and a garage
full of art


Unscripted feels like an apropos name for the new hotel opening across from Major the Bull. Durham is off-script now. I like to say that even in Mayor Bill Bell’s wildest dreams, he didn’t envision Durham exploding like this. (Not even Bill Kalkof, who will be honored with a statue in the same plaza as Major, saw this coming.)

Unscripted pool

The Unscripted Hotel offers glorious views of Durham and a sparkling rooftop pool. They are owned by the Dream Hotel Group. Which according to its website was formed out of

…a desire for lifestyle hotels with forward-thinking spaces filled with ultra modern amenities. For boutique establishments where the proverbial line between stay and play was blurry at best, and on-property entertainment connected guests and locals in tangible ways… All this, we imagined, could be topped off with an almost-OCD level of guest service sure to stun even the most seasoned traveler

It all looks so beautiful and shiny and expensive.

Unscripted concept drawing

I imagine it will be hard for the Unscripted to avoid being swept up in Durham’s swirling questions about gentrification. I am no unbiased observer. As the Dream Hotel Group website notes, they want to connect with locals in tangible ways.

Yet, there has already been a modicum of turbulence in that regard.

The word is out now that the former Jack Tar’s grungy garage parking has been painted with amazing art work. (Shots from inside the Unscripted garage.)

Unscripted garage 1

Unscripted garage 2

Unscripted garage 3

World class graffiti artists from Los Angeles descended to create work inside the Unscripted that is indeed fly.

Bringing in out-of-towners raised a hue and cry from some corners of Durham. Specifically challenging why Durham artists weren’t brought in or considered for the garage commission.

Perhaps, belatedly realizing their mistake, the developers with help of the City of Durham officials, reached out through the local high schools to connect with aspiring artists. Students from the School of Creative StudiesSouthern High School and Duke were able to participate in the final stages of the project.

Unscripted garage 5

Unscripted garage 6

Unscripted garage 7

After painting through all hours of the night the finished project dazzles.

Unscripted garage 4

Local artist, Candy Carver, among others, remains frustrated that the funds spent to paint the garage were paid to national artists rather than “where I live”. Carver also noted in our conversation that there was no thematic connection in the art work to Durham. Which she concluded, makes sense, because there weren’t Durham artists involved in the conception of the project. Perhaps, more frustratingly one of the artists has a Raleigh connection, bringing up bad old vibes of when Raleigh thought of itself as the big city bringing culture to Dirty Durham.

Still as a fellow artist-creator in my co-working space noted, “I want to be able to do work outside of Durham.” Which I took to mean, that were we to throw up walls and fences around who can make great art in Durham, we should expect the same for our artists when they venture outside our beloved city.

Perhaps the reason for the angst and frustration around this art is the development project it is connected to. It is certainly swank, but does that automatically imply unfriendly or hostile?

After all even if the Jack Tar had “Welcomed Oprah” like the windows once dreamed, the drifters who were sleeping in the abandoned rooms would have been cleared out. And the anti-gentrification crowd would have sure noted Oprah, herself, is opulently wealthy.

written by: Aaron Mandel

All graffiti photos from the artists’ publicly available Instagrams.

courtesy of Open Durham

We want Oprah era courtesy of Open Durham

Jack Tarr pool in another era courtesy of Open Durham

Jack Tarr pool in another era courtesy of Open Durham

Jack Tarr pool in another era courtesy of Open Durham

Jack Tarr pool in another era courtesy of Open Durham


Jack Tarr inside 2

Jack Tarr inside 5

Jack Tarr inside 3

Jack Tarr inside 1

From the last Clarion Content mission to the Jack Tar…it was a scavenger hunt.

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

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