The Story of Service
Created by artist Colin Quashie, SERVICE is a creative interpretation of the Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-in of 1960. This work of art is centered on African American educators, activists, and politicians and commemorates their legacy and impact on the state. SERVICE is housed at the Knapp-Sanders Building, home of the School of Government, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
SERVICE depicts a gathering of 40 African American leaders at the lunch counter of a store not unlike F.W. Woolworth in Greensboro. Quashie featured the Greensboro Four—Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, Jibreel Khazan (formerly known as Ezell Blair, Jr.), and Franklin McCain—as “servers” because, as he explained, “they literally took possession of the lunch counter with their refusal to leave until served. By seeking service they were, by extension, serving a cause greater than themselves.”
SERVICE was commissioned in 2008 and formally dedicated in 2010. Learn more about the conceptualization and creation of SERVICE.
When I saw the bare wall facing the School of Government’s dining facility, I immediately knew that the visual length of a lunch counter would figure nicely there. It was the perfect location for a collaboration. Public officials and others who take courses at the School would line up in that hallway and would have to walk the length of the painting before entering the dining hall.
SERVICE is on display on the first floor of the Knapp-Sanders Building across from the School of Government dining room. This location was chosen by Quashie; after his commissioning to create the mural in 2008, he wrote about the selection of this site for the art:
"The potentially sensitive rumoring that may arise around the choice to use what many deem a hidden location to display a work of art meant to illuminate previous missing history has been taken into consideration. Any backlash can best be countered by the site-specific nature of the work. Quite simply, it cannot and should not be placed elsewhere. The daily use of the cafeteria by a high percentage of students attending classes at the School will give the completed image an unfettered opportunity to engage viewers in a work that specifically pays tribute to the wait suffered by the original four students at the Woolworth lunch counter. The intent is to connect the past and the present (both groups are and were awaiting service) by placing both in similar circumstances and surroundings. As diners make their way into the cafeteria, they will traverse history and have a wonderful opportunity to engage the work.”
The mural was generously sponsored by Local Government Federal Credit Union and dedicated on July 26, 2010. This date coincided with the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro.
Resources for Educators
Carolina K-12, a program of Carolina Public Humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill, has created a lesson plan for K-12 teachers interested in using SERVICE in their classrooms. The lesson plan utilizes SERVICE as a visual starting point in an exploration of North Carolina history and the key contributions of African Americans.
Explore the Art
The mural, a single 5' x 50' painting, visually consists of eight panels, each representing an event, place, or particular accomplishment in the history of North Carolina. A “menu” accompanies the painting, explaining Quashie’s concept and containing short descriptions of the people and events depicted.
Meet the Artist
Artist Colin Quashie was born in London, England and is now based in Charleston, South Carolina. He began his art career in 1989 and uses wit and sarcasm to tackle hard issues of culture, politics, and race. Quashie uses media-based methods to dissect and deconstruct stereotypical views of cultural relationships. His work challenges the average viewer and art insiders alike.
Knapp-Sanders Building Campus Box 3330, UNC Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3330 T: 919 966 5381 F: 919 962 0654