After a delay, mural project taking off again

May. 20, 2014 @ 08:01 AM

After a one-year delay, the Durham Civil Rights History Mural Project has a new site, and by the end of the month project organizers plan to allow the public to help paint the city’s first official public art project.

The mural was originally designated for a wall on West Main Street, but the property was sold last year. The developers were open to having the mural painted, but there was a possibility their plans would take part of the wall, said Brenda Miller Holmes, an artist and muralist who is leading the project.

The new site is the rear wall of the Durham Convention Center, in the parking lot next to the Durham Arts Council building, and facing Morris Street. Because of the Historic Preservation  Commission’s rules about painting historic brick buildings, Miller Holmes began looking at locations with previously painted masonry.

Last summer, she did a mural at the new Museum of Durham History’s History Hub, and noticed the wall next to the Arts Council. She thought it would make a good site for the mural. Visitors to the History Hub will be able to see it, and the Arts Council building, being the former city hall, is a stop on Durham’s civil rights tour, making it an ideal site for residents and visitors to learn about Durham’s contribution to civil rights history, Miller Holmes said.

The new wall is 2,400 square feet, three times the size of the original site wall. The project is seeking to raise $10,000 by the end of June 18 -- using the Indiegogo online site -- to accommodate the larger surface.

Of that amount, $7,000 is needed for more scaffolding, paint and supplies, according to the Indiegogo campaign site. Another $3,000 is needed to complete documenting the project. Filmmaker Rodrigo Dorfman has been filming the process since it began in 2013. In the future, the project also will have a website and printed materials that will be placed at the History Hub.

The city announced the public art project in December 2012. The city’s Cultural Master Plan committed $20,000 to the project, and Miller Holmes raised $5,000 more. As part of the process, she picked 30 Durham residents ages 15 and above, who began brainstorming and drawing designs for the mural. Public sessions about Durham’s civil rights history also were held throughout the community.

The core group of 30 is now finishing the design for the new site, and is awaiting final approval of the design from the city’s Public Art Committee, Miller Holmes said. “My concern is, there’s so much to tell, but everything can’t be in it,” she said. Part of the goal of this project is to encourage people to explore more of the history, which is why the documentary film and website are important, she said.

Participation in the painting of the mural is open to the public. Miller Holmes is asking anyone who wants to help paint to email her or contact the project on Facebook.

Previously, Miller Holmes has created similar community murals in and around San Francisco. “What I love about the process is the collaborative aspect,” she said. The process is not about her, she said, but about the community taking ownership.

“I’ve done this work in this style for a long time, where you gather people to tell their own stories,” she said.