Satellite Park Launches at the Duke Arts Annex

With the semester racing to a close, my big chance to get out and about this weekend (before diving back into final projects and TA grading) was a Saturday afternoon walk to check out a cool renovation of some previously abandoned structures:

The Duke Arts Annex, which I didn’t know existed prior to Saturday (but which turned out to be just a 10 minute walk from where I live), was opened in 2012 in a former telecommunications facility tucked into the neighborhood between East and West campuses. The facility apparently used to broadcast Duke educational programming; these satellite dishes and signal tower were installed in the early 1990s but were shut down less than a decade later as the Internet took off. Mural Durham, which works with several Duke groups to support and document large-scale public art around town, hosted a free festival there this weekend to show off what’s been done to the dishes by a series of local artists commissioned to work in the space (now being referred to as Satellite Park):

The artists were out putting color or finishing touches on their creations all afternoon:

My companion and I got the chance to talk to to one of the painters for a few minutes. The dish below was decorated by Cornelio Campos, a local artist who came to the U.S. as a teenager decades ago and has lived in Durham since the early 1990s, watching the city grow and change. On the front and back, his work reflects indigenous designs from his native state of Michoacán:

Note the fine scribbles in blue imitating cracked pottery glaze on the back side:

The restored building that the Arts Annex occupies has been significantly decorated as well:

As a result, I learned that the North Carolina state motto is esse quam videri – Latin for to be, rather than to seem:

The cardinal, the state bird, makes a number of appearances around the site as well:

I was particularly fond of this cardinal, which also pays subtle tribute to North Carolina’s occasionally contested status as ‘First in Flight’:

A few local vendors, including nearby restaurants, artisans and the local grocery co-op, were out on the scene either serving lunch outside or offering samples in the building:

Inside the Annex are spaces for working on projects, and for some of the free arts workshops held for Duke students, staff, faculty and local community members throughout the school year (which I didn’t know about prior to visiting the space!) These apparently range from ceramics and painting to music and dance:

This fox was poetry busking in front of some student art:

There’s a second building on the property that doesn’t appear to have been fully restored yet.

I’m not sure what the relationship will be between this Annex space and the new Rubenstein arts building that just opened up down the road, but it seems like they occupy slightly different niches.

I’ll definitely be headed back here as soon as I can to learn how to throw clay on a pottery wheel and to soak in some color.