Fading Hayti mural to be recreated in a new location

The Hayti mural before the peeling began. Photo courtesy of James Hill

The Hayti mural before the peeling began. Photo courtesy of James Hill

Durham’s Heritage Square on East Lakewood Avenue is home to shops, restaurants, and a grocery store. If you’re going too fast, you might miss a big piece of Durham’s history that rests on the side of Food World: the Hayti mural, completed in 1999.

The Hayti mural today. Staff photo by Mary Yount

The Hayti mural today. Staff photo by Mary Yount

At approximately 177 feet long and 32 feet high, the mural is one of the city’s largest. It was once saturated and rich with color, but now it is in a serious case of disrepair.

The mural depicts a scene from Black Wall Street circa the 1940s, a time when Durham’s black populations were making big strides financially and in the business world.

Durham artist Emily Weinstein designed the creation along with artist David Wilson, and they also enlisted the help of hundreds of local youth. Now, 16 years later, plans are in place to reconstruct the mural at a new location downtown at 305 Roxoboro Street–the corner of South Roxboro Street and South Dillard Street across from the Durham County Justice Center. Weinstein said she was excited at the opportunity to involve Durham’s young people.

Artist Emily Weinstein sits at home with her cat, Eva. Staff photo by Mary Yount

“Being an involved Durham citizen, I really wanted to do something that would be a good, constructive thing for our youth. Every fifth grader in Durham got to work on it,” she said. “Things have to be done with kids—they have to have a sense of purpose, a sense of community, and that they really belong.”

In addition to youth, Weinstein said that community members would come and give their input as to who they thought should be featured in the mural.

“They would come up and say, ‘You don’t want that person, you want this person who was much more important to our town.’ And I would paint the rightful characters into the scene.”

The mural is peeling as a result of the wrong type of paint and underfunding, but Weinstein knows what to do differently this time around. One thing that won’t change– youth will once again be involved in painting the mural.

“Every mural I do, I intend to use as a teaching tool for kids. It means much more if kids are a part of it,” Weinstein said. “I started involving kids about 18 years ago with a mural I was doing at an office building. Ever since then, I’ve realized it’s extremely important.”

BFM Enterprises owns the downtown building where the mural is planned to go next. Timothy Brooks, owner of the company, said that it was important to him to put the mural there.

“With all of the growth taking place in the city, we wanted to make sure we were honoring the history of Durham,” Brooks said. “We need to make both symbolic and practical decisions that help make sure that the development benefits the whole community, not just those who are affluent.”

The new wall is one-sixth the size of the mural’s current home, which will present Weinstein and Brooks with some spatial challenges. “We still have some details to work out, but we’re optimistic that it’s going to happen and look great,” Brooks said.

Though the mural will be in promising new spot, some community members who live and work near Heritage Square will miss seeing it on a daily basis.

“While it’s really deteriorated, you can still see the beauty of it,” said executive director of the Hayti Heritage Center Angela Lee. “I think it’s unfortunate that they would move it away from here, but the most important thing is that the mural be saved and restored.”

Food World manager Jorge Andrade has been in the Durham area for almost 20 years. He said that that seeing it go would be like losing a symbol of unity.

“The mural represents the community that was here and still is here. I’ve seen it since I was around 7 or 8—it kind of reminds me of my childhood. I think a lot of people will miss it,” he said.

“But I think as long as it’s in a safe place where it’s appreciated, it will be a good thing.”

Plans for the creating the new Hayti mural are still in the works, and the start date for the project has yet to be determined.

5 thoughts on “Fading Hayti mural to be recreated in a new location

  1. Hmmm, in the photo I don’t know who looks worse, me or the cat? Who chose this photo?

    BUT more importantly there is no reason the mural can’t be in TWO places. The great thing about the new location is the new owners are invested in buying highly pigmented acrylic paint and an excellent uv protectant and they own the building!

    The old location went through many hands and was inadequately funded. If the funds can be raised and the community is behind it we can bring it back but it is south facing. This is problematic due to being drenched in sunlight, but if every five years it is re-touched where needed can be done.

    The new location is tiny next to the original. After the Civil Rights mural why not make this the next project? NCCU Art department? Also I would LOVE to see the Eno River mural resurrected and there too a new location is needed. But perhaps in smaller segments throughout Durham, a walking tour at different businesses? Contact me if you want essay I wrote on this. Em

    • Dear Emily,
      What wonder-full ideas; we hope you will follow up on them. A walking tour of Durham murals? Restoring the old mural? Partnering with NCCU and local schoolkids? What’s not to love?
      Sorry about the photo; we rather liked it: the artist in her cozy, art-filled habitat and favorite chair. Sorry you didn’t it. (Publisher Jock from UNC)

  2. A little better…thx. The person that I met & interviewed me was Mary Yount but Caroline Hudson wrote the piece? I’ll be in-touch once I get back home. Email is difficult from this place. Best, Em

Comments are closed.