Posts Tagged ‘Durham’

Cecy’s Gallery & Studios Opens – New Art Venue In Durham Central Park District

Cecy’s Gallery & Studios at 417 Foster Street in Durham is providing a new retail venue for artists to sell their work on commission or to lease studio space. The Gallery had its soft opening on March 1, 2019 and will hold a grand opening party on March 16.

A Vision of Creating Community Through Art

Cecy’s Gallery is the vision of owner Cecilia Henaine de Davis, a jewelry designer and former manager of the Vega Metals Gallery at 214 Hunt Street. Henaine de Davis seeks to create an inviting and diverse community space that makes art accessible and exciting. She hopes that Cecy’s will become a destination along with the other attractions in Durham Central Park, such as the Farmers Market, Food Truck Rodeos, and the upcoming Durham Food Hall.

Durham Saturday Art Market

Durham Saturday Art Market

Preserving Durham Traditions

Another key element of establishing Cecy’s was to preserve the Durham Art Market (formerly the Art Market at Vega Metals), a weekly outdoor market taking place in Durham Central Park on Saturdays. Henaine de Davis founded the Art Market in 2008 and it has steadily grown as a platform for artists to sell their work, engage with their customers and find support among other artists. The Art Market has been the launchpad for many artists to establish brick and mortar stores or become full-time professional artists. With the closing of Vega Metals in 2019, the Art Market needed a new sponsor, which will be provided by Cecy’s going forward.

Although construction on studio space and other refinements is underway, Cecy’s was open for a recent Saturday art market.

Durham is also renowned for the signature Vega Metals butterfly benches and other spectacular metal work by artists Francis Vega and Neal Carlton. That business will now operate under new management as Cricket Forge and will have a showroom at 2314 Operations Drive in Durham in Durham. Visitors to Durham Central Park won’t miss seeing the latest designs though, as Cecy’s Gallery will carry Cricket Forge items, including the benches, chairs, tables, garden ornaments, holiday ornaments, and planters.

Adding Studio Space For Artists And Class Space

Cecy’s will provide studio space for three artists. Artists who lease the space will have a dedicated area in the shop where they can sell, and they can also use the class space at Cecy’s to hold workshops and lessons. However, artists do not have to lease space there to sell their work at Cecy’s, as they will be accepting artwork for commission sales effective March 1.

Anyone interested in learning more about Cecy’s can attend the Grand Opening on March 16 from 6 to 9 pm. There will be refreshments, raffles, a silent auction, and door prizes. The event is free and open to the public. Regular business hours have not been posted, but the gallery is currently open every Saturday during the Art Market hours (10 am to 1 pm winter, 9 am to 1 pm spring and summer). Check out Cecy’s website for more information, as the space grows!

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New Theater Opens in Durham with a Unique Approach


By Kathleen O’Rawe Clabby

The Bartlett Theater is not your typical theater – it is the only theater in the Southeast to explore and perform the works of just ONE playwright each season. Founding Artistic Director Jonathan Bohun Brady adds “In the five play season, we will do three plays by them, one play by a playwright that influenced them and one play by a playwright that they influenced. That way you can see how they are interconnected and how theater changes with each new voice.” In the future they hope to explore the works of Eugene O’Neill, Tony Kushner, Sam Shephard and David Mamet to name a few.

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Maigan Kennedy and Chris Wright


The Theater is named after a man who is often credited as Durham’s founding father and first physician: Dr. Bartlett Leonidas Durham who lived on land that he eventually donated which is now the American Tobacco District. He was a jovial man known for storytelling, public singing, and occasional brawls. Like their namesake, the Bartlett Theater wants to be provocatively entertaining while caring deeply about the community.

For their inaugural production opening November 6, the Bartlett Theater chose an American Classic that is one of the most famous plays of the modern theater and one they feel will set a powerful precedent, Tennessee Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE.

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Adam Poole and Shannon Malone

Rehearsals are currently at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Durham and the performances will be in the PSI Theater at the Durham Arts Council, while they are exploring options for a permanent home.

The Bartlett Theater will have auditions for each play throughout the ten-month season and are excited to tap into the robust community of talented performers that live in the area. Read more on their website.

Kathleen O’Rawe Clabby has been involved in the arts for most of her life as a performer, director, teacher and advocate. She’s most passionate about collaboration within the artist communities and advocating for arts in education.

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Alizarin, A New Fine Art Gallery, Opens in Downtown Durham

ImageBy Brandon Cordrey

After an extended and successful career in pharmaceuticals, Catherine Crumpton has joined the Durham arts community by opening Alizarin Gallery. She decided Durham was the right spot for this business venture because she grew up in Durham and has seen the city’s downtown transform over the years.  Eager to be a part of that transformation, she opened Alizarin in Suite 200 of 119 West Main Street near 5 points.

Armed with a strong business background, Catherine consulted with others knowledgeable in Durham’s visual art scene before opening, including Katie Seiz of the Durham Art Guild and Laura Richie from The Carrack, to learn more about what Durham needed in a new gallery. With many galleries already in business in Durham, Alizarin will set itself apart by being a place for artists who do not fit into non-profit or co-op spaces. Alizarin has already started exhibiting work by emerging and established artists from North Carolina and out of state. The majority of the work exhibited to date has been representational to high-realism landscape and still life work, plus ceramics. As the gallery grows they plan to show a wide variety of work in their beautiful exhibition space. Catherine has put together a panel to give curatorial opinions and review artist submissions. Although currently hung salon style, the gallery will soon have rotating exhibitions.Image 2

While Alizarin’s main function will be to exhibit and promote artists, Catherine plans to open the space to other communities as well. Several events have already taken place at the gallery. The first artist led workshop already took place in January. The gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm and by appointment, the gallery is also open late for the Third Friday art walk.

Any artist interested in submitting a gallery proposal to Alizarin is encouraged to do so by email. Visit the gallery’s website to inquire about purchasing, renting for events or participating in upcoming workshops!

119 West Main Street
Durham, NC 27701

Brandon Cordrey is a studio artist working mainly in mixed media collage. He also works at CAM Raleigh, Flanders Gallery, Visual Art Exchange and Arts Access. Follow him on Twitter @BMCordrey or email.


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Supergraphic brings new studios, printing workspace and exhibit space to Durham.

Supergraphic's print workshop, with private studios.

Supergraphic’s print workshop, with private studios.

by Brandon Cordrey

Most artists can attest to feeling a sense of isolation at some point while working in their studio. It is becoming more and more common to see artists using working spaces that provide a sense of community. That is precisely what Bill Fick has done in Durham by opening Supergraphic, a combination of studios and community print workspace.

Artist Bill Fick, who worked in a private studio just around the corner from Supergraphic’s current location at 601 Ramseur Street in Durham, decided to open a more community-based work environment.  Fick explained, “There wasn’t a print space like this in the area and people were hungry to have a place to print and learn about printing. I was also impressed with similar spaces in other cities and really liked the way they energized their local art scenes.”  The closest print studios offering as comprehensive a range of printmaking opportunities are located in Richmond or Atlanta.

For Durham’s monthly Third Friday event the studio is open to anyone wishing to view how printers work. “Whereas some other venues have bands for entertainment, I wanted to fill this space with printmakers to create a more educational environment” says Fick.

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More print workshop space.

The 6,000 square foot facility has a constant buzz because several working artists sublease individual spaces, creating a family of artists interested in printmaking. There is an expansive print studio that is open to everyone in the building. Print artists who need screens, facilities or printing presses can also rent time in the work space. Additionally, Supergraphics offers workshops on the weekends to people wishing to explore lino-cut, monotype, etching, relief or other screenprinting techniques. The front of the building is set up as a gallery space.

To find out more about Supergraphic, check out their website, where they also list upcoming workshops and shows.

A new show being installed in the front gallery space.

A new show being installed in the front gallery space.

Brandon Cordrey is a studio artist working mainly in mixed media collage. He also works at CAM Raleigh, Flanders Gallery, Visual Art Exchange and Arts Access. Follow him on Twitter @BMCordrey or email.



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Pleiades Gallery opens in Durham’s Five Points

by Brandon Cordrey

If you’ve spent time in the Five Points area of downtown Durham in the past month, you may have noticed some curious activities inside the glass storefront of 109 East Chapel Hill Street. This very contemporary space will soon house a new fine art gallery, the newest adventure of entrepreneurs Renee Leverty and Kimberly Wheaton. After having mulled identical ideas over individually, they teamed up while working together at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. Both thought downtown Durham needed a fine art gallery whose main purpose would be to promote artists and sell their work.

After looking at numerous business models on paper and in person, with nothing but support from other galleries in Durham and the Triangle, Leverty and Wheaton chose their own unique plan. Being artists themselves, Renee a sculptor and Kimberly a painter, they decided to build a family of artists whose work would be represented consistently, in a space run by the artists themselves.

Six artists have already taken advantage of this opportunity; the gallery is continuing to accept application on a rolling basis, with the goal being 10-12 artists total. They are looking for artists who are ready to make a serious commitment to art as their career. 3D artist working in glass and fiber, as well as  2D abstract artists are particularly encouraged to apply, but artists working in any style/media are welcome. The artist already on board have come together to help with the renovations as well as sitting down over meals to talk about their art and process. These group meetings and activities are intended to create a sense of community among the artists, and further their knowledge about all the work that will be on display. Part of the uniqueness of Pleiades is that with each visit you are guaranteed to meet at least one of the artists, who will be able to talk to you confidently about all the artists represented.

Four of Pleiades artists: Renee Leverty, Darius Quarles, Calvin Brett, and Jena Matzen.

The gallery has scheduled a soft opening for the first week of April and plan to be open while Durham hosts its popular Full Frame Documentary Film festival. Pleiades also encourages everyone to come to the Durham Arts Walk on April 13-14, where they will be acting as one of the hosts. The official grand opening is scheduled for Friday, April 19th, as part of Durham’s monthly Third Friday art evening.

For more information on the gallery, the call for artists, or a list of their current artists visit Pleiades’ website, follow them on twitter @PleiadesGallery or like them on Facebook.

Brandon Cordrey is a studio artist working mainly in collage with found or reused materials. He also manages the Lee Hansley Gallery on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. While his main concentration is visual art, he has love for all the arts! Follow Brandon on Twitter: @BMCordrey or email.

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Sound Pure opens storefront in Durham

by Brandon Cordrey

Sound Pure is the Triangle’s newest independent music store. Since 2000 their online store has been selling high-quality equipment to musicians around the world. The new storefront marks the company’s newest chapter and strengthens their continued commitment to the local music community. Sound Pure recently purchased the Raleigh music store Indoor Storm as well as the vacant building next to their preexisting one on Washington Street in downtown Durham in order to provide even more services to their clientele.

Online sales have been strong since the start, which was in owner Todd Atlas’s Duke University dorm room in 2000. The new retail space is only the latest in a series of expansions since then. The original building on Washington Street, next door to the store, houses a full professional recording studio, acoustic guitar showroom and offices.

Don’t expect to buy anything made by Fender or Gibson, you won’t find the “big name” instrument companies on either the walls of the acoustic guitar studio or in the new store. The guitars available at Sound Pure are handmade by artisans from around the globe. It is time consuming and tedious work to make instruments by hand rather than in production, for this reason some of the instruments Sound Pure carries are one of a kind while others are extremely rare. This is also the case with the wide range of items in their new store. For proof that Sound Pure is confident about the products they sell look no further than their recording studio, which is fully stocked with items they market. Everything from the computers to the furniture, down to the cables, is available for purchase.

Sound Pure has been bringing national and international clientele to Durham for many years now, advertising the city to clientele looking to tryout and purchase rare handcrafted instruments and record in their studio. They also work with several well-known musicians in the area, including Shirley Caesar, Nnenna Freelon and Clay Aiken.

Sound Pure just ordered a sign for their new location, their first in 13 years of business. The new store is also the first opportunity for customers to access all the company has to offer, without appointment. However, they have been supporting the Triangle’s music community for many years already. They sponsored the Troika Music Festival during its time in Durham as well as Centerfest. They will be participating in the upcoming IBMA in some capacity and hope to continue that for the three years it will be held in the Triangle.

For more information about Sound Pure and its products, check out the website. For information on the recording studios, look here.

Brandon Cordrey is a studio artist working mainly in collage with found or reused materials. He also manages the Lee Hansley Gallery on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. While his main concentration is visual art, he has love for all the arts! Follow Brandon on Twitter: @BMCordrey or email.


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A Conversation with….Leah Wilks

This article is the third in our series of “Conversations With” members of the creative community in the Triangle who are thinking big, working hard and making a difference in our Region. 

Today, writer Tim Scales talks to Leah Wilks of LeahWilkesDance.  In this interview, Leah talks about her work, how she works and, perhaps more importantly, why she has chosen to do it in the Triangle.  For more on this, listen to Leah’s  Interview with David Dower on the Theater Blog “HowlAround”.

by Tim Scales

You were raised in the Triangle, then moved away for several years. What brought you back to Durham, and how has being back influenced you as an artist?

Leah: Well, there were a number of things that brought me back to NC and then to Durham in particular.  Primarily, I was living in the Bay Area right after graduating from college and I think over the course of the year or so that I lived there I had the slow epiphany that really I wanted to be making my own work. While the Bay was a great place to learn, I also realized that it would take a long time to establish myself enough to do the kinds of things I wanted to do artistically. I think I realized that in moving back to the Triangle I could bring those same sorts of artistic dreams to fruition in a much shorter period of time.  While I love performing other people’s work, the desire to create my own pieces has always been what has primarily driven me in dance.

How has being back here influenced me as an artist?  In a billion ways. What I love about this area is that it’s big enough that I’m always meeting new artists whose work I can’t believe I’ve never come across before, and when we make plans to meet up and further discuss what we’re working on they ALWAYS follow through.  That doesn’t happen in a lot of artistic hubs.  I think being in a place where I don’t have to work ALL the time to make ends meet means that I can afford to spend time creating my own work, meeting with other creative folks to find out more about what they’re doing, and discussing how, collectively, we might expand the scope of the artistic scene in the Triangle area.

There’s also something about being in an area that is, in some ways, at the beginning of really growing its arts scene (particularly dance) that makes me feel that we have the phenomenal opportunity here to develop the arts as we see fit; that we don’t have to create our work within somebody else’s tried and true model – that we can create our own paradigm and platform for exploration.  In some ways that makes it hard.  We don’t have some of the institutions in place (particularly in terms of space and funding) that larger cities have.  But that lack of traditional support also means that we have to be more creative in how we get things done, oftentimes leading to our being able to produce work in ways we might not otherwise have imagined.

Your work tends to cite many collaborators. Why is that?

Leah: I love collaborating with other artists – they get me out of my own head!  I suppose what it really comes down to is that I’m interested in creating worlds for participants/spectators/audience members to enter into – spaces in which they can confront themselves, hear other stories, and see other alternatives for how things might be.  I have some knowledge about how to do that through movement and relationship between people on stage and through music and audio documentary work.  However, I know that someone working in film, or costume design or visual installation may be able to help that world come to life in a way I could never conceptualize of on my own.  In addition to the artistic inspiration that comes out of those collaborations, the added beauty is also in getting to work with people who understand what I’m doing and who are there as a supportive sounding board when I think that my own ideas may have gone off the deep-end.  At least for me, working with a collaborative group means forming another sort of family, effectively counteracting the loneliness that is allegedly supposed to accompany the artistic process.

One of the stated goals of your dance company is to cultivate a professional performing arts scene in the Triangle. What does that mean to you?

Leah:  Oh man. That means a lot of different things to me. Primarily, it means showing the artists that you work with or that work for you that you value them as professionals – that their time and dedication is worth something.  In a very large sense, I think that means paying your collaborators if they’re working on a project of your design. I’ve discussed this with other artists and have been surprised how many of them agree with me on the idea that it’s not even so much about the amount that you’re paid, but more about the fact that someone thinks highly enough of you to take the effort to show you some token of their appreciation. The stipends we can afford aren’t even in the ballpark of what their time and dedication mean to the project, but we hope it’s at least some small way of saying, ‘look, you’re an amazing artist and this project could not have possibly happened without you’.

Besides paying people, I think the other primary way of helping cultivate the professional performing arts scene here is by providing platforms and situations for people to continue to develop professionally.  Basically, that means I spend a lot of time meeting with different people to discuss various ways of developing business workshops for artists, organizing professional-level technique classes for dancers, and figuring out ways in which we might better provide opportunities for choreographers to develop and present new work.

The hope with creating collaborative projects with other artists is also that their work will then be seen by artists within other disciplines who might not otherwise see it.  Additionally, if, for example, a film friend of mine comes up to me at some point and says that they need someone to score their film, I can then give them the name of one of the fabulous musicians with whom I worked on my last project.  It’s ultimately all about growing connections, accessibility and feasibility.

What is your current project, and what inspired the creation of it?

A scene from "Secrets I Never Told My Mother"

Leah: Our current project is an evening-length multi-media dance performance entitled Secrets I Never Told My Mother.  It’s a collaboration between myself and filmmaker Jon Haas of HaaStudios. The whole project began about two years ago when I was taking an Audio Documentary course at the Center for Documentary Studies in Durham. We had a short assignment to create a five-minute audio documentary piece on any subject we wanted. I had a few different ideas but when I mentioned to a few of my classmates that I was toying with the idea of asking people to tell me a secret they never told their mother they instantly responded with enthusiasm that they thought this was the idea I should go with for my project.

So I started interviewing people. The responses were phenomenal.  Some interviews lasted 20 minutes, some two hours.  The more I dove into the material the more I realized that I had effectively taken on a project much larger in scope than my 5 minute audio documentary piece.  People wanted to talk about this stuff! I decided to continue interviewing people after the class had ended and then decided that while audio documentary is a fabulous form of communication in its own right, the way that I communicate best (and the way in which I have the most training) is through choreography.

After working on another collaborative project with Jon, we started discussing future project dreams…I brought up Secrets I Never Told My Mother to him, not at all anticipating him wanting to get on board, but, lo and behold, he was intrigued and thus became my full-time collaborator on the project.  We then began rehearsing with dancers in March 2012…and bit by bit other pieces started to fall into place.

What are your future goals, after “Secrets I Never Told My Mother?”

Leah: That’s a big question. Take a nap. HA. Seriously though? Keep creating work, keep dancing, keep moving, keep collaborating.  Jon’s got some artistic dreams of his own that I’d love to help him realize.  There are a few dance film ideas being tossed around by other folks in the area that I’d be game to get involved in.  Probably start collecting for another big piece, hopefully dance in a few other people’s work, create some smaller pieces…mostly though I see myself needing to focus on growing myself and my community more before I pour myself into another big project.  Definitely focusing on my teaching more.  Oh, but there are other project ideas pouring out of my ears – it’s just working up the energy again to take another one on.  There are some old buildings I want to get into…but that’s getting ahead of myself.  Let’s just leave it a taking a nap.

Tim Scales runs Wagon Wheel Arts Promotion, providing marketing, public relations, producing, and online services to the arts and artists in North Carolina. Get in touch at

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Durham’s Mercury Studios Includes Artists Spaces.

by India Ali

Megan Jones and Katie DeConto at Mercury Studio.

Katie DeConto and Megan Jones have been faithful Durhamians for a couple of years, but Mercury Studio, located at 407 N. Mangum Street, is new to the scene. With less than two months under its belt, Mercury Studio, like any newborn, is already causing a great stir. Artists and others alike have happily accepted the studio into the community with arms wide open.

Mercury Studio does not meet any standard definition.  Its a co-working space for all types of creative people.  It offers artist studio space, as well as “desk memberships” or “cafe memberships” in the co-working space. It’s art studio meets The Office: a creative, family-like, co-working environment.  A collaborative, cross-occupational mash-up.

This is what DeConto and Jones are trying to achieve in the space that they’ve ingeniously shaped and craft-fully coined Mercury Studio. It is named after the chemical element, because it too is “sensitive to and indicative of its surroundings.” All in all, the studio was simply created to cater to the people.

Artist studio space at Mercury.

During my visit, I asked DeConto and Jones how they felt about their new opportunity to bridge the gap and how/why they had chosen this particular concept. Together they eagerly explained that there are so many wonderful, talented people in the Triangle, that Mercury Studio aims to support the passion of these individuals and small start-ups that do not have a community or workplace in which to collaborate. They want to connect them with one another and give the “9 to 5’ers” an environment where they can pursue their dream career. “We’re very open to sharing our space and are very excited to connect with the community,” DeConto explained. “We want to use it to serve the community and we want individuals to feel free to contact us with any ideas for local collaboration. We came up with the idea because we felt like it was something that Durham could really benefit from.”

It’s a rather simple, yet intelligent and unique idea. Mercury Studio will host public events every third Friday and everyone is welcome to their parties. In July, they will begin a monthly retreat, helping artists to “Refocus.” The space is also used as a gallery, rotating local artwork every month. It’s accessible to its members 24 hours a day.

If all of the above isn’t enough, just take fifteen minutes out of your day to visit the space. You will be sold. It reminded me of a really cool classroom, no boring lectures. The Studio is cleverly filled with local artists’ work and it has great space for independent, free thinking and collaborative work, coupled with a cozy kitchen, comfy sofas, and a fish tank. It felt like a home away from home. Katie DeConto and Megan Jones are onto something uber cool, something refreshingly fresh, that I hope the community continues to support.

For more information on Mercury Studio check out their website or follow them on Twitter @mercury_studio or on Facebook.

India Ali is an Atlanta native and a Durham advocate volunteering at Triangle ArtWorks. Life is her muse; she lives by “desiderata”.  She is currently working on her JD/MBA joint degree at North Carolina Central University, whilst tapping into her chi via painting and poetry. You can contact her by email.


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Scrap Exchange escapes from a soggy mess into new space….twice.

By Teri Saylor

Scrap Exchange's new space at 923 Franklin Street

Scrap Exchange is finally getting some return on the good Karma it has invested in the Durham community.  After an epic moving odyssey,  the creative re-use facility, is finally settled into a new home, which in time, could be permanent.

“We’ve been through hell,” said Executive Director Ann Woodard, sitting in a tiny, crowded office next to the huge concrete and steel space that will soon be converted into a spacious environment housing a gallery, retail store, and workshops.  She allows that the experience worked in the organization’s favor after all, and after two moves in 10 days, The Scrap Exchange is back in business.  This last move, which took place over the Memorial Day weekend was the third relocation in 10 days. Its new home is at 923 Franklin Street in Durham.

A grand re-opening is scheduled Saturday, June 4 and will feature 10 bands over 12 hours. The $10 ticket fees will support the Scrap Exchange and the Liberty Arts Foundry, also displaced when the building that housed both organizations was condemned.  In case you missed how this all began, look here.

The Scrap Exchange was founded in 1991 to establish a sustainable supply of high-quality, low-cost materials for artists, educators, parents, and other creative people. Successful and popular, the Scrap Exchange is 90 percent self-sufficient through earned income streams, Woodard said.

Woodard loves her new space.

“Our mission is to provide services and low cost resources to our community. We’re in the perfect neighborhood to do that here,” she said.  Parking is convenient. Space is plentiful. The Scrap Exchange now occupies 22,000 square feet.  Its former space was 13,000. When it is completely built out, it will include additional workshop space dedicated to sewing classes.  There will be room for the organization’s eBay sales operation to stage goods for sale and package them up for shipping to buyers.  The Scrap Exchange will continue its retail sales operation to the public and will have an art gallery as well as an artists’ marketplace.

In the midst of displacement, Woodward has found a silver lining.  “We’ve been planning to move to a larger space for a long time,” she said. “We started looking in 2005 and 2006.  We made a 28-page increased capacity plan, and we are surprised that we’ve manifested our plan so quickly.”  With increased space comes a higher investment, and The Scrap Exchange will be paying $30,000 more annually.  She hopes that her organization can buy the building outright in the future.

It’s clear the space was once a manufacturing facility.  The wide open spaces with brick walls and concrete floors are flanked by small offices where superintendents and managers once worked.  Staff and volunteers are working nearly around the clock to be ready for business on Saturday.  “I’m not looking for perfection. I’m just looking to be open,” Woodward said.

Teri Saylor is a freelance writer and photographer in Raleigh. Follow her tweets @terisaylor or contact her by email.

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Do you know about? The Center for Documentary Studies

This is first in a series of articles on creative resources in the Triangle that are either little known, or you may have heard of them, but may be unaware of the extent of the services and resources they offer.  Have an idea for a future article?  Let us  know.

By Teri Saylor

Sparkle and Twang is an exhibit by country music singer Marty Stuart that was on display at the CDS

A commotion outside a classroom at the Center for Documentary Studies caused heads to turn as a familiar figure led a small entourage though the Center’s downstairs gallery. He paused to glance into the room and his carefully coifed hair gave him away.  It was country music singer Marty Stuart, on his way to a concert on the Duke Campus, showing off a documentary photography project he has cultivated over 40 years.  Starting with a portrait of bluegrass music legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs taken in 1969, and time traveling through the turn of the new Millennium, “Sparkle and Twang” depicts kings and queens of country and blues, and includes photographs of Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe, and BB King.  A highlight of his exhibit is what is thought to be the last photograph of Johnny Cash, taken on September 8, 2003, just four days before he died.

The Center for Documentary Studies, founded in 1989 at Duke University offers and interdisciplinary program of instruction, production and presentation in the documentary arts: photography, film/video, narrative writing, audio, and other creative media.  The CDS serves as a resource for individuals and groups wishing to learn or develop documentary skills. Under graduate degrees are available to Duke University students. A certificate program in documentary arts and continuing education classes are open to anyone interested in expanding their documentary talents or taking their interest in the genre to a new level.

The Center made news recently when a new masters degree was introduced at Duke University. A unique initiative, the new Masters in Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts couples experimental visual practice with documentary arts in a two-year program.  “We continue to raise the bar,” said April Walton, learning outreach director. “We encourage people to think outside the box.”

The Center for Documentary Studies offers programs for documentarians and those who love the genre.

As far as the CDS is concerned, its students don’t have to be professional documentarians. Anyone with a good idea or a dream is welcome to take classes and to develop their ideas into projects.  “’What’s the point?’” you might ask,” Walton said. “The process is the point. The skills you gain are invaluable, and everyone is interested in adding to their skill set.”  The CDS is also home to a diverse populations of students, from the youthful college-age set, to professionals from different occupations eager to flex their creative muscles, to retirees who believe it’s never too late to see a dream project come to fruition.  “Good work is good work,” Walton said. “We don’t differentiate between student work and professional work.

Continuing education classes cost money, most of which goes to the instructors, Walton said. Duke employees get discounts, and there are unpaid internship programs, teaching assistant opportunities, partnerships with nonprofit organizations, and other ways people can participate in CDS programming.

Some documentary-lovers don’t want to create a body of work themselves, but instead enjoy the work of others.There’s room for spectators too.  “We want to provide an open and welcoming atmosphere,” Walton said. “Come visit; see our exhibits; sit on our porch; be our guest.”  The CDS hosts receptions and special events. Lectures, film screenings, and project presentations are open to the public, and most of the events are free.

For more information, check out the Center’s websites: or

Teri Saylor is a freelance writer and photographer in Raleigh. Follow her tweets @terisaylor or contact her by email.

Do you know of creative resources in the Triangle that others may not know about?  Tell us about it at!

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