-Durham it’s Our village:
The Bull City Sculpture Show reminds us how great this town is…
by: Aaron Mandel
Liberty Arts sculpture studio’s roots and shoots extend much further into the city of Durham than most casual observers realize.
Maybe you know they were once in the Liberty Warehouse, set to soon be demolished along the north side of Durham Central Park.
Maybe you know some of their members were part of the coalition that conceived of Durham Central Park in an empty wasteland of lots.
Maybe you know Liberty Arts artist Jackie MacLeod created many of the benches and some of the handrails in Durham Central Park.
Maybe you know Liberty Arts artist Mike Waller birthed Major the Bull.
But did you know they were the driving force behind the Bull City Sculpture Show?
Just before the show opened, with twelve fantastic, larger than life sculptures descending on our cityscape, I had the privilege and the honor to tour the sculpture sites with two of Liberty Arts finest, Bull City Sculpture Show co-chairs, Jackie MacLeod and Mike Waller.
I am often preaching to the choir about how Durham is still a village. This is what we mean: these two and their cohorts in bringing together the show, Grace Dzidzienyo of the City of Durham’s Small Business Services and Neighborhood Commercial Development team, who brought the political wherewithal, and architect Phil Freelon who juried the show, and selected all the sculptures specifically to fit the environments and spaces where they have been installed, Durham loving and creating Durham.
A little birdie told me that the Bull City Sculpture Show might never have happened if the roof hadn’t fallen in on Liberty Warehouse. This subject is still a matter of much contention. Did the developer allegedly ignore problems with the building’s roof hoping the city would condemn the space paving the way for luxury condos? It collapsed in May of 2011. The City of Durham, with the support of Preservation Durham, allowed the developer to remove Liberty Warehouse’s designation as a historic landmark, paving the way for condemnation, tear down, and luxury condos that will change the character of the DIY Durham district in 2015.
However, the Liberty Arts crew, undeterred by such setbacks, found new digs in Goldenbelt District at the Cordoba Center for the Arts. Our source said the Liberty Arts members were so moved by the more than 800 citizens of Durham and supporters of the arts that showed up to support the grand opening of their new location (full disclosure: Clarion Content had a promotional relationship with Liberty Arts at that time) that they wanted to give a gift back to the city of Durham.
And there germinated the idea of the Bull City Sculpture Show (BCSS).
The BCSS show has been a big hit with the public. Durham has twelve huge pieces of public art on display from the “Twist of Fate” an eighteen foot steel structure that spins in the wind outside the Durham County Courthouse to the graffitied wonder, “Amuk” that has been painted and repainted to the public’s delight in Durham’s Central Park.
We learned “Amuk” which the public is invited to continually repaint during its installation is modeled on the writers benches of early New York City graffiti artists (a legendary meet-up spot at 149th Street where the #2 Subway line and #5 Subway line converge).
We also heard that the artists who came and brought their work loved the show. They were feted as great creators should be, put up in a hotel, given an opportunity to meet the public, and discuss their works.
This bodes extremely well for Durham and our art loving population, next year’s Bull City Sculpture Show, with great word of mouth in the national and international sculpture community should see even more entrants and even more fantastic works.
Besides “Amuk” and “Twist of Fate” another sculpture we hear people talking about is “Pursuit of Happiness” located behind the Durham Convention Center, across the courtyard from the Carolina Theater. This particular piece generated so much conversation that one evening the entire Durty Durham meeting walked over to see it and discuss.
We heard that the artist, Charlie Brouwer, constructed the work entire from tools found in an average garage. It is fastened with deck screws and built from locust wood which is extremely hard and fortuitously popular for old fence posts in the artist’s home county of Virginia. Much of the wood is recycled from just such old fencing thanks to local farmers and friends of Brouwer’s.
Embedded in everything from our Declaration of Independence, to our art, to hopefully our work and our lives, “Pursuit of Happiness” is an intrinsic value and this more than eight-foot tall wooden man is reminder that we all long for similarly joyous feelings along our unique journeys.
This is the function of Art. To separate us from ourselves and reconnect us with our common humanity. We are lucky to have such forces in Durham as Jackie MacLeod and Mike Waller the co-chairs of the Bull City Sculpture Show to bring these great works to our fantastic city.
Now, we the citizens, get one more bonus from the Bull City Sculpture Show, besides the work being on display from now until October, we get to vote to keep one. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be loaned to the City of Durham for a year.
And the Grand Prize winner of the show will receive a $25,000 award and have their sculpture mounted and displayed in perpetuity for all of Durham to enjoy.
We at the Clarion Content offer a grateful thanks to the efforts of the Bull City Sculpture Show. We can’t wait for next year!