A1 A1
Greensboro community helps Cone Health create a mosaic mural

GREENSBORO — Tyler Morgan had waited months for this moment.

Back in third grade at Morehead Elementary School, Tyler had drawn a piece of artwork for what would become a mosaic mural.

On Tuesday, he finally found his art in the massive mural hung along the main corridor of Moses Cone Hospital.

The 10,000 pieces of art created by local people have been turned into 22,000 one-inch images, to create a composite picture of the city’s past, present and future.

Tyler, 10, contained his emotions when he saw it. “It’s nice,” he said calmly. “It shows all of the little pictures in one big picture.”

It’s quite big, actually: 20 feet long and 8 feet high.

“It’s a nice little way to celebrate Greensboro and celebrate the people of Greensboro with their talent,” said Rodney Morgan, Tyler’s father.

Tyler joined several students and adults who got a sneak peek on Tuesday afternoon.

“He is very reserved with his emotions,” said his mother, Stacie Morgan. “But when he found out that he was going to be in this project, he showed a lot of excitement and happiness.”

Later Tuesday evening, the mural was unveiled at an annual reception to honor Cone Health donors who are part of the Cone Society.

Cone Hospital is the flagship of Cone Health, a private, not-for-profit network of health care providers.

Started in 1953 with money from Moses H. Cone, co-founder of Cone Mills, and his wife, Bertha, the hospital has expanded into a network of more than 100 locations, 12,000 employees, 1,300 physicians and 1,200 volunteers.

Cone Health’s Office of Institutional Advancement partnered with a Michigan-based nonprofit, Project S.N.A.P., to develop a community engagement program and mural with the theme, “Exceptional care belongs to all of us.”

Over two years, they arranged for local students, employees, patients, caregivers and community members to draw images illustrating that theme.

Project S.N.A.P. used them to design the mural, a digital image across several acrylic panels.

Some pieces of art were used more than once to achieve the color and mosaic requirements.

S.N.A.P. stands for Share, Nurture, Act and Preserve.

Over 12 years, it has created more than 50 murals at hospitals and health systems, companies and other institutions around the country, said Deborah Rubyan, its founder and chief executive officer.

They include Stanford Hospital in California, St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, the Martin Luther King mural in North Lawndale, Ill., and the Henry Ford mural in Ford Motor Company World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.

To find artwork for the Cone Health Mosaic Mural Project, “We looked anywhere there were groups of people already gathering and where this made sense,” said Michelle Schneider, Cone Health’s chief philanthropy officer.

Local participants drew on special paper measuring 8 1/2 by 11 inches, being sure to cover all white space. On the back, they wrote their names and artist statements about their work. Organizers enlisted the artistry of about 800 Cone Health leaders assembled at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Participants sat down and drew at the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Only 5K, which raises money to provide women with mammograms and other services. They tended to illustrate breast cancer themes.

Guilford County Schools mobilized visual arts teachers to organize student participants. About 5,000 to 6,000 students at all grade levels created art, said Leigh Ann Little, the schools’ fine arts supervisor.

Schneider declined to say how much had been spent on the mural project.

The mural, Rubyan said, encourages observers to look through the dogwood trees with Moses and Bertha Cone, whose silhouettes are in the tree.

It shows the original Cone Hospital in the center. Paths around the hospital signify the threads of the community, inspired by textiles.

A plane and smokestacks can be seen on the horizon, symbolizing the textile industry, aviation and business.

So can a statue of the four N.C. A&T students who sat down on Feb. 1, 1960, at the Woolworth lunch counter and tried to order, sparking sit-ins across the country.

Near the statue is a historical marker near Cone Hospital that represents the contribution of Dr. George Simkins Jr. He and other African American physicians paved the way to end segregation in hospitals and health care facilities nationwide.

Find a view of the downtown business and cultural hub.

See diverse faith communities symbolized in a stained-glass window.

Look for a carousel with a pregnant woman and her child, representing future generations.

On the far right, the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ mascot signals the fun and joy of community experiences.

Rubyan’s filmmaker son, Michael, will create a documentary on the mural project.

Pam Barrett, senior philanthropy officer at Cone Health, had worked on the project since its start.

“It’s thrilling to see people so excited about finding their individual artworks,” Barrett said as she watched its artists search the mural.

People don’t have to visit Cone Hospital to see it. An online gallery can be found at projectsnap.org. Click on the Online Art Museum link, then on Find My Artwork and search the database. The search takes viewers to each piece of art and its location within the mural.

But for those who wait in the surrounding waiting room, the mural can provide a distraction during long days as loved ones receive care.

They soon will be able to search the online mural gallery at a hospital kiosk nearby.

On Tuesday, school children and adults searched the mural intently for their artwork, no easy feat when each piece now fits into one inch.

Parker Kosobucki, 13, a student at Northwest Middle School, found her picture of a girl holding a container labeled “supplies.”

“This picture represents a person donating food supplies to a charity in front of a Cone Health building,” she wrote in her artist statement. “I draw this because there is a can food drive currently going on at my school and it inspired me!”

Tyler Morgan wrote “Your not alone” against a background of colors.

He explains his message. “You’re not the only one going through whatever you are going through here,” he said.

Ray Free and his stepfather, Coley Hooker Jr., created artworks in memory of Johnnie Mae Hooker, Free’s mother and Hooker’s wife. She died of cancer in 1989.

For more than a decade, Coley Hooker has organized an annual bowl-a-thon in her memory to benefit the Cancer Center. It helps patients there pay bills not covered by insurance.

For his artwork, Free drew a portrait of his mother with a bowling ball and pin, a pink ribbon and the word “strength.”

Coley Hooker drew his late wife bowling a strike.

“It takes one person to get a strike in bowling,” he said. “It takes everybody to strike out cancer. That’s what my picture is about.”

Schneider hopes that the mural not only brings beauty and meaning, but a better understanding of Cone Health.

As a nonprofit organization, Cone Health has philanthropic needs. Last year alone, it provided $425 million in unreimbursed care to those without health insurance, Schneider said.

“We hope that people will see this as the beginning of relationship with us, that isn’t necessarily limited to health care,” Schneider said. “I hope people will think about us in a variety of ways, not just as a hospital but as a part of this community.”

North Carolina absentee ballot rule changes get final OKs

RALEIGH — North Carolina legislators finalized changes on Tuesday to beef up mail-in absentee ballot rules and punishments for violations after a voting fraud investigation of a congressional race led to a new election this year.

The bipartisan measure, which got unanimous support in the Senate and near unanimous backing from the House, now heads to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for his expected signature.

Democrats also are in favor of the measure because it permanently restores early in-person voting on the last Saturday before state elections — something Republican lawmakers tried to end last year. The bill also would allow some counties to keep using touchscreen-only voting equipment for the March primary. They otherwise had to be out of service by this December and replaced.

Much of the legislation attempts to combat illegal ballot “harvesting,” which occurred in the 9th Congressional District campaign, according to evidence collected in a State Board of Elections probe.

Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative working with Republican candidate Mark Harris, gathered hundreds of absentee ballots from Bladen County voters with the help of his assistants, witnesses told state officials.

Dowless’ workers testified that they were directed to collect blank or incomplete ballots, forge signatures on them and even fill in votes for local candidates. Dowless and several workers now face criminal charges. The state board ordered a new election. Harris didn’t run in the subsequent race, which was won narrowly on Sept. 10 by his successor as the GOP nominee, Dan Bishop.

The consensus legislation keeps a promise to combat such fraud in the future, a key Republican sponsor of the bill said.

“Secure elections are the most fundamental tenet of a democracy, and the policies we enacted today are intended (to) ensure the activity that took place last year can never happen again,” said Sen. Ralph Hise, a Mitchell County Republican, in a news release.

Under the bill, the traditional absentee ballot process remains largely the same: a registered voter fills out a ballot request form that gets sent to the elections board in their home county. The county board then sends an absentee “application” and a clean ballot to the voter, who then fills out both. Only the person or a close relative can mail in those documents or turn it in person.

The measure increases criminal penalties for people who attempt to sell or destroy others’ completed absentee ballots. Only the voter or a close relative could now fill out all the forms. Until now, an outside individual could help with the ballot request form.

The bill also attempts to ensure that absentee ballot requesters and their identifying data, which are already collected on logs and are available for public inspection, would now stay private until the primary and the general election day. The confidentiality provision is designed to prevent mischief by political operatives.

The measure also would direct that absentee voters comply with a new photo identification mandate by returning a copy of a qualifying ID or other identifying number with their completed ballot. The statewide ID mandate begins with the March primary.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed a law in June 2018 to end early in-person voting on the Friday before the Election Day, rather than the Saturday date. In response to criticism, lawmakers quickly passed another law to bring last-Saturday voting back, but for the November 2018 election only.

Tuesday’s votes come a day after the state Democratic Party and national Democratic campaign groups sued in state court to overturn the June 2018 law. Their lawyers argue the last Saturday of early voting has been extremely popular among black, Latino and young voters, and that eliminating it would violate their rights under the state constitution.

The last Saturday has been “heavily utilized throughout the state of North Carolina,” said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham County Democrat and bill sponsor.

The lawsuit also challenges the requirement that other early voting sites in counties stay open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, saying counties should have more flexibility. The final bill alters the uniform weekday hours from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

An article of interest inside today's newspaper

Haunt couture: Welcome to Rosemont Manor, Charlotte’s most ambitious haunted house. Page A5

NCAA board approves athlete compensation for image, likeness

Amid rising pressure from lawmakers to permit college athletes to profit from their fame, the NCAA announced Tuesday it would consider rules changes that would allow college athletes “the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

The statement and an accompanying NCAA “questions and answers” explanation represented the organization’s first acknowledgment of a willingness to discuss permitting individual athletes to trade on their fame. However, it contained few specifics on how doing so could be reconciled with “the collegiate model” that prohibits such benefits and likely won’t quell the organization’s critics or pacify elected officials pushing for change.

The NCAA also re-stated its opposition to a state law in California that will permit college athletes to sign sponsorship deals, charge for autographs, and earn money through other similar opportunities beginning in 2023.

“The California law and other proposed measures ultimately would lead to pay for play and turn college athletes into employees,” the NCAA said Tuesday after a meeting of its leadership in Emory University in Atlanta. “This directly contradicts the mission of college sports within higher education — that student-athletes are students first and choose to play a sport they love against other students while earning a degree.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert was unavailable for an interview Tuesday.

“As a national governing body, the NCAA is uniquely positioned to modify its rules to ensure fairness and a level playing field for student-athletes,” Emmert said in a news release. “The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”

Before Tuesday’s announcement, Tom McMillen, chief executive of the Lead1 Association, which represents the 130 athletic directors and programs at the NCAA’s top division, said the majority of his members support change that would allow some form of name, image and likeness payments for athletes. McMillen cautioned, however, that there are many unanswered questions, and said its unlikely change happens before 2021.

“This is not going to get solved overnight. This is going to go on for several years,” McMillen said.

At a meeting in late September attended by dozens of athletic directors from across the country, McMillen said, many expressed willingness to allow college athletes to make money similar to how Olympic athletes can, but expressed concern about potential legal implications. The NCAA and its member conferences have emerged largely victorious from federal antitrust lawsuits thanks to judicial rulings that have allowed the NCAA to prohibit payments that are not “tethered to education.”

What’s unclear, McMillen said, is how to tie new revenue opportunities for athletes to education to not make the NCAA or conferences vulnerable to more litigation that would seek an open market for college athletes — essentially, allowing schools to enter into cash bidding wars for top high school recruits.

“Somewhere along the way it has to be tethered to education,” McMillen said. “Does that mean they don’t get it until they graduate, or they have to be in good academic standing? There are a lot of nuances and complications to it.”

Tuesday’s announcement came after an NCAA working group that has been studying the name, image and likeness issue since May made a preliminary report to the organization’s board. That working group made no specific recommendations on key issues, however, such as whether athletes will be allowed to charge for autographs, and the NCAA said the group needs time for more feedback, after spending five months studying the issue.

The National College Players Association, a nonprofit that advocates for expanded income and rights for college athletes, criticized Tuesday’s announcement as largely meaningless.

“I think this is a bit of smoke and mirrors here, which signals that the NCAA is still going to oppose players receiving real compensation,” said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the NCPA and a former UCLA football player, in a phone interview.

Lawmakers in more than 10 states have expressed interest in bills similar to the one passed in California.

On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro has proposed a national bill that would prohibit the NCAA and its member schools from restricting athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses to third-party buyers on the open market.

“We clearly have the NCAA’s attention,” Walker, a Republican, said in a news release. “Now, we need to have their action.”