Past Public Space Projects
Downtown Durham, Inc. hosts unexpected and thought-provoking projects in downtown Durham’s public spaces. Downtown Durham, Inc. Public Space Project is an activation project focused on retaining and supporting the creative and artistic cultures of Durham and upholding public spaces of convergence. We encourage collaborative, thought-provoking and unifying rather than divisive work.
This pilot program provides grants to individuals and organizations who will bring temporary, creative, free of charge experiences to downtown Durham.
Season 2 Projects
October 12, 2019
Location: CCB Plaza
The artist’s words:
Paint Durham is an art, music and cultural event that I established in 2014. This iteration will be a single day event, held in Five Points Plaza. This Durham-centric event will encompass a pop-up screen printing station, city flag making area, music and a Durham inspired art installation. The goal of the event is to strengthen Durham residents connections to Durham through the arts.
Candy Carver is a North Carolina native that spent her formative years in Elkhart, IN, where she developed her abstract creativity. Working primarily with acrylics and various surfaces from canvas to vinyl, she creates vibrant, contemporary pieces that touch the soul and excite viewers. Can work can be found throughout the southeastern states and continues to gain recognition. Carver contributes much of her inspiration to her own love for excitement, bold colors and the spreading of joyful emotions.
KRISTI STOUT, BETHANY BASH AND NINA OTERIA
THE CORCORAN POETRY WALL
Location: Corcoran St.
The artists’ words:
The Corcoran Poetry Wall will be a public installation of three different poems, all written by Durham residents, in the form of a mural. Each featured poet will also read at a celebratory open-mic (where the community is invited to share their poetry as well) and distribute small chapbooks of their work. Our hope is that the Corcoran Poetry Wall will serve as a re-introduction to poetry – an upending of the stuffy, elitist image that is often associated with it. The layman is alienated by the artform, perhaps because they have not been introduced to poems that reflect their narrative as a woman, as a person of color, as someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, or even as someone living in the 21st century. We aim to bring Durham residents into contact with poetry written by their neighbors, in the hopes of changing the traditional perception of who poetry is for and what poetry can say.
Kristi Stout is a poet, visual artist, and documentary filmmaker. Coming from a theatre arts background, her work is largely centered around questioning human nature and the stories we tell about ourselves.
Bethany Bash is a painter who has lived and worked in Durham since 2008. She has five outdoor, public art murals around the city, including one of the satellite dishes at the Satellite Park and a traffic control box on Trinity Avenue. She also has a studio practice, where she focuses on exploring themes of identity, growth, and acceptance through the creation of self-portraits.
Nina Oteria is a poet who writes about seeing, perception, nature and being a black woman. She received her MFA in Writing from Pratt institute and is working on her first book called eyemocean.
THE RADICAL REPAIR SHOP
January & February 2020
The artist’s words:
The Radical Repair Workshop is a studio and repair shop on wheels, designed to challenge our notion of how (and why) we may fix something. The trailer will be parked in downtown Durham and will house a small workshop in which items will be collected, documented, and mended. The Radical Repair Workshop hopes to expand the idea of repair into conceptual space – does something need to “work” or return to its original state in order to be “fixed”? Julia will lead several informal workshops, and the project will accumulate a collection of mended items that will become part of a local gallery show and book.
Julia Gartrell is an artist and educator based in Durham, NC. She received an MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in art from Kalamazoo College. Her work explores notions of “making do”, material plasticity, and radical approaches to repair. She has participated in residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center, the Power Plant Gallery at Duke University, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Ox-Bow School of Art, and others. Julia has exhibited nationally and internationally, and currently teaches as adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University.
CALL YOUR ANCESTOR
Location: Five Points Plaza
The artist’s words:
Call Your Ancestor is temporary public art that includes a constructed telephone booth that will allow participants to enter the booth and “call” a dear departed ancestor who they wish they could speak to, but can no longer due to their passing. This work is inspired by the Japanese wind phone by Itaru Sasaki, who created the “wind phone” on his property after the Tsunami in Japan. Thousands of people have made pilgrimages to this booth to make calls to the missing in their families. Like the wind phone, it 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.
Michelle Gonzalez-Green is a project management/program development executive. The former executive director of Liberty Arts, Michelle has curated multiple art exhibits and administered classes as part of a comprehensive arts education program.
Artist statement: I am an interdisciplinary artist who uses a combination of street photography, painting, sculpture, technology and discarded materials to create work that inspires an exploration of social consciousness, either in a joyful or somber narrative. I utilize abstract and traditional cultural symbolism to address identity issues around equity and class. My goal with my art is to evoke a visceral reaction from viewers that lasts long beyond viewing my work.
Season 2 Selection Committee
Marcella CamaraYoung, Gifted & Broke
Stacey PostonCity of Durham
Saba TajThe Carrack
Mike WilliamsBlack on Black Project
Season 1 Projects
WENDY SPITZER AND DOUGLAS VUNCANNON
PORTRAITS IN COMMON
AUGUST 17, 2018
Location: Five Points Alley (between Vert & Vogue and Area Modern)
The artists’ words:
As Durham changes rapidly, can its long-time and recent denizens and visitors interact in a meaningful way to learn about each other? In a time when civil society seems more divided than ever, can a simple, participatory art project bridge any of those divides? Can it create something of aesthetic value as well as social cohesion value?
In this project, Wendy Spitzer (musician/composer/ art-maker) and Douglas Vuncannon (documentary photographer/musician) seek to engage the public in a collaborative, participatory art/photography exercise. Visitors will be paired with other visitors whom they don’t know and will be tasked with discovering the most unusual thing they have in common. After a five-minute discussion, the participants will then be photographed together. The final outcome will be a video of the photographed portraits and an accompanying original musical soundtrack, to be posted online for Durhamites and the wider world.
How do you broach a stranger and share something about yourself? Only by doing so can our commonalities become apparent, but taking the first step presents a challenge many never overcome. By creating a situation in which people are invited to share and learn, this project offers participants the chance to take that first step.
Czech-Canadian by birth and North Carolinian by upbringing, Wendy Spitzer is a composer/multi-instrumentalist/art-maker who writes and performs as Felix Obelix. Her projects have been funded by the Durham Arts Council, the Orange County Arts Commission, the Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology, among others. Her albums are: The Tick of the Clock, the Beat in the Chest(2010) and The Ringtone Album (2013). Other experiences include a time capsule project, live silent film performances, a choir commission, studio work, and theatre/film scoring. In 2016, she completed (with Distinction) a MMus in Creative Practice from Goldsmiths, University of London (UK).
Douglas Vuncannon is a visual artist, composer, freelance photographer, and writer. His short documentary films have screened at numerous film festivals in the USA and Canada. Vuncannon’s recent projects include Fukushima Travelogue (2015), writings and photographs from Japan’s radioactive ghost towns, and Sabungeros (Cockfighters) (2017), photographs from the Philippines. In late 2017, his Sinfonietta Fukushima had its world premiere in Australia; it was performed by the sixty-piece Sydney Contemporary Orchestra. Vuncannon recently photographed one hundred trans-women in Bangkok, Thailand. This project, Ladyboys, will be exhibited in 2019. Vuncannon teaches documentary photography at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Amethyst, Psalms & Florida Water
August 17, 2018
Location: Five Points Plaza
The artist’s words:
Young, Gifted, & Broke is a pop-up art gallery & cultural hub highlighting artists of color at the intersection of wellness & justice. We build spaces for art exploration and community wellness on a foundation of afro-futurism, public health, and cultural alchemy. YGB’s goal is to reframe how and where we view art, as well as create spaces to elevate the work of creatives of color. YGB has hosted multiple pop up art shows, social gatherings and conversations, and collaborated with other brands and organizations to curate art and experiences.
Young, Gifted, & Broke will host “Amethyst, Psalms & Florida Water,” a special three-day pop up art show and wellness center in Five Points Plaza. During the show community members will have 24-hour access to work by local artist that will be installed outdoors. Counselors, art therapists, and body workers will host office hours at the installation to encourage attendees to focus on their personal healing and wellness. There will be other offerings including aromatherapy and blood pressure testing. “Amethyst, Psalms, & Florida Water” is an artistic expression of southern traditions of community healing, at the intersection of culture and public wellness.
Marcella D. Camara
Marcella D. Camara is a Liberian-American multimedia creative, curator, health educator, cultural alchemist and story teller, among other things. With a background in cultural organizing and public health, her work centers using art, culture and afro-futurism as a praxis for social justice and community wellness. As a Durham native and first generation American southern girl, Marcella attributes her creative ingenuity and passion for community to the city’s dynamic art and social justice landscapes.
She is a tribe member of Spirithouse, where she uses cultural arts and public health to center reproductive justice, anti-racism and healing work. Her passion is using all avenues of her creativity to create space for black folks and make the world a more equitable place. Currently, she works as a creative director and curator, as well as coordinates youth programming and various community initiatives throughout North Carolina.
She launched Young, Gifted, & Broke in 2017 to create unique art spaces that center people of color and combat the erasure of creatives of color in a rapidly gentrifying Durham.
The Instrumental Wax Project
September 21, 2018
Location: Holland St.
The artist’s words:
I am working on developing a series of creatures ranging in size from 1 ft. by 1 ft. to 25 ft. by 50 ft. Imagine large-scale kinetic sculptures – created with wire, archival beeswax and discarded musical instruments – suspended between Google Fiber and The Durham converging within two physical, urban locations and simultaneously the psychological and emotional realm of the human. Imagine an audience member, experiencing the palpable liberation in witnessing a life-size flying whale with a spine sculpted of piano keys, float as a breeze meanders through the alley. Consider glowing cocoons attached to trees with marching musical insects made of bees wax and instruments. Some creatures will move, crawl, scale and burrow into the surrounding parts of the city. Durham will be their first home.
An additional element to the vision of this work is lighting. Building off the premise of the project, which is to bring illumination to the creative potential of trauma survivors, it is paramount that a soft glow illuminates the mythical creatures.
This thought-provoking body of work is extremely ambitious, yet fitting for Durham in its unabashed way of finding healing and resilience through creative expression. The body of work has the potential to have a great impact on a wide range of community members given its conceptual nature. Inevitably, we, or someone we know, will encounter moments where we, too, must call on our reservoir and creativity to rise above our traumas.
Ashley Swindoll is a conceptual visual artist based in Hillsborough, NC, whose work uses mixed media to create art pieces that provoke her audience to reflect on emotional and mental wellness. Originally from Oregon, she attended Oregon State University for sculpture, painting and art history and has been showing her work Internationally for 14 years. Her artistic process combines digging into the emotional landscape that life experiences offer. Through materials like paint, metal, encaustic wax, found objects and canvas, she has been able to channel creativity in a way that provides powerful healing and aesthetically pleasing bodies of work. Her most recent project is a collaboration with puppeteer Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins to uses an encaustic wax and musical instruments to create a massive sculpture installation that will suspend between two buildings in downtown Durham and that will bring awareness to the mental illnesses so many of us experience in one way or another.
October 19, 2018
Location: Durham Central Park & CCB Plaza
The artist’s words:
“SOAPBOX” will be a staged performance featuring original music, a lively community procession, and theatrical oration— from soapboxes— intended to present a dynamic snapshot of the Durham community’s varying perspectives during a time of transition and change. Text and imagery will be generated by the company in workshop and gathered from the Durham community. “SOAPBOX” will be a celebratory, musical, visually interesting, and thought-provoking spectacle, where each onlooker will see and hear a different message, based on their own perspective and movement around the periphery of a group “organism.” The work will hopefully encourage us to at least tolerate, and at best honor and celebrate one another’s viewpoints and visions, during this period of change in our community. Artist’s Bio
Kamara Thomas is a songwriter and mythology fanatic born in Chicago, and currently based in Durham, NC. For over fifteen years she has led and participated in various musical projects, most notably as the bassist and singer in rock trio Earl Greyhound. Kamara has been a resident at Yaddo, where she began developing her musical theatre work “Bulgaria” an exploration of feminine creative experience through the myths of Persephone and Eurydice. “Bulgaria” saw numerous workshop productions in New York. Kamara was a featured artist at Lincoln Center Education, where she developed curriculum for New York public schools around her song-cycle “Tularosa”, and she was recently commissioned by Cassilhaus to write a song in response to a photo by Alec Soth for their gallery exhibit “Ekphrasis”.
Kamara is currently producing her debut solo album “Tularosa”, set for release in 2019. This collection of songs will be the basis for a musical theatre work exploring the mythology of the Wild West and the American Dream. In 2016 Kamara directed her first film “Oh Gallows”, a conceptual preview of the upcoming album and theatre work.
Season 1 Selection Committee
Margaret DeMottDirector of Artist Services, Durham Arts Council
Sandi HaynesPrincipal, Phillips Oppenheim
Angela LeeExecutive Director, Hayti Heritage Center
Cicely MitchellCo-Founder, Art of Cool
Kym RegisterPinhook Co-Owner and member of Loamlands
Laura RitchieFormer Director of The Carrack