Cameron Art Museum believes that art can open the door to conversation. We use art as a means of sparking dialogue and creating community conversations that create a fuller understanding of our common history and our shared humanity.
Mission: The Cameron Art Museum (CAM) provides a cultural gathering place that enriches the lives of museum visitors and the community through high-quality exhibitions, lifelong learning in the arts, dynamic public programs, and stewardship and interpretation of the collection.
CAM is also the steward of an important African American heritage site, the Battle of Forks Road. CAM is dedicated to interpreting the contribution of the USCT through art, living history, and educational opportunities. We are currently seeking to make the connection between the historic site and the work of the art museum more tangible. The USCT sculpture is only the first step.
Your support will allow CAM to fund a new work of public art by Stephen Hayes that commemorates the contribution of the United States Colored Troops to US history. The life-size bronze (9 ft x 11 ft x 3 ft) sculpture itself is fashioned from the features cast of 11 African American men connected to the site and its story -- USCT descendants, re-enactors, veterans, and community leaders.
Artist Stephen Hayes says, “As a black man in America, you see the imagery of a Black person in chains, being whipped, begging, kneeling and helpless. This project is important to me because, as a creator, I get to change that narrative—by giving Black soldiers a sense of honor and pride.”
In our exploration of the Battle of Forks Road we are committed to telling the little-known story of the United States Colored Troops that had an incredible impact on the Cape Fear Region that most residents do not know about. These USCT were fighting for the United States of America -- a cause we all share. They were also fighting for their personal freedom and the freedom of their families. We hope that this sculpture will spark dialogue and will create community conversations creating a fuller understanding of our common history and our shared humanity.
The very soil where Cameron Art Museum stands was the site of the Battle of Forks Road, a Civil War skirmish whose victory was won by the United States Colored Troops (USCT) and led to the fall of Wilmington. Many of the African American soldiers who fought here were native to this area, and after the war, many of them stayed to settle, raise their families, and build community. Their impact is significant, yet the story is virtually unknown.
Wilmington lacks a powerful public artwork that tells the story of these brave men. In fact, the built environment of Wilmington, -- its parks, statues, monuments, plaques, and public art -- tells an overwhelmingly one-sided story of the Civil War, the story of white Confederate soldiers and leaders. There are no monuments celebrating the African American struggle for freedom and no figurative works of African Americans in the area.
With your help, CAM will illuminate the story of the USCT and their contribution to history through a dynamic figurative work of public art by Durham-based artist Stephen Hayes, which will be installed in November 2021. This project will promote social change by illuminating this little-known story of African-American freedom fighters that will provide a positive counterpoint to the narrative of the Civil War told by the built environment of the Wilmington and, indeed, the entire South. Community engagement through free field trips for 2,400 children in the Cape Fear region and a free dedication of the sculpture with events for the public furthers the impact of this work. CAM will host a series of public programs interpreting the USCT story in poetry, music, storytelling, and a panel discussion in the fall of 2021. In many ways, the installation of this sculpture is just the beginning of on-going interpretation of the sculpture and the story of the USCT. This sculpture will be interpreted in the development of curriculum that explores the positive impact these African American men had on eastern North Carolina, which will be given to educators through free professional development workshops.