Arts year in review: New music festival, sculpture show and protest songs

Dec. 26, 2013 @ 01:39 PM

Here are some events, in no particular order, that shaped arts and culture in the Durham area in 2013.

-- The Art of Cool Project announced venues and artists for the organization’s inaugural festival, to be held April 25 and 26 next year. Kinston native and longtime James Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker is the headliner, along with Robert Glasper Experiment and other artists. The festival will be held at two outdoor venues and five indoor venues in downtown Durham.

-- Liberty Arts successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign for $25,000 in the fall to help finance the Bull City Sculpture Show. The call went out to artists nationally after completion of the Kickstarter. Beginning in May 2014, Durham residents will be able to view 12 large sculptures within walking distance of Durham Central Park. The sculptures will be on view for six months, and one will be purchased for the city. A people’s choice sculpture will remain on view for a year. Exact dates will be announced later.

-- After several years of fundraising, the Shakori Hills Community Arts Center this year purchased 73 acres in Chatham County, the site of the twice annual GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. A number of local investors chipped in and put up the $695,000 for the land. Investors will receive interest and principal payments in a mechanism Shakori calls a “community mortgage.” With ownership, the organization seeks to extend its reach as a community organization.

-- The play based on the friendship between community organizer Ann Atwater and former Klansman C.P. Ellis finally was performed in Durham. A dramatic reading of Mark St. Germain’s play “The Best of Enemies” (based on Osha Gray Davidson’s book of the same title) was presented at Hayti Heritage Center in July. In December, Manbites Dog Theatre produced the full play, and had to add shows because of its popularity. The play chronicles how these two Durham residents overcame racial and political differences and found common ground in 1971 when Durham was integrating its schools.

-- In Carrboro, things are on the move in the 300 block of Main Street, where The ArtsCenter and Cat’s Cradle are located. Main Street Properties opened the Hampton Inn Suites in the block this year and has plans for future development of the block. The ArtsCenter issued a new mission statement that emphasizes its role as a teaching institution, rather than a presenter of events. The public got its first look at what a new, expanded ArtsCenter (which would move a few hundred feet west) might look like during a public discussion of a creative arts district. More discussion is scheduled in 2014.

-- Elizabeth Cotten was born in 1895 in Carrboro, where she wrote “Freight Train,” a song inspired by the rail lines that run through town. Years later, the song became a staple of folk singers. In September, Carrboro dedicated a new historical marker to Cotten and her folk legacy. The marker is appropriately at the corner of Main Street and the Southern Rail line.  

-- The Pinhook, the first bar and music club to open during the downtown Durham renaissance of recent years, celebrated five years of operation on Main Street this year. Nearby Casbah announced that its final show would be New Year’s Eve. Casbah will reopen as a game bar under the name Social later in 2014. 

-- The “folk scare” of the early 1960s has returned. Several local and North Carolina-based musicians who attended this year’s Moral Monday gatherings at the Legislature wrote some songs protesting the governing body’s policies regarding voting, schools, and other issues. Caitlin Cary, Shirlette Ammons, Django Haskins and other musicians held an open rehearsal last summer at The Pinhook in Durham, then recorded a collection of 10 tunes. The CD, now available, is titled “We Are Not for Sale: Songs of Protest by the NC Music Love Army.”

-- This fall, Duke University unveiled a $15 million renovated Baldwin Auditorium. The renovation was designed to fit the acoustic needs of chamber groups and smaller ensembles. In the coming months, pianists Lise de la Salle and Chick Corea, The Ariel String Quartet, and vocalists The King’s Singers are among the artists who will perform in Baldwin.

-- The Carolina Theatre of Durham Inc. completed the 2012-13 fiscal year with a financial surplus, its first profitable year since 2008, according to an audit the theater board released. The non-profit recorded a surplus of $68,730, its second-highest since 2002 and the fourth-best year in the organization’s 22-year history. The venue, first renovated in the 1990s, was the first public investment in downtown revitalization. It continues to thrive in the face of competition from the Durham Performing Arts Center and other local arts presenters.