Downtown Durham Inc

Downtown Durham, Inc.’s Public Space Project Installation ‘Call Your Ancestor’ Aims to Make Space for Unity through Grief

Durham, N.C. – A phone booth will appear in Five Points Plaza this weekend, but quarters won’t be required. This isn’t an ordinary phone booth – it’s an artwork by Michelle Gonzalez-Green presented by Downtown Durham, Inc.’s Public Space Project.

“Call Your Ancestor,” a public art event, will be held from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday-Sunday, March 13-15 at Five Points Plaza in downtown Durham. The project features a telephone booth that allows participants to enter and “call” a departed loved one who they wish they could speak to, but no longer can. It will also include a live mural painting inspired by the themes of the project. Like all Public Space Projects, Call Your Ancestor is free and open to the public.

In a statement, artist Michelle Gonzalez-Green said “This work is inspired by Itaru Sasaki, who created the ‘wind phone’ in his garden in Ōtsuchi, Japan, as an expression of grief after the loss of his brother. After the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, thousands of people made pilgrimages to the wind phone to make calls to the missing in their families. Like the wind phone, this phone booth is intended as a one-way form of communication, as a unifying and therapeutic outlet for grief. The goal is to show our community that in the end, we are one human family, and our true legacy is in the memories we leave behind.

“I want to create an opportunity for Durham to take part in a global event that connects humanity together for a moment that we all share, regardless of our background,” Gonzalez-Green said.

The Public Space Project is an activation project powered by Downtown Durham, Inc. that focuses on retaining and supporting the creative and artistic cultures of Durham and upholding public spaces of convergence. This program, now entering its third annual season, provides grants to individuals and organizations who bring unifying, creative, free of charge experiences to downtown Durham public spaces. It has been recognized as a Best Practice by the International Downtown Association, and has been strengthened by a generous grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.

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For more than 25 years, Downtown Durham, Inc. has been the economic development engine for downtown Durham, NC. Downtown Durham is home to more than 55 retail stores, 120 restaurants and bars, and 4,000 residential units – all in an area just under one square mile. As the entity responsible for the business improvement district, DDI provides resources to keep downtown Durham clean and safe, and to attract visitors and residents to downtown businesses, venues and events. For more information, visit

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