Durham Storefront Project -Supporting artists and the community

People gather to view the installations at Bargain Furniture.

Three things are apparent when walking through downtown Durham – the architecture is beautiful, the people are friendly, yet the buildings often look empty. Beginning on November 19th, Durham residents will see an unusual change– dynamic storefront art installations filling some of these underutilized spaces.

Where many people saw window shades, the Durham Storefront Project saw opportunity. Organizers Jess Moore and Chris Chinchar, who worked together on the Community Portrait of Durham, have been working on the project since last August, when then first brought together interested artists and businesses for a meeting at Scrap Exchange. Fast forward to today and working with Durham Arts Council, and building owners, and downtown businesses, the group is launching 14 art installations throughout downtown Durham.  The idea began with an emphasis on re-energizing and beautifying Durham using art and creativity as a driver for growth. Through these Pop-Up Art installations, artists receive public exhibition space, businesses see an increase in sidewalk traffic and the community gains free access to art.

Meg Stein installing "Flight" at the Teermark Building.

The Durham Storefront Project’s celebratory, creative installations feature an array of artistic styles and visions by local artists.  Loaf, at 111 Parrish Street, will host the work of Jackie MacLeod and Renee Leverty, who collaborated on a custom-made metal installation inspired by a 1953 photograph of the building. Gracelee Lawrence created a new sculptural work for the window of Center Studio Architecture. At the Bargain Furniture Building, Cici Stevens transformed the east window, creating a contemplative installation related to the ideas of home and shelter, and Officer Stacey L. Kirby brings a LIVE interactive performance of The Declaration Project to the west window. Although launching during Art Walk weekend, most installations will remain visible until January 2, 2012.

One important result of the project is the relationship that is built between the artist and the business owner.  One artist, Parasol B remarked, “I feel very fortunate to be participating in the Durham Storefront Project for a couple of reasons. I was paired up .up with business owner David Scarborough of Net Friends/SciMed. He and the folks at his office have been very helpful, soflexible and excited about this project. David has been operating his businesses on Main Street for a number of years and has watched and helped as downtown Durham revives and grows. Now he’s helping to make the urban landscape more interesting.”

People participate in Stacey Kirby's "Declaration Project" at Bargain Furniture.

Artist Gracelee Lawrence’s installation is in the window of Center Studio Architecture. “Working with Center Studio was absolutely wonderful. They were enthusiastic and incredibly helpful throughout the entire process. …  I wanted to create an installation that truly used the space and asked the viewer to consider the architectural elements of the windows as well as the sculptural elements of the steel and twine. It was very important to me that I create a piece that had to be a site specific installation, deeply influenced by the space. For me that is the jump between sculpture to installation, the necessity for a particular space. The process was both exciting and frustrating. Steel triangles laden with twine would much rather lie on the floor than suspend neatly from the ceiling!”

Cici Stevens installation at Holland Bros. Building

For more information on the artists and businesses involved, including LIVE happenings,visit www.durhamstorefrontproject.org. If you have an idea for a storefront installation, send them an e-mail.

And, of course, through this project, both the businesses and the public can see for themselves how art can transform an area and create vibrancy where before there was only empty space.  Using these spaces for art installations, performances, and other “pop-up” creative uses, such as temporary galleries and craft shops is a great way of adding to the available arts venues, while also making the neighborhood more active and exciting.

Over the next year, Triangle Artworks will be looking for ways to make it easier for business owners and artists of all disciplines to use empty or non-traditional spaces.  We are researching the issue, and will be talking to groups, such as Durham Storefront Project, who have successfully used such spaces, with an eye to preparing a “Pop-Up Toolkit”, which will provide tools and tips for both artists and property owners. If you have successfully used non-traditional space for either performance or visual art, or are a property owner interested in allowing your space to be transformed, temporarily by artists, send us and email.




One Comment

[…] Durham, we have a few more nuggets for you. Durham’s Holiday Art Walk installations were an amazing celebration of our city and public art. We were […]