Artist uses talent to give back to Durham

By Dylan Campfield
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE


Art can take many shapes and forms in many places, but for local artist Eleatta Diver, it found a home in Durham.

Local artist Eleatta Diver with a collection of her previous work inside her Golden Belt studio. (Photo courtesy of Eleatta Diver)

“I’ve painted all my life really,” Diver says. “But since moving to North Carolina in 2003, I’ve focused my work in a more concentrated way.”

One of those ways was enriching and giving back to the Durham community.

Last October, Diver unveiled her “Durham Dreams I” series at Bay 7 inside the American Tobacco Historic District.

To represent Durham at the heart of each work of art, Diver reached out to members of the Durham community, asking what are their “dreams” for Durham’s future.

Inspiration for this series came from the dreams of individuals like Reverend Ernie Mills of the Durham Rescue Mission and Mayor Pro Tempore Cora Cole McFadden.

The themes of Diver’s “Durham Dreams” series touch on issues ranging from “Aiming Higher” and “Nurturing Our Future” to “New Businesses” and “Moving Forward.”

One painting in particular depicts a car full of young adults at, quite literally, a fork in the road.  The road signs in both directions simply reads “Decisions.”  With the continued progress and restoration of the Durham community, the road is being paved for success.  However, the decisions one makes is, as the license plate reads, “UP2U.”

Diver explains, “In giving back to Durham through ‘Durham Dreams,’ it was my desire to celebrate the courage required over the last 20 years to rebuild Durham,”

Titled “Decisions,” Diver’s work conveys the message that which path you choose to take is “UP2U.” (Staff photo by Dylan Campfield)

As a result, Diver reveals she was able to contribute $10,000 to the East Durham Children’s Initiative, which used the funs to provide scholarships for their summer programs.

Additionally, she is also currently assisting with the Youth Learning Center in the Cornwallis community.

Originally from the small town of Orangeburg, S.C., Diver says her interest in Durham grew after seeing all the work being poured into the restoration of Durham.

“Upon moving to Durham and becoming a part of the artistic community of Golden Belt, I became fascinated with the story of the downtown transformation,” says Diver. “Having grown up in a small town in South Carolina, whose downtown area has regrettably and sorely declined, I wanted to underscore the work that has been done in Durham.”

Diver, wife and mother of five, graduated from the University of South Carolina in Columbia where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Art Education.  After settling down in Durham, she opened a studio in the Golden Belt, where she continues to paint and even hold art parties.

With the official title of the portfolio “Durham Dreams I,” one imagines if Diver plans a continuation of the series.

“I do want to do a ‘Durham Dreams II,” Diver says. “I am currently planning this next phase.”

Meanwhile, Diver is hard at work on her ongoing series “Redemption”: transforming trash and recyclable materials into pieces of relief paintings.  More information about this series and other collections can be found on her website.