Kim Wheaton, co-founder of Pleiades Gallery in Downtown Durham, told the small group of people in a presentation room at 21C Museum Hotel last week that her gallery’s current exhibit is meant to spur open, honest dialogue about a changing Durham.
“We really wanted to elicit reaction from local artists about how they feel about changes that are going on,” said Wheaton. “And so many of the pieces are actually making social statements. There are pieces about gentrification. There are pieces about public transportation and the importance of buses in the city. There are pieces about disassociation between different parts of the city.”
Durham Under Development opened at Pleiades the next day, and runs through March 6. A schedule of related events is here. All the events are free and open to the public.
“We want people to know that art is for everyone,” said Wheaton’s gallery partner Renee Leverty, “and we want art to be part of the conversation, and a catalyst of whatever is happening in Durham.”
Leverty and Wheaton invite the public to the 109 E. Chapel Hill St. space tonight, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., to meet some of the exhibiting artists as part of the Third Friday art walk.
Durham Under Development includes more than thirty pieces by seventeen contributors from all around Durham, as well as nine resident artists.
Between them all, the artists worked in several mediums to express their feelings, good or bad, about Durham’s changing skyline. The means of expression include photography, metal sculpture, construction debris, paintings and mixed-media pieces.
“There’s crazy assemblage sculpture that has caution tape,” adds Wheaton. “It’s just, visually, very interesting.”
As it says on the Pleiades website, Durham Under Development is “juried by Pleiades Gallery, Aaron Mandel, community activist Carter Cue, and development expert Josh Parker.”
Last week’s question-and-answer period at 21C regarding the exhibit was moderated by Clarion Content founder Aaron Mandel.
Leverty said the Durham Under Development project is “his baby.”
“He came to is with this idea ten months ago,” she said. “But he’s been thinking about it longer than that.”
One audience member asked how the conversation started by the exhibit would proceed after it was taken down; and how talks could include people whose interest in heir own neighborhoods far exceeds their interest in art.
Mandel replied that organizers are talking to, and recording “as many people talking about what they see, now in Durham; what they remember about the past in Durham; what they envision for the future in Durham.
“We’re going to try to hold individual events, where people just come and talk into a microphone. And we will try to make that output available at the end. We’ll try to collate what we do.”
Leverty said that getting more people into the “open door” that Pleiades is trying to provide has involved reaching out with a “call for artists,” as well as a series of community engagements.
The idea, said Mandel, is that bringing diverse artists into the project will draw a wider audience to the gallery.