Public art mural delayed until 2014
The city’s first public art project, a mural commemorating the city’s role in the civil rights movement, has been delayed until 2014 to allow the artist time to find another site in downtown Durham.
The original site was sold earlier this year.
The mural project, announced in December, was originally planned for the eastern wall of the building at 112 W. Main St., and was scheduled to be completed sometime in May.
Because the new owner has development plans, “I decided to push forward and look for a new location,” said Brenda Miller Holmes, the artist coordinating the project for the city. She wants to begin painting the mural in May 2014 for a June completion.
Holmes said she wants to keep the mural downtown and has three possible sites, which she declined to disclose. Before a site is chosen, she will likely have to present a proposal to Durham’s Historic Preservation Commission, which oversees external changes to historic buildings.
Holmes, an artist and arts educator, has led previous mural projects in the San Francisco area. For the Durham project, she assembled 30 Durham residents, ages 15 to 65, of different backgrounds, to design the mural. Each member of the design team has done individual drawings for a mural, but because the mural is site-specific, a building must be chosen before a final design gets picked, Holmes said.
Team members have responded well to the process, which Holmes said “turned into something bigger than a mural…. I had a number of students who are leaving for college who put their heart and soul into this project” and were glad for the delay because they want to continue to participate, she said.
Money for the $20,000 project came from the Durham Cultural Master Plan, which included funds for a pilot project in public art. In addition to design work, the project has included several discussions of local civil rights history.
Tax records show that the building at 112 W. Main St. was sold in January this year to Empress Development LLC of Raleigh. The new owners applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Durham City-County Planning Department for renovations to the building. The application was approved in July.
The Main Street building adjoins a historic building at 109 W. Parrish St. The developers plan to renovate the property to include a restaurant on the Main Street side, and possible retail and other uses on the Parrish Street side, said Dawn Paige, manager of Empress Development. A development map of the proposal filed with the city shows new windows for the wall at 112 W. Main. Paige said she was still open to allowing the mural to be painted there.
Because any downtown mural likely will be painted on a historic building, it must go before the Historic Preservation Commission. The commission has not seen any proposals for a new mural site, said Helen Wagner, chairwoman. The commission has, however, met with the city’s Cultural Advisory Board to try and help the process along, Wagner said.
The commission is trying to work on the rules to see if approval of public art can be accomplished through an administrative decision, rather than through the full Certificate of Appropriateness process, she said.
Holmes said she plans to partner with the Durham History Museum to keep the project in the public eye.
“We might show sneak peeks of the drawings. We are working to keep the community involved in the project,” she said.