art design

Art by South Lenoir senior to grace CSS Neuse T-shirt

Glading Marteen 

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Using her talent as an artist, Natalie Dail has written herself into the long history of the Civil War gunboat CSS Neuse.

The South Lenoir High School senior won a contest sponsored by the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretative Center to create a design for the Kinston museum’s new T-shirt.

Museum site director Matthew Young and program coordinator Rachel Kennedy presented Natalie with a gift card and made preliminary arrangements for a personalized tour of the museum for her and her family last week. She will also be recognized on social media and in a museum publication.

“I was super excited,” Natalie said, recalling the email that told her she’d won. “It made my day.”

Natalie has honed her lifelong interest in art through classes at South Lenoir with art teacher Laura Jackson and through art classes at Lenoir Community College, where she’s taking college-level courses this year.

Her design greatly simplifies the art on the museum’s current T-shirt. It features an anchor, nautical rope, and a front view of the gunboat, all framing the words, “CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretative Center, Kinston, NC.”

The contest was open to any Lenoir County resident, but Kennedy pushed to get students involved. A committee of community members, museum staff, and local artists chose the winner.

“When the judges saw her design, they all said that’s the one,” Kennedy said.

“The idea belonged to our Programs Coordinator, Rachel Kennedy.  She has seen all the great things that artists are doing in Kinston, and she wanted to engage a younger audience in a design contest for our new T-shirts.  We had several submissions, but the staff and the board of directors for the non-profit arm of the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center decided to go with Natalie’s design.  We are thrilled with it!” said Matthew Young, Site Manager, CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center.

The new T-shirt is expected to be available for sale by Christmas, according to Young. It will be available in the gift shop of the museum, at 100 N. Queen St.

CSS Neuse was a steam-powered ironclad ram of the Confederate States Navy that served in the latter part of the Civil War and was eventually scuttled to avoid capture by Union Army forces advancing on Kinston. Remains of its hull were recovered in the Neuse River in the 1960s and became the centerpiece of a state historic site in 1964. The hull was moved to the downtown museum in 2012.


Young says that they received about 7 great designs from other artists in the area, but after reviewing them with the board of directors for the CSS Gunboat Association, Natalie’s was the best pick for a t-shirt.

Natalie Dail says that after researching the museum, she wanted to incorporate the CSS Neuse into her design and give it a nautical feel.

She says she is excited for people in the community to be able to wear something she created. The museum hopes to have the t-shirt for sale in their gift shop by the new year.

“I’m really glad that I was able to have this experience and get to know the people at the museum a little bit better, and it’s been a really great opportunity,” Natalie Dail, South Lenoir High School Senior.

“I really think that the position that Kinston is in now, there’s a good synergy between art and history and I think the two can really complement one another moving forward,” Matthew Young, Museum Site Director.

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