2018 is the Year
Public Art in Durham

The word from and the Durham Cultural Advisory Board and its Public Art Committee is that 2018 the Year of Public Art in Durham. There are more than $750,000 in Public Art projects coming on-line this year from the City of Durham. Durham County is also committing more than six figures to Public Art this year, too.

2018 is the Year of Public Art in Durham

by: Aaron Mandel

2017 was a pretty good year for Durham Public Art, too. The Civil Rights Mural was completed.

2017 was a pretty good year for Durham Public Art, too. The Civil Rights Mural was completed.


One of the biggest components of City of Durham sponsored art will be the $200,000 budgeted for Public Art at the new Durham Police Headquarters. The building is currently scheduled to be finished in June and open in August of this year. There was a large public call for art that drew more than 150 applicants nationwide. The field has been narrowed to six finalists who came to Durham to present their proposals.

Another huge public art stipend is targeted for the public parking garage opening at the corner of Mangum Street and Morgan Street. The target date for the completion of the garage is January of 2019. There is $150,000 in City of Durham money dedicated to Public Art in this location.

The recently completed and wildly successful “The Fence” exhibit, which featured huge digital photographs along the Orange Street-East Chapel Hill Street-Mangum Street axis, has invited Durham to participate again in 2018. This is a coup as only seven host cities are selected nationwide. Moreover, it is a fantastic opportunity for local artists to showcase their work. The Fence has both local and national components and lots of awards for artists.



Beyond that, the City Manager’s office has just approved funds for lighting and art at the recently rechristened “Black Wall Street Gardens” formerly known to locals as Chicken Bone Park. This extremely important wedge of green space is located inside the downtown loop between Main Street, Parrish Street, Mangum Street.

Chicken Bone Park looking south

Chicken Bone Park looking south

Once abandoned and overlooked, the recent addition of café tables has given the space the feel of an urban pocket park, with the addition of lighting the hours that the community can use the space will be greatly extended. Local and regional artists have been invited to apply for a new public art project in the greenspace. The application deadline is May 4th.

Durham County will also be allocating $100,000 towards Public Art at the Durham County Main Library and the County’s new municipal building.

The City has also expanded on the success of its pilot program for murals in city parks. The Neighborhood Park Mural Project pilot initiative launched in Spring 2017. Durham artists, Julia Gartrell and Julienne Alexander, created a fantastic mural on the exterior walls of Boundaries Park’s newly renovated bathroom facility. It features the silhouettes of local residents and park goers. (You might have heard Justin Laidlaw and I talking about this on the Clarion Content podcast.)

This year the City has invited North Carolina artists or artist teams to submit proposal to design, fabricate, and install mural or ground plane public art at four more parks, dubbing it “The Neighborhood Park Mural Project”. Under the auspices of Durham Parks and Recreation, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the Durham Cultural Advisory Board’s Public Art Committee Garrett Road Park, Sherwood Park, Solite Park, and Whippoorwill Park will all be getting art. Apply here. (Deadline is May 16th.)

Beyond that we have heard tell of two new big mural projects in the private sphere. Stay tuned for our Heard gossip column, hopefully we will be able to release the details. We have also heard about another fabulous city backed public art project. If you follow the Clarion Content on Instagram, you saw a big hint on our story last week. This one is in delicate final negotiations so we can’t drop the word yet. Confidence is high.

And finally, 2018 is a big year for Public Art in Durham because it is a year of looking forward (and backward). The City of Durham’s last Cultural Master Plan was issued in 2004. The plan was designed to look ahead fifteen years. The mathematicians among you have already leaped to the answer. That’s right, fifteen years will have passed in 2019.

The Cultural Advisory Board will review the 2004 Cultural Master Plan in the coming year, evaluating what worked and what didn’t, what goals were achieved, and which were not. If I know our City, likely there will be a period for public comment or input or a charrette to discuss the next Cultural Master Plan. What are the new priorities? What’s next? What are the community’s needs?


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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