Durham County

Coming to downtown Durham: a parking garage covered in public art

What the public art panels on the Corcoran Street parking deck will look like at night.
What the public art panels on the Corcoran Street parking deck will look like at night.

Downtown Durham will get brighter and more colorful thanks to a new public art project.

The Corcoran Street parking garage will feature art by Olalekan Jeyifous, also known as LEk, a Nigerian-born artist whose work has been seen at the Coachella music and arts festival.

Described as an art wrap, Jeyifous' selection was chosen from 107 artist applications. The artwork will be on 12 mesh panels that hang on the exterior of the six-level parking garage.

The work was funded by $100,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts through the Durham Arts Council as an Our Town Grant. The council's SmART initiative seeks to use public art and urban design to create an arts and entertainment corridor along Blackwell, Corcoran and Foster streets.

Jeyifous is also an architect and designer from Brooklyn. The art wrap is described as his interpretation of architectural and iconic Durham elements as well symbols of its history, heritage and hope for the future. The Corcoran Street garage can be seen from the Durham Performing Arts Center, with much of the garage adjacent to Ramseur Street. The art will have a stained glass effect at night.

Public art to be displayed on the Corcoran Street parking garage is by Brooklyn artist LEk, whose work was on display at Coachella. City of Durham

His art at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was a 50-foot by 50-foot by 50-foot sculpture called "Crown Ether."

Jeyifous visited Hillside High School art students during his January visit to Durham. He received a bachelor's degree in architecture from Cornell University in 2000.

The Durham City Council approved the art as a gift from the Durham Arts Council, which receives city funding, at its meeting on Monday. The city owns the garage, which was built in 1964. The arts council is still raising money for the lighting component of the public art.

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Art panels that have been on display on part of the Corcoran Street garage depicting dancers will be donated to the American Dance Festival.

Also during the council meeting, three artists spoke during a public comments time about the city's fiscal year 2018-19 budget.

Monet Marshall, a theater and performing artist, said that art and funding artwork is an equity issue.

"Many of the folks who are moving here is because Durham’s cool," Marshall said. She said companies are using the arts in Durham as a reason to come here, and the city should invest in not just the Durham Arts Council, but independent artists, including artists of color.

The city is now accepting applications for its Public Art Committee, an advisory board, until April 9. The 13-member board advises the city's Cultural Advisory Board about commissioned public art and donated art for the city. Up to three of the committee members can be high school or college students.

The city approved a public art policy in 2011 to bring "social, cultural and economic benefits to the public and visitors to the city.”

919-419-6563; @dawnbvaughan