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Durham's Culture Crawl


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Durham's Culture Crawl is alive and kicking. More than 30 artists, gallery owners, performers, residents and city boosters met at Blue Coffee Café last Wednesday to discuss the future of downtown Durham's monthly art walk since the departure of Joe & Jo's pub owner JoAnne Worthington last November.

Under her care, the event had been free-form, a little different each month depending on which galleries, businesses and artists participated. Roylee Duvall, owner of Through This Lens photography gallery, agrees with most of the people in the room that the "organic" approach works for Durham. "The more variation and the more change, the better." But he worries that the word "crawl" sounds demeaning. (Huh? We just assumed it meant there would be beer.)

Dan Ellison, a copyright attorney who owns the Durham Arts Place on East Chapel Hill Street, home to artist studios and Transom Gallery, reluctantly led the meeting. "Who do we feel like Culture Crawl is meant to be for?" Ellison asked. "I'm happy for it to be about artists getting together. Is that who we want it to be for? Is it a party?"

Or is its goal to sell art, or sell food, or get people onto the sidewalks of downtown Durham on Friday nights? How can performing arts groups, such as the Indecision Theater, draw an audience from the moving crowd?

"I see it mostly as an economic development tool," said Joy Mickle, the city's recently hired downtown development coordinator. She pledged resources to support the event in whatever form it might take, but said city officials could not take on the organizing role. Matthew Coppedge from Downtown Durham Incorporated made a similar offer, pledging to cover the cost of Web site domain registration and hosting if someone from the community would administrate it.

The conversation continues on the ABCD Durham e-mail list (groups.yahoo.com/group/ABCDdurham), but one decision was unanimous: This Friday's Culture Crawl will go on from 6 to 9 p.m., with Branch Gallery, the Scrap Exchange and Through This Lens among the confirmed venues participating. We might also see the Scene of the Crime Rovers, Durham's off-beat marching band, and perhaps a little tap-dancing from the Footnotes Tap Ensemble. (And there will be beer, right?)


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