DURHAM — There was something new in front of the Durham County Courthouse and at the corner of Foster and Corporation streets Monday morning.
Two more big installations are going up at American Tobacco and CCB Plaza on Wednesday. Then eight more, across downtown, on Thursday.
On Friday night, a party open to all will officially commence the six-month Bull City Sculpture Show.
“It’s really kind of a gift to Durham,” said Denise Schreiner, who is on the board of the nonprofit Liberty Arts, which is sponsoring the city’s first-of-its-kind exhibition.
Liberty Arts studio, created in 2000 as a spinoff of Durham Central Park, has organized and found funding to join “national players in the arts scene,” according to Durham sculptor Michael Waller, whom Schreiner credits with proposing the project in the first place.
“We’re turning the city into a gallery,” he said.
For the show, Liberty Arts is bringing in a dozen sculptures from as close by as Carrboro and as far off as Florida, Maine and Michigan, and putting them on display for six months – mostly along the Blackwell-Foster Street corridor, from American Tobacco past Durham Central Park.
“We were looking for something that would put our stamp on something big in the city,” Waller said.
Liberty Arts spread word of the show through the international magazine Sculptor, through informal artists’ networks and directly to “all the arts councils we could possibly get hold of,” said Liberty Arts President Jackie MacLeod.
Durham architect Phil Freelon picked the 12 sculptures from the sculptors’ applications, which Liberty Arts encouraged with $2,500 stipends.
Waller and his wife, sculptor Leah Foushee Waller, created “Major,” the bronze bull that stands at CCB Plaza. “Major” was cast in the Hill Pavilion from molds they fashioned in Liberty Arts’ former studio adjoining the pavilion in the Liberty Warehouse.
The Wallers developed the idea for a major exhibition to show off the sculptor’s art and promote public art. Other Liberty artists and supporters liked the idea and began raising money. They had about $20,000, Waller said, when the Liberty Warehouse roof collapsed in May 2011.
Liberty Arts and the other artists and nonprofits that rented room there were forced to pack up and move out quickly.
Setting up the new studio, which opened in May 2012, took all the money raised for the sculpture show. Still, when Waller raised the idea to the Liberty Arts board again, “we all wanted to do this,” MacLeod said.
An online campaign brought $25,000, and businesses and the city chipped in, raising the total to $65,000, MacLeod said. Waller said the board, staff and others also have put in “tens of thousands of thousands of hours” gratis.
“We’re not making a dime,” he said. “It’s a gift.”