American Trailblazers 2009. http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/trailblazers/2009/honoree.asp?bio=3 (accessed June 22, 2014).