Durham. What is going on with your downtown visual art scene?

Right after The Carrack Modern Art announced that it will be closing this fall, another landmark gallery, Pleiades Arts, says that it will be departing from its space in Five Points Plaza in August.

But in happier news, unlike the Carrack, Pleiades plans to carry on in a different form, and its current space will be occupied by, lo and behold, another art gallery.

As Pleiades Arts board president Renee Leverty told the INDY over the weekend and wrote in a Facebook post last night, the seventh-annual Truth to Power show, which opens Friday, July 5, will be the final Pleiades Arts exhibit in the Chapel Hill Street space. Truth to Power is the gallery’s highest-profile annual show, which brings together dozens of North Carolina visual arts to explore themes of social justice.

In August, the gallery will turn into a “community-based virtual entity,” following in the footsteps of Manbites Dog.

But the current Pleiades space will remain a contemporary art gallery, Leverty says, run by ten Pleiades artists and called 5 Points Gallery. It plans to open in August as a fifteen-member gallery, with five new artists juried into the collective. Much like Pleiades, it will host monthly art exhibits and special events and offer professional art services.

As a virtual entity, Pleiades Arts will continue to work on a planned exhibit with the LGBTQ Center of Durham. Queer Lens will debut at The Fruit on Durham’s Pride Weekend and then move to the LGBTQ Center for the month of October. More generally, Leverty says, virtual Pleiades will keep “creating art experiences in full partnerships with communities and their members, within safe environments, in ways that are accessible.”

The gallery was founded in 2013 by Leverty and Kim Wheaton, both artists. As Leverty notes,  “the streets of Durham were different. You could jaywalk with ease, and there was a sense of community with the nascent local businesses.” Run by dues-paying member artists as a place to display and sell their work, it also displayed the work of many non-member artists as invited guests in group exhibits. Clinging to its downtown address, it became a nonprofit two years ago. 

By all indications, 5 Points Gallery will be Pleiades by another name, but with new leadership energy to carry the burden of keeping local visual art downtown in a region where galleries are increasingly losing that fight. In recent years, The Carrack moved from Parrish Street to Golden Belt, FRANK Gallery fled Franklin Street for University Place, and Adam Cave Fine Art decamped from downtown Raleigh to the Dock 1053 mixed-use warehouse.

To varying degrees, all of those galleries were then cut off from their city’s monthly Friday art walk, arguably the lifeblood of each art scene. As more and more local-art institutions are pushed to the fringes, unconnected by walkable arteries, that blood is getting very thin.

As it happens, the name “Pleiades” will also live on in Durham in a more concrete (and rather telling) way. Surprise! It’s chic housing.

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