Unify dynamic community districts through art – the first major public art work of the Durham SmART Vision Plan

Olalekan Jeyifous is further explaining the concept of the project after his presentation. (Staff photo by Yizhou Jiang)


Durham Arts Council hosted a “Meet the Artist Open House & Discussion” on Friday in its art gallery at 120 Morris Street in downtown Durham where the artist selected to create the monumental Art Wrap for the Corcoran Street Garage was invited to talk about his concept designs and artistic vision for this project.

The Corcoran Street Garage, owned by Durham of City, was built in 1964, and is a significant construction in the downtown historic district. The creation of the monumental Art Wrap for the garage is the first major public artwork of the Durham SmART Vision Plan, a multi-year public art and urban design strategy supported by over 26 state and national partners.

The plan will connect three distinct districts -American Tobacco, City Center and Durham Central Park – along the North-South corridor.

The effect rendering of the garage during nighttime with illustration of main elements. (Staff photo by Yizhou Jiang)

Aiming at promoting arts-driven economic development projects that transform downtown, the SmART Vision Plan envisions an art-infused and dynamic corridor that provides pedestrians with an exhilarating experience where they will be appealed to stay and visit multiple locations along the corridor regardless of time.

“The SmART Plan focuses on transformation of pedestrian visual experience since the city is changing so quickly,” said Jean Greer, the arts consultant and researcher of the project.

Olalekan Jeyifous is a Nigerian-born artist, architect and designer from Brooklyn, New York. Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Cornell University, he has created major sculptures, designs, murals, installations, and public art for clients, events and exhibitions throughout the country.

His design stood out from 107 artist applications from across the United States, and he will oversee fabrication and installation of large-scale art banners that are planned to wrap the exterior south and southeast facades of the garage.

“For this proposal, my inspiration derived from my desire to reinforce the objectives of the Durham SmART Vision Plan, to transform the three districts into a vibrant cultural destination,” said Jeyifous.

During the first time Jeyifous visited Durham, he walked around the neighborhood and took many photos, observing the surroundings and feeling the atmosphere.

He said he enjoyed exploring a community through walking on foot since it allowed him to experience closely with the local vibes.

“I like the diversity of Durham and its strong sense of community,” Jeyifous said.

He applied his observation to the designing framework. He describes his design as “an exuberant and continuous panoramic tapestry that transitions through very succinct distillations of Durham’s iconic architectural typologies, industrial fixtures, developing skyline, and sculptural-garden elements that draw on the technique and aesthetic of local artisans.”

For the color choice, Jeyifous used a bright and colorful palette mainly composed of primary colors to create a bold and eye-catching imagery that appears differently at certain angles. The vivid colors also reflect the vibrancy of the community.

Jeyifous said his favorite part of the project is the element of a brick wall symbolizing the American Tobacco area, and it actually serves as the anchor of the whole piece.

“I like the purpose of the project the most,” said Deniqua Crichlow, Jeyifous’s college-mate who came to the event to see him. “He incorporated his own experience in the design and I’m looking forward to the final production.”

The project is expected to complete installation by next spring.