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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Durham Art Walk 

by Rebecca Yan and Aaron Mandel, special to the Clarion Content

At the re-opening, "Durham, the operative word in this city, is: We."
Photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour.

Durham Art Walk, the bi-annual event, described as “a kickoff event for the holidays,” by Catherine Howard takes place weekend in downtown Durham.

A group of Durham artists and Downtown Durham Inc. originally started the Durham Art Walk in 1999 as an event to promote the arts in Durham, long before our dear city became the nationally recognized social and cultural hub that it is today.

It started small and as recently as 2004 its future look shaky. But Durham has rallied around it, even in these troubled economic times. Yesterday saw the triumphant reopening of the Durham Arts Council Building and the Carolina Theater.1

Parade celebrating the re-opening.
Photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour.

“We really tried to beef it up for this winter,” said Catherine Howard, a local artist and Durham Arts Council's coordinator for the event. This year's event is mammoth with over 200 participating artists at forty-seven sites.

“It seems a bit ambitious,” said John Wendelbo, a local sculptor and participant of the art walk. “It’s way better organized [compared to last year]. I’m already seeing the signs on the streets, stuff in the windows, artist starting to set up the shows. People are talking about it. There’s way more vibe this year.”

Wendelbo will be painting at one of the sites on #320 East Chapel Hill Street along with a visiting New York sculptor, Carlos Mare1 Rodriguez.

Along with artist of all stripes, there will be musical performances and new features such as live painting sessions at two sites. The Art Walk signs are everywhere. Stroll the Durham streets this afternoon and they are buzzing. Abandon storefronts explode with a profusion of Art.

Another new feature Ms. Howard helped bring to this year’s event is the Durham Storefront Project. Howard along with co-organizers, Chris Chinchar and Jessica Moore, they connected the Art Walk, the artists, the spaces and the suppliers. The Durham Storefront project features fourteen storefront windows that have been decorated by local artists in part using supplies donated by local businesses such as Jerry’s Artarama, the Durham Art Guild and The Scrap Exchange. There are nine more student-created windows sponsored by the Art Institute. These two collaborative, but independent, efforts are a magnificent display of public art for art and the city’s sake. (The Clarion Content’s pictures will blow you away. Check’em out here.)

“Students created installations of artworks just for the business,” Howard said. “It’s a collaboration between artists and businesses that brings some excitement to downtown because we have a lot of storefronts that doesn’t have stuff in it. Just empty spaces.”

“It’d be great if we have a Macy’s window thing, but it doesn’t fit Durham,” Howard, a former New York City resident, said. “Pop-up [art] windows are a great next step. It really fits what a lot of artists are thinking and businesses are getting involved with the art through that way.”

Luis Franco, a local visual activist, will be part of the show for the first time.

”A friend of mine participated in the show last year and gave me the info to sign up online,” Franco said. “I’ve been doing a lot of different events and have decided to get involved in the Durham Art Walk to further promote my artworks.”

Franco will be selling prints, magnets, buttons and t-shirts in the Durham Armory.

“It’s specific to Durham. They’re trying to put people in various historical buildings in Durham such as the armory and the Carolina Theater. It attracts people to check little galleries around downtown.”

There is a reason why the words “Holiday Market” are included in the name.

“It’s a way for the artists to get people early before they spend money for non-artwork things,” Howard said.

But most importantly, the event is about supporting the community.

“People come out, look at art, and have a good time,” Wendelbo said.

Durham hosts and supports all sorts of fun!
Photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour.

1Though once again the devil is in the details of the renovation which spent $6.9 million of its $14 million city arts rehab on the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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