Friday Arts: Telling stories of community life through art

Scattered across walls throughout Southwest Central Durham, North Carolina is a series of murals, depicting people in the community, images of divinity and local civil rights leaders, situated in visible cultural landmarks -- from the walls of elementary schools to the brick facade of our very own Institute for Southern Studies.

Over the past year, hundreds of Durham residents and Duke students came together over colorful pastels and spray paints in a community effort called Face Up: Telling Stories of Community Life, the Durham Chronicle reports.

Artist and project coordinator Brett Cook, working with institutions such as the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, set out to capture the stories and the voices of the Durham community to produce a documentary and public art project. The project resulted in 14 large-scale murals of historic and contemporary figures intended to represent different facets of Durham.

Face Up's roots stem from a simple premise: bring members of the community together through art and have the work be a part of the community itself, reports the Chronicle. For this reason members of the community were involved in the process of crafting the murals. According to the Chronicle, Cook initially outlined drawings and projected the images onto non-woven fabric, and then hundreds of Durham residents filled in the outline with oil pastels. The fabric was then plastered to building walls and sealed with a coat of varnish.

A large focus of the mural projects, including the mural outside of the Institute for Southern Studies, is on Pauli Murray, a Durham native who was a successful civil rights lawyer and later became the nation's first black female Episcopal priest. The local figure lived most of her life in Durham, where she served as a historian, attorney, poet, civil rights activist, teacher, author and Episcopalian priest. Her strong beliefs in justice and community were principles that Cook hoped to convey in the murals, the Chronicle reports.

Here's a video of the project:

For more information on Brett Cook visit his website, and for more information about the murals, visit the Face Up project.