BEST project transforms empty Raleigh storefronts.

By Jess Moore

BEST is a new initiative in downtown Raleigh that fills unoccupied storefront windows with art. BEST, which stands for Beautifying Emerging Spaces Together, formed late last year with their first installations starting in February 2012.

One of the group’s creative minds is Donna Belt, an interfaith minister, writer, and artist. An advocate for the “transformative value of art in people’s lives,” Belt sees the storefronts as an opportunity to change a negative – empty space – into a positive – a new vehicle for integrating art into daily life.

A goal of BEST is to actively involve the community and include a variety of voices. The first group to hang work in a storefront is ARTHOUSE, a children’s art studio. The window is located at 300 W Hargett St. and includes the children’s work along with quotes from each child speaking about their art. BEST is also creating interactive projects, like constructing a city skyline with sticky notes. The pieces of paper will include quotes from Raleigh citizens describing what they love most about their city.

Many of the people involved in BEST are members of the Downtown Living Advocates, a group of residents interested in the growth of downtown. DLA connects BEST with property owners, most recently helping the group obtain space at 215 S. Wilmington Street.  Formerly the site of the Raleigh Sandwich Shop, the space is now vacant, but the work of artist Patrick Shanahan will soon enliven the windows. He’s creating interior scenes that reflect what the business may have looked like in its prime. His lively paintings, filled with important figures from the past and present, will mask the plywood boards that cover the windows, creating an alternate reality for the historic space.

For more on BEST and information on how to get involved, visit their website.

 

Jessica Moore is a founder and organizer for the Durham Storefront Project.  Durham Storefront Project organizes installation series in underutilized spaces to highlight the history and architecture of Durham, provide new opportunities for artists and add to the vibrancy of downtown

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