Paddock Club Stock

Two East Carolina University students hold hands at a Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center event.

Community members from Greenville, North Carolina, and Emerge Gallery and Art Center discuss the approval, upcoming installation and benefits the Paddock Club Stairway Case will bring to locals and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Holly Garriott, executive director for the Pitt County Arts Council, said the Paddock Club art piece is a public piece dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community within Greenville and Pitt County.

The location of the art is where the former Paddock Club existed at 1008-B Dickinson Avenue for more than 30 years as the first gay bar in Greenville, Garriott said. She said the staircase piece is “very specific” to the previous location, but is still under planning.

“It looks like that installation (the public art piece) won’t happen until September or October,” Garriott said.

Greenville Historic Preservation Commission is involved with the project’s installation, Garriott said, and started the movement for Emerge to oversee the public art piece. She said Emerge formed a selection panel and chose artist Jessica Bradsher, alumna from East Carolina University’s School of Art and Design sculpture department, to fabricate the work.

As of now, Garriott said the piece is almost finished with planning, but is still awaiting approval from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Once approved, she said installation will begin and the piece’s unveiling is intended to be aligned with the annual Love Wins Program through ECU’s Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center. Garriott said the project is one of few that has had to be approved before further implementations are made.

“Any time public art is put on NCDOT’s property, we (Emerge) have to have approval from the City (of Greenville) because they maintain the space, so we’re really excited, cause this is only the second public art project that we have had to apply to NCDOT for permission to make it happen,” Garriott said.

Mark Rasdorf, director of the Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center, said the memorial would serve as a “living landmark” to one of the first and longest-operated LGBTQ+ clubs in the state of North Carolina.

The Paddock Club was important to many people within the LGBTQ community for several years, Rasdorf said, and the memorial will recognize its contributions to the community and the city.

“Memorials really serve as a benchmark in saying that this memorial, this landmark, represents something that was very important to this community at some point in time, and so it’s gonna mean different things to different people,” Rasdorf said.

The Paddock Club has been gone for many years now, Rasdorf said, so it may educate some individuals about its past. He said the Paddock used to be a strong community space for many people in Greenville and eastern North Carolina.

Rasdorf said he thinks the work involved behind the project with the Pitt County Arts Council was “incredible,” and the piece will be special to many members of the community. He said the club will have various meanings to different people, and its importance cannot be reduced.

“You can’t oversimplify the importance of any kind of memorial nor can you predict who it’s gonna speak to,” Rasdorf said.

Jeremy Jordan, previous patron and owner of the Paddock Club, wrote in an email statement that the project involves taking the original steel spiral staircase from the Paddock and turning it into a sculpture, which will then be placed at the former club site on Dickinson Avenue.

The club served as the oldest continuous LGBTQ+ nightclub in the state of North Carolina at the time of its closing, Jordan wrote. The project’s timing depends on several agencies which are involved with the planning process and installation, Jordan wrote. There aren’t any renovations needed, he wrote, as the original staircase is only being moved.

Jordan wrote that several people and organizations are involved with the project, but the Pitt County Arts Council took the lead on the project alongside Holly Garriott.

“It (the public art piece) commemorates the Paddock Club as well as the other LGBT(Q+) businesses at the same time that came after it for providing a safe space for the community for well over 40 years,” Jordan wrote.

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