Downtown Durham Inc

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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.

Artists’ Bios

Wendy Spitzer

Czech-Canadian by birth and North Carolinian by upbringing, Wendy Spitzer is a composer/multi-instrumentalist/art-maker who writes and performs as Felix ObelixHer 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

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.

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.

Artist’s Bio

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.

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.

Artist’s Bio

Ashley Swindoll

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.

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.

Artist’s Bio

Kamara Thomas

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.

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 to discuss opportunities.


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