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The visitor log that sits next to Colin Quashie’s "SERVICE" mural located in the Knapp-Sanders Building, the home of UNC’s School of Government, is filled with hundreds of names and comments about his work starting from 2012.

"SERVICE," which was commissioned in 2008 and unveiled in 2010, depicts 40 African American civic leaders — including educators, activists and politicians — gathered at a diner counter. Outside the diner windows, more individuals and scenes pertaining to Black history in North Carolina can be seen.

The most recent comment in the log was from Martin D. Woodard, who visited the government school on Tuesday to give a presentation. He wrote that the mural was awe-inspiring.

“I was glad that I had the opportunity to witness history in the collective,” Woodard, who is the program director at the Veterans Life Center in Butner, North Carolina, said.

Quashie based the continuous eight-panel mural around the Greensboro Four’s 1960 sit-in, when four students from N.C. A&T sat at F. W. Woolworth’s "whites only" lunch counter. The sit-in garnered media attention and inspired more students to join them the following day, igniting a wave of sit-ins and subsequent integration in dining facilities across the South.

“They were the individuals who went in there and were seeking service, and in seeking service, rendered service,” Quashie, who is an artist and nurse in Charleston, South Carolina, said.

Having had no previous experience painting murals, Quashie said he did not think he would be chosen as the artist for this project. Juan Logan, retired UNC studio art professor and one of the 11 members of the artist selection committee, encouraged Quashie to apply because of his thoughtful work as an artist.

Quashie said Logan saw something he did not see in himself at the time.

Chandra Cox, a member of the artist selection committee and professor of design at N.C. State University, said the committee voted on three finalists who were invited to present their ideas.

“It was a very democratic call to artists and process,” Cox said.

After Quashie was selected, he said he was given free rein on the size and location of the mural in the government school. He ultimately settled on a 5-foot by 50-foot oil painting on a continuous canvas mounted on the wall across from the building's downstairs dining hall.

“Watching the way students lined up all the way down that hallway in order to enter into the cafeteria, I thought it would just be an absolute perfect runway,” Quashie said.

A 5-person history committee composed of historians from around the state also worked on the project. Alongside graduate students, they decided which individuals should be featured in the mural. The one constraint the committee set was that the work could not feature anyone who was still alive, to let their legacy settle.

Quashie was given the list of names the committee produced and tasked with designing and creating the mural. He said he spent about 18 hours a day, six days a week for seven months working in a South Carolina studio to meet the dedication deadline of July 26, 2010, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Woolworth's lunch counter.

Quashie said that the individuals in the mural gave him the strength to complete it.

“You just felt so small in the process,” Quashie said. “I realized at that point in time that this thing was so much bigger than me.”

"SERVICE" is the only completed piece of the four murals commissioned for the government school’s “Missing History” project commemorating the contributions of African Americans and Native Americans in North Carolina.

According to the printed guide for "SERVICE," the project was created because the 14 murals commissioned for the government school in the 1950s that covered historic events in North Carolina lacked the necessary diversity to tell the complete story of North Carolina history.

UNC Media Relations said in an email statement that the 2008 artist selection committee considered other projects for the future, but those have been put on hold pending private support. "SERVICE" was sponsored by the Local Government Federal Credit Union.

“My only wish is that some other business or some other sponsor would come out and sponsor the other murals,” Quashie said. “I think it’s time.”

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