GoDurham, Duke partner on art campaign that highlights two viruses: COVID and racism

GoDurham, Duke partner on art campaign that highlights two viruses: COVID and racism

DURHAM (JAN. 20, 2021) – The windows of Durham Station have become the latest canvas for a powerful national art initiative that seeks to emphasize the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color and to encourage public discussion about the virus and its toll.

The Nasher Museum, in collaboration with Duke Arts and Duke Health, began presenting the national RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! campaign last fall. “TAKE 6” refers to the recommended feet of distance that people should keep from one another to try to slow the spread of the virus.

“In the guise of a marketing campaign, this artwork fights two viruses: COVID-19 and systemic racism,” says John Brown, vice provost for the arts at Duke University.

Carrie Mae Weems, a nationally renowned artist who won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2013, created the campaign, which features banners, street signs, posters and window clings. Installations first appeared in Durham on the exteriors of the Nasher Museum and Rubenstein Arts Center and have expanded into more than 40 other public spaces so far.

The installation at Durham Station was completed this week.

“When Duke approached us about participating in this important public service campaign, we answered with a resounding yes,” says Sean Egan, director of Durham’s Transportation Department. “This pandemic has reminded us repeatedly what a critical part GoDurham plays in our community as our heroic workers have shown up day in and day out on the frontlines to transport our essential workers and our vulnerable neighbors to the places they need to go. We deeply appreciate that this piece of art particularly acknowledges our public transit heroes.”

Among the nearly 3,800 active cases of COVID-19 in Durham County in December, 39 percent were African-Americans, 27 percent white residents and 22 percent Hispanic or Latinx people. About 54 percent of the county’s residents are white.

“At Duke Health, we’ve been privileged to care for our community through unprecedented times, and we have seen firsthand the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has had on frontline workers throughout our state,” says A. Eugene Washington, M.D., chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System. “We are proud to partner with the Nasher and Duke Arts to present this powerful work by Carrie Mae Weems, which shines a light on these essential and valued members of our community.”

Many of the art pieces feature photographs with reminders such as “Don’t worry. We’ll hold hands again,” “A little distance goes a long way” and “COVID-19 is not a joke!”

The work of art on Durham Station, “Thank the Workers of the World,” lists bus operators, delivery people and store clerks, among other workers. Posters from the exhibition will be installed inside Durham buses.

“RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! started out as a couple of banners and grew to more than 40 locations around Duke and Durham,” says Marshall N. Price, the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum. “This outdoor exhibition helps to combat misperceptions about the COVID-19 virus, celebrates frontline workers and raises issues of public health and racial inequities. As COVID numbers rise in North Carolina, we hope we can help raise awareness of this persistent and dangerous disease.”

As part of the campaign, members of the Durham arts community have distributed hundreds of small art pieces, such as yard signs, buttons, bags, magnets and stickers, across Durham.

The installation at Durham Station also includes posters and sidewalk clings with QR codes that invite members of the community to respond to the campaign.

Find out more about the project here.

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