The Durham Storefront Project is a volunteer-organized arts incubator. This year in partnership with the Carrack and Mercury Studio DSP is debuting their newest series of storefront window art installs. It is opening this weekend to coincide with the Durham Arts Council’s Art Walk Spring Market. The storefront project’s 2013 artists are Tamara Galiano Bagnell, sarah goetz, André Leon Gray, and Meg Stein. The window installations at four locations inside the Downtown Loop will remain up through May 11th.
Sadly, it feels like the Durham Storefront Project has gotten a little smaller every year the Clarion Content has covered it. This is the Durham Storefront Project’s 3rd year. This time they have backed it down to only four artists, albeit four remarkably talented, creative artists. Perhaps, it is because the number of un-utilized and under-utilized spaces in downtown Durham has decreased significantly in the last two years. To give just one example, Stacy Kirby’s brilliant demonstration piece about civic participation, “The Declaration Project” took place in the old Baldwin Furniture store now occupied by Organic Transit.
It is not entirely clear, however, the lack of vacancies is the reason for the shrinkage. Many installations in recent years have been done in actively used spaces. This year’s series is the first to pay the artists who are participating. And for the first time, there will be artists’ talks in association with the project; 5pm this Saturday at The Carrack on West Parrish Street.
Your editor corresponded with Jessica Moore of the Durham Storefront Project about these issues. Ms. Moore, who moved to Durham from Chicago in 2010, said that the intent was to make this year’s installations, “more of an artist-in-residence type of program for the spaces they are in and for downtown.” Moore has worked hard to get the artists paid for their creations, an all too often neglected issue that is imperative for artists to continue to work, live and thrive in Durham.
You can donate via their Go Fund Me campaign here. The funding goes directly toward the artists’ stipends.
There is no denying that the project has gone from sixteen artists in its first year, to six artists last year, to four this year. Moore noted that, “Some of the windows we were using in Five Points are no longer available, as well as the ones along Market Street.”
She was hopeful about next year, noting that, “in the future we will be refocusing on partnerships with existing downtown businesses for window space rather than empty spaces.” The Durham Storefront Project has some influential partners, Downtown Durham Inc., CenterStudio Architecture, the Durham Arts Council. One hopes that these stakeholders, along with The Scrap Exchange, and new sponsors, the Carrack and Mercury Studio are driven to reverse the decline in installs.
Moore herself seems determined to reverse the tide and expand the dialogue, “When The Durham Storefront Project launched, we had several community discussion sessions about arts in downtown and it may be time for another since there has been so much growth in the past few years.” [edit. note: We couldn’t agree more.1]
Moore continues, “It is really important to continue talking about the elements that create a vibrant and fun downtown — arts and culture are key, as are the people who participate by buying art, attending events, etc. That’s a conversation I keep having — how to develop more arts’ patrons – people, businesses, developers and other organizations who are willing to back projects by area artists, especially large-scale projects.”
Thoughtful stuff. And for all the wonderful developments downtown, there has been only modest and inconsistent support for public art. The Clarion Content sat in a PAC 5 public meeting last night where one of our civic leaders urged the City’s representatives to finish updating the Downtown Master Plan, including The Open Space Plan and The Parking Plan. Absent such, haphazard, uninformed development will continue apace, while neglecting art and green space.
We think back to the hue and cry we heard a few weeks back when unannounced and unbeknownst to many the City of Durham slapped up some ill-conceived pergolas at the end of Orange Street.
If you think that is some noise, the reality is, we, the city and citizens of Durham, have hardly begun to have the debate about development. It might have been better if we had, before the plans were earmarked for a new 26 story skyscraper, and a massive, neighborhood changing development on 9th Street.
Let’s hope the artists can continue to be part of the dialogue. We know City Hall hears the voices of the developers (they get private audiences). We hope City Hall and the current and future Mayor are listening to the people, too.
Keep an eye out for the Clarion Content’s upcoming series on development in Durham in these pages.
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Durham Storefront Project installs will be on view through May 11th.
1The fantastic focus groups organized by the Durham Arts Council for their Centerfest “re-think” could serve as a model.