Part of the ecosystem: Fourth Durham Storefront Project on view

Oct. 24, 2013 @ 01:11 PM

Illustrator Mikaela Fuchs titled her work in the window of Beyu Caffe “Above and Below.” Fuchs makes hand paper goods, and “Above and Below” resembles a panel from a pop-up book. “Above and Below” has a likeness of Beyu Caffe, the Durham skyline, the skate park and other local landmarks.
Fuchs’ art work is one of seven pieces on view throughout downtown Durham through December during the fourth Durham Storefront Project. The art project began as a way to use empty storefronts downtown – not just to dress them up, but to show a different way to use the spaces, and to show the link between visual art, downtown redevelopment, and community.
Fuchs’ project “inspired me to look at downtown Durham,” said Kate Thompson Shafer, juror of this year’s storefront project. “I think the architecture in downtown Durham is beautiful,” Shafer said. She lives in Raleigh, and whenever she comes to Durham she said she marvels at the historic buildings.
The Durham Storefront Project offers artists a chance to display their work in a different way than they might at a gallery, and to reach a wider audience, Shafer said. “I wanted things that would catch people’s eye no matter who they were. I wanted work that would speak to the different types of people who might pass,” she said.
Jessica Moore, one of the founders of the project, remembers that for the first project, artists were using empty downtown spaces. “Now, we’re working more with businesses that have storefront space to use, which has been really great,” she said. Moore owns the online business Open Art Society, which collaborates with artists “to promote projects that instill creativity in their communities,” according to the website ( 
This year’s project has “expanded beyond bringing life to empty spaces,” Shafer said.
In addition to Beyu, other businesses with storefront art are Center Studio Architecture, Mercury Studio, the Land Loss Prevention Project, the law office of Lynn Fontana, and Golden Belt.
Michelle Gonzales-Green’s project “The Red Balloon (Remix)” sits in the window of Mercury Studio. The centerpiece of this multi-media work is a continuous video, which is Gonzales-Green’s portrait of people in Durham holding and interacting with a red balloon. The exhibit also uses cut paper, metal and other media.
At Center Studio on Chapel Hill Street, Dave Greway has an installation of some clocks made from found objects. Some are marked “sold,” others have price tags. In an artist statement on his website, Greway states that when he gets a design idea, he looks for materials in secondhand stores and yard sales to create his work.
Artist Ben Clack has transformed the window front at 401 N. Mangum St. into a tribute to the Durham Bulls, titled “God Bless the Durham Bulls,” which has abstract portraits on paper of “Crash” Davis and Chipper Jones, and baseballs adorned with the names of other players. 
Other artists have created window gardens. The Bull City Vineyard Church on Parrish Street is a collection of gourds, plants, vines and planters, with tables and chairs that seem to invite strollers to stop for a minute. The piece, titled “Paradise Garden Project,” is the work of Lee Moore Crawford and other artists. At the Fontana law office, artist Aisha Sanders calls her collection of African violets and lush plants “Flourish.”
The Storefront Project is a collaboration of Open Art Studio, Mercury Studio, and The Carrack Modern Art, with help from Downtown Durham Inc. “I d like to think that storefronts have a place in making downtown a walkable, a more interesting place,” Moore said. “I think the more you get people downtown and enjoying things … that’s the ecosystem that makes downtown work.”


The Durham Storefront Project is on view at various storefronts in and around downtown through December.

Here is a list of the sites:
-- Ben Clack, “God Bless the Durham Bulls,” 401 N. Mangum St.
-- Michelle Gonzales-Green, “The Red Balloon (Remix),” Mercury Studio, 407 N. Mangum St.
-- Mikaela Fuchs, “Above and Below,” Beyu Caffe, 335 W. Main St.
-- Dave Greway, “Untitled,” Center Studio Architecture, 107 E. Chapel Hill St.
-- Aisha Sanders, “Flourish,” Lynn Fontana law offices, 115 E. Main St.
-- Helen Seebold and Erin Lawler, “Message in a Bottle,” Durham Art Guild Studio 3-119, Building 3 of Golden Belt, 807 E. Main St.
-- Lee Moore Crawford and other artists, “Paradise Garden Project,” 118 W. Parrish St.