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Central Park South

Texture and contrast in Durham's evolving downtown district

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Foster Street, the physical and metaphorical gateway to downtown Durham, runs through the middle of the newly coined "Central Park District." Originating at the edge of the historic Old North Durham neighborhood, it feeds right into the heart of the city.

This street is comfortably familiar to me. It takes me to the YMCA, to my studio space, to my favorite movie theater. Over the years that I've lived in this city, I've become increasingly attracted to the jumbled landscape of this particular street and surrounding area.

The emergence of Durham Central Park has been slow but steady. Durham Central Park School for Children is flourishing, and early this year, Branch Gallery opened its doors. More importantly, alongside the shiny new neighbors, low-rent artist studios and half-century-old businesses are still truckin' along. But it was the mutual respect between diverse members of this community that really drew me in once I set out exploring the district with my camera.

Durham's aesthetic might best be expressed by the idea of wabi-sabi. It's the Japanese recognition of beauty in imperfection and acceptance of constant flux. There is beauty in impermanence. It's a kind of beauty that takes time to reveal itself, but Durham's cracks and flaws do give way to creativity, diversity and respect.

The pace of change on Foster Street may be the ticket to maintaining a balance between preservation and development. This ongoing photo project is a way to preserve this stage of an ever-evolving downtown space--a snapshot of Durham's humility and harmony.

These photos are part of a larger work-in-progress by Lissa Gotwals to be exhibited this fall.

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