Durham Art

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.

Naturally, I had to visit Major, the bull. He stands in a popular square just below our hotel room.

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.

Neon bulls. I took this shot Wednesday evening, when we first arrived.
“Bull” Durham Tobacco – roll your own.

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 also caught this shot of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on our first night.
Here’s the original stadium, replaced by the big fancy park (above) in 1995.
Across the street from Major is this sculpture.

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.

The sign says, “BLACK WALL STREET. In the early decades of the 1900s, Durham acquired national reputation for entrepreneurship. Businesses owned by African Americans lined Parrish Street. Among them were N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Co., led by John Merrick, Dr. Aaron Moore, & C. C. Spaulding and Mechanics and Farmers Bank, led by R. B. Fitzgerald and W. G. Pearson.”

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.

This is so you can see some of the lovely streets I walked in Durham.

Most of the following art was not in the booklet, by the way. Just to say that Durham is a distinctly art-minded community.

We ate dinner at the Mellow Mushroom our first night.
On the Mellow Mushroom building.
This is what it looks like inside. Note the bull art.

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.

13 thoughts on “Durham Art

  1. I always enjoy it when towns choose a fun theme for art. I’ve see other towns that have featured bulls, as well as cows, seals, buffalo, horses, bears, moose, and the list goes on. Fun.
    Hanging out in Virginia, I am quickly learning all about the combination of heat and humidity. 🙂 In fact this weekend, Peggy and I were about 170 miles away from Durham. We took our grandkids Ethan and Cody down to Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. Walking around in Williamsburg, I know exactly what you are talking about. –Curt

    1. Ooooh, was it a history tour? How fun that we were so near each other. Yes, it may take some getting used to for you guys, who lived for so long in the arid Applegate Valley. I agree with you that an art theme in a community is really fun. In addition to the bull theme, there was a Black History theme, which I also appreciated.

      1. Yep… History is everywhere around here, which I love Crystal. Even more so since my ancestors were in the area when much of the early European history was being made— recognizing that native cultures were here hundreds and even thousands of years before. Grin.
        Even with the history, I’ll still always be a Westerner at heart, however.
        And yes on the Black History. Do you remember the post I did on the town of Cherokee on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park where the Eastern Cherokee used buffalo sculptures to paint their history on?

  2. What a sight! I love cities and towns that tell stories by their art pieces. It grabs people’s attention and educates at the same time. Art AND good food? I’m in.

    1. That’s true; public art that tells about history is a great way to capture people and teach them in a fun way. We did manage to find some really good food in Durham. I had intended to have at least one meal of “southern food,” which is what all the websites recommend. But it was a million degrees outside and sticky, and I could not work up any interest in fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. Next time! Pedro had that served (plus okra and sweet waffles) at the conference, and since it was cafeteria food, it was not so great.

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