Bull City citizens gather to help develop Durham Cultural Roadmap

Anthony Wilson Image
Sunday, January 21, 2024
Bull City citizens gather to help develop Durham Cultural Roadmap
People gathered inside the Durham Arts Center for an input session for development of the Durham Cultural Roadmap.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham has a reputation among creative circles as an arts friendly community, but some believe there's even more that can be done to foster the arts.

That's why Saturday a group of people met to talk about how to push the Bull City's art community forward.

Drive through the Bull City's downtown area and you'll see several murals. The return of the Full Frame Documentary Festival after a pause last year will attract out of town film fans who patronize restaurants, bars and galleries around town. Music lovers in Durham are responding positively to Missy Lane's Assembly Room, the new venue open for live performances on Main Street.

"I'm hoping Missy Lane starts a string of music venues popping up serving this diverse audience. I'm just excited to be a part of it," said owner Cecily Mitchell.

Mitchell is one of many arts enthusiasts who gathered inside the Durham Arts Center for an input session for development of the Durham Cultural Roadmap. Organizers provided free food, activities for children, Spanish and American Sign Language translators along with free parking for participants who shared ideas Saturday about arts activities and opportunities..

Lynette Turner, consultant AMS Planning & Research Durham Arts Council, told ABC11, "We've talked to over 30 people in individual interviews. We've had six focus groups. We've had a community survey, a facility survey (asking) what have folks needed in terms of space rehearsal, dance space, et cetera? And we've had this, our first community meeting."

"We're trying to figure out do we need and want a city office or a city/county office of the arts," said planning committee co-chair Steve Schewel. "What else can we do to improve our art situation? Funding, both public and private. How we're going to help our artists from previously marginalized communities, black and brown, artists, all the things that we need to try to make Durham's art scene a great one?"

"Frankly, funding tends to be a challenge. So it's how creative can we be? We know we can't expect the city or the county or the state to give all that funding." Turner said. "Philanthropic support from other entities is critical, and we're talking to folks in that sector as well to really get input from everyone and buy in from everyone. And people think it's for them and about them. They're more apt to be supportive. And so we haven't gotten to the point yet where we're specifically saying where those funds are going to be coming from, but that's something we're keeping in mind throughout the entire process."

Consultant Jeanette Turner told ABC11 the collection of ideas from the community began last summer, and Schewel said that information will help secure financial support for the cultural roadmap.

"There's no chance that we can be everything that we want to be without the private without private funding, corporate support, So we're not at that point yet. What we're doing now is bring everybody together to see, what's the vision that we have for our for our artistic community? And then the specifics underneath that, what will it take to get the job done? We'll figure out what the financial needs are and then the both the public and private sector will be called upon to help fund it." he said. "You know, one of the things that makes Durham an amazing city is that we have all this incredible creativity. Artists and cultural workers are what make Durham cool. And with the expensive housing that we have now, with the expense of workspaces for artists, you know, there's it's tough theaters and studio space are hard to come by and expensive. We need to figure out two way ways to support artists so that they can stay in Durham and thrive in Durham."

"This is taking over a year because it's really important that the people here in Durham own it so that they really this isn't something that sits on the shelf that is really implementable, implementable and things that people really be excited about," Turner said. "It's a rich culture here. We've had a lot of input. and we will be using it and taking it into account as we create this plan to help Durham, which is really an amazing place to be a thriving and successful arts and cultural sector into the future. for a city its size."