Art is coming to Durham!

And no, I’m not talking about Art Pope *

A few months ago, a tweet flew by my stream that piqued my curiosity – “looking for businesses in downtown Durham for art installations”.

Hey I thought, I just happen to love art (small-a art), want to support the downtown Durham community, and have a derelict and blighted building whose streetside facade is a 30 x 8 ft blank canvas. Sounds like a perfect match!

Ok… technically it’s a blank wall of plywood, but it still seemed like a great match for what the Durham Storefront Project was seeking.

The Durham Storefront Project?

The storefront project is made of 14 installations throughout downtown starting November 19th (Art Walk Weekend) and running through January 2012. After volunteering 106 West Parrish, I met three women from the Scrap Exchange to walk the building: Jessica Moore, Chris Chinchar, and our future artist Julia Gartrell.

A few days later bless her heart Julia said she wanted to use the space for an outdoor installation. Today Julia got started on the installation, so if you see some new small-a art appearing in downtown Durham now you know the backstory.

And to get you excited for this weekend, here is the proposal I got from Julia:

For this project, I would like to explore the back-story of one of Durham’s downtown properties, emphasizing both the town’s history and its continuing renaissance.  The property that I am interested in working with is located at 106 W. Parrish Street, a 3-story brick building with boarded windows.

106 W. Parrish Street has housed a wide variety of businesses throughout the years (built in 1908), but most notably was part of Black Wall Street— a highly street renowned for a large number of black-owned businesses in a time when that was quite rare.  According to the Durham City website, 106 W. Parrish Street was “[b]uilt originally to serve as the “[NC] Mutual [Life] Annex,” …[and] became home to online blackjack with people a weekly newspaper, The Durham Reformer and The North Carolina Mutual, a monthly newspaper. B&J Rose Furniture was also on the ground floor”.  Also, according to anecdotal information from the current owner of the building, the property slowly slipped into decline and even housed a brothel before being condemned in the 1990s.

What I am looking to explore and share about this building is how varied and informative each building’s history is within the greater context of a city.  Considering how many buildings no longer even exist in the once-vibrant downtown of Durham, it is interesting to consider what these buildings have seen, how that change effects current citizens, and how we can honor the passing of time.

I would like to create an installation on the outside of the row of boarded up windows on this Parrish Street property.  The installation will be visible, but subtle, and will encourage viewer participation.  I would drill some small holes into the boards in order to install peepholes into the vacant property.  Some of the peepholes will look onto pictures or small dioramas of historical activities or references to the past of the building.  Each peephole would have a different mode of access (all made out of wood) such as an old-fashioned telescope, a swinging door, a small window installed, etc.  The nature of the boarded windows will give me some room to play, since there is a gap of at least 6” between the wood and glass.  As a reference point, I am imagining some of the scenarios to reference the delicate compositions of the artist Joseph Cornell, who created magnificent shadow boxes out of found objects.  This installation will start to break down the divide between pedestrian and building, as the pedestrian becomes participant and starts to see the building and its history simultaneously.

Cool creative and thoughtful stuff huh? Come check it out this weekend on Parrish Street.

* Shameless SEO bait. LOL.

Leave a Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.