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Artists create murals, messages on boarded up windows on Durham buildings

For people born and raised in Durham, seeing the damaged, boarded up buildings was jarring. However, that plywood is becoming the canvas of an art project that seeks to express feelings during a time of tension and change.

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Lora Lavigne
, WRAL reporter
DURHAM, N.C. — Murals are becoming messages all across buildings and businesses in downtown Durham.
For people born and raised in Durham, it was jarring to see the heart of Durham all boarded up. Now, as small businesses recover from damage, the boards can become canvases for change.

The art community is launching an initiative to amplify the message behind self-expression during a time of tension and change--not as a beautification effort, but to echo the voices speaking up.

Soon paintings across this entire area will cover the plywood, in hopes to bring self-reflection and understanding.

“We’re saying we’re pro-black. We’re saying do the right thing. We’re saying black lives matter,” said a local artist who goes by the name Gemynii.

Gemynii's art centers a lot around social injustice. She's finishing up a mural at BeYu Cafe now, but in the past hate-groups have destroyed her projects.

This gives her a chance to be heard.

“Art is here. We’ve been doing this work. We’ve been doing protest art. This is nothing new. We’re just doing it on a grander scale,” she said.

This collaborative effort with business owners, the Durham Artist Relief Fund and black artists allows artists to get paid for self-expressing their current emotions.

“I wrote up there: Black is beautiful. Black is resistant. Kill capitalism. Kill greed. That’s all the stuff that’s killing us,” said Artist Jupiter Black.

“I think a lot of people see the tagging of graffiti as a negative thing, but I think that it's public art,” said Marcella Camara, a cultural organizer.

She’s preparing an interactive piece, pasting photographs and poems onto plywood. 

“The marches and the protests that we see is just people feeling unheard," she said. "As a cultural organizer and creative, I feel art is the perfect way to amplify that."

“I hope they realize this is not momentary. This is a movement that is ongoing,” Gemynii said.

Some business owners plan to keep the artwork up for as long as possible; others will help artists auction the work off or donate it to charities supporting racial equality.

To support an individual artist, visit the website for Artist Relief.


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