During the renovation planning, Luse and the architects also reached out to noted American Indian potter Senora Lynch for ideas about the space between the two Union buildings. The result was this significant piece of art embedded into the physical space.
“The Gift” was designed in two phases. Phase 1 included the brick walkway which was dedicated in 2004. Phase 2 included the addition of the explanatory plaques, the seating and tables, dedicated in 2014. The addition of the seating is a silent nod to the seating on the Wall outside of Lenoir.
The Gift uses a staggered brick pattern that depicts traditional southeastern American Indian life symbols such as turtles, eagle feathers, corn stalks, mountains and water.
The artist invites you to walk along the path, sit on a stool, search out the symbols, and consider the ways they connect to your life. The open ends represent the path of life; each element represents a gift from the Creator.
As you walk this path you will cross and encounter each symbol which represents a gift in life. You can walk across the crisscross pattern, that illustrates that life is plentiful and good and that we are provided with all that we need for survival.
Please think of how these gifts reflect elements of your own life. Once you approach the end, you will notice a medicine wheel, which represents the four elements of life; mental, physical, emotional, spiritual well-being. We must maintain a balance of all four parts. You can go across and stand in the middle - this symbolizes that you are in control of your life at this moment. And you have the power to choose your direction in life.
Corn is known as the staff of life, once the main source of food for Native Americans, and also a major agricultural product in North Carolina.
The turtle represents life itself as well as the children of the next generation. It is the gift of the earth and the moon and represents a long life.
The dogwood flower symbolizes springtime, a new beginning, a time to begin to till the land and prepare for the year to come.
The hills represent the homeland, and the earth that sustains us.
Water cleanses and purifies, bringing growth to all things.
The eagle feather is a shield of honor the highest honor one can receive. It is bestowed upon those who have made a difference in their community.
The four directions symbolize the earth, wind, fire, and water. They also remind us that each of us has been the power to choose the path we take in life.
Listen to artist Senora Lynch discuss the creation of The Gift.
Senora Richardson Lynch (born 1963) is a contemporary Native American potter and a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. She was a 2007 winner of the North Carolina Heritage Award, the 2013 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the River People Music and Culture Fest, and is recognized nationally for unique style of detailed, hand-coiled pottery. Lynch is a resident of Warren County, North Carolina.