One of the first things I did when I arrived was to visit the Visitor’s Information Center, only one block from our hotel. I was too eager, and Thursday morning arrived an hour before the center opened. They were kind enough, however, to post some little brochures and booklets outside the entrance for people like me. I picked up one booklet with maps of public art, and another with maps of murals. I plotted a walking route, and then set off.
Pedro and I have noticed, having spent a couple of days in Durham at this point, that the bull theme is prominent. There is bull art, bull puns, our hotel is decorated with bulls. There is Bull City Ciderworks and Bull City Running Company. In that corner building you see above, beneath the wework sign, is the Bulldega market.
In the 1800s, Blackwell Tobacco Company (building pictured above) in Durham, North Carolina, had its Durham tobacco that it called “Bull.” The name caught on and became famous – Bull Durham Tobacco. The most famous export apparently lent its prestige to the city, and now the city is also nicknamed “Bull Durham.” You may recall the movie by the same name, set in Durham, and about the local baseball team, the Durham Bulls.
I found a series of sculptures which I knew were part of a collection, because all of them had the same base, as you see above.
If you wanted to read the engraved plaques in the photos, you’ll see that they all tell the story of Durham’s economic history. Captions talk about Black leaders in business, Black entrepreneurship, Black community and institutional cornerstones, small business focus and support for African American business owners, funding for Black business owners, and the tobacco entrepreneur E.J. Parrish, for whom this street was named, that became an economic center. Naturally, with all that support, the Black economy thrived here, and got the nickname Black Wall Street. This was not the one you have heard about in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that threatened White business owners so much that they decided the only way to ensure their own economic success was to burn down the Black economic center. In the past three years I have heard about two powerful economic centers for Black communities in the US, which leads me to wonder how many more powerful Black economic centers there are/have been, and more irritated than ever that our whole, true story is not told in schools.
Driving into town from the airport I spotted this thing and was happy to find it again. This sculpture is outside the public library. It was 3D printed and the most fabulous shade of purple. Look at that amazing texture.
Most of the following art was not in the booklet, by the way. Just to say that Durham is a distinctly art-minded community.
Those were my discoveries on my first morning (with a few from the night before) in Durham. I was to find out that there is much, much more art in Durham. You’ll see in the future posts. I’ve packed my days, while Pedro attends the conference in the daytime and wraps up his classwork in the evenings. Tonight, from the hotel room, he has to give his presentation virtually to the class, and then finally, he will be done with school.
Next time I post, I’ll put in a bunch of murals.
Enjoy the weather wherever you are. Be glad if you are not experiencing this weather. It has stayed in the 90s all week (33-36 C) with 70% humidity. I know it gets hotter in places – it was 98 at home when I left – but the humidity is a killer. I do not know how people can stand this. I am drenched in sweat every time I leave the hotel. I’ve been places like this before: Hiroshima, Japan, St. Lawrence River valley in New York, Oahu, Hawaii, San Antonio, Texas during Basic Training. Each time I hate the weather. Yuck yuck.