Downtown Durham, Inc. Public Space Project 2018

Asset 5


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.

2018 Projects

DDI is pleased to announce the selected artists and schedule for PSP 2018!

All public space activations will take place on Third Fridays from 6-9 p.m.

Wendy Spitzer
Wendy Spitzer
Douglas Vuncannon

Wendy Spitzer and Douglas Vuncannon

Portraits in Common

August 17, rain date August 24
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.

Marcella Camara

Marcella Camara

Amethyst, Psalms & Florida Water

August 17, rain date August 24
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.

Ashley Swindoll
Ashley Swindoll

Ashley Swindoll

The Instrumental Wax Project

September 21, rain date September 28
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.

Kamara Thomas
Kamara Thomas

Kamara Thomas


October 19, rain date November 2
Location: TBA
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.

2018 Selection Committee


  • Margaret DeMott

    Director of Artist Services, Durham Arts Council

  • Sandi Haynes

    Principal, Phillips Oppenheim

  • Angela Lee

    Executive Director, Hayti Heritage Center

  • Cicely Mitchell

    Co-Founder, Art of Cool

  • Kym Register

    Pinhook Co-Owner and member of Loamlands

  • Laura Ritchie

    Former Director of The Carrack


The 2018 application period is now closed. Please sign up below to be notified of future calls for proposals.


Are you or your organization interested in co-sponsoring a Public Space Project? Contact us at [email protected] to discuss opportunities.


Sign-up for updates here.