Beechwood and Maplewood Cemeteries
Project BACKGROUND & Public Art Amenities
As the City of Durham improves public amenities through the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) projects, the Cultural & Public Art Program has the opportunity to provide public art amenities for Beechwood and Maplewood Cemeteries. For the FY 2020-25 CIP, capital projects are funded through impact fees, enterprise funds, grants, the capital project fund, pay-go funding, and debt financings. More information about the CIP process and funding can be found here.
Based on the needs of the cemetery through on-site staff feedback, Beechwood will feature art-informed benches near the main entrance, and Maplewood will feature handrails for the space where ashes of passed loved ones may be laid to rest. The public art amenities will provide appropriate upgrades for residents of the community and visitors of the cemeteries. In order to provide the artists with a vision and themes, we are asking residents and visitors to share your stories of Beechwood Cemetery and Maplewood Cemetery. Artists were selected from the Pre-Qualified Artists Registry by a panel of community members, groundskeepers, cemetery administrative staff, and Public Art Committee members. For more information about how to apply to the Pre-Qualified Artist Registry, please visit the Cultural & Public Art Program’s website, here: https://durhamnc.gov/2984/Durham-Calls-for-Artists.
The City of Durham established Maplewood Cemetery in 1872 and Beechwood in 1924. Maplewood Cemetery is located at 1621 Duke University Rd, and Beechwood Cemetery is located at 3300 Fayetteville Street (next to White Rock Baptist Church). Both cemeteries offer burial options for traditional full burials as well as cremations. Both cemeteries feature beautiful views, veterans’ sections, flat markers, upright headstones, and mausoleums. Information regarding burial services is available upon request. We invite residents and visitors to see the cemeteries--visit anytime or call (919) 560-4156 to set up a guided tour.
For more information on City-owned Cemeteries, please visit the City’s website: https://durhamnc.gov/737/Cemeteries-Management.
Community Conversations & Survey
The public had the opportunity to meet the artists and share their thoughts about the project during a virtual, drop-in meetings in addition to sharing their thoughts through an online survey. The community drop-in sessions were held on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 and Monday, January 25, 2021.
Artists Selection Process
The artists selected to complete the Beechwood and Maplewood Cemeteries Public Art Amenities projects are Jackie MacLeod, Whitney Hunt and Jose Pereira. The project used the Pre-Qualified Artist Registry application process. From the pool of applicants, a panel of community members, artists, and City staff reviewed the artists’ applications and selection the artists.
The Pre-Qualified Artist Registry has a rolling deadline for other upcoming public art projects. Apply today!
The City of Durham’s Cultural and Public Art Program invites artists and artist teams to submit portfolios to be selected to join the City of Durham Pre-Qualified Artist Registry. This registry serves as a resource for the program’s selection of artists and artist teams to create City cultural and public art projects. Candidates must either identify as or partner with a professional artist, designer, or fabricator, eligible to work in the United States, and age 18 and older. The City encourages people from diverse backgrounds to apply. Candidates are eligible regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, gender identification, military status, sexual orientation, marital status, or physical ability. All applications must be in digital format and include an artist statement, photos of previous work, a personal resume(s), and references.
Full submission guidelines, project details, and submission portal are available here.
The NorthStar Bench
Jackie MacLeod and Whitney Hunt
Glass fiber reinforced concrete, copper, and steel
72 inches x 81 inches
North Star Bench Description
In the artists own words...
The North Star Bench is inspired by Emma Henderson. As a freed woman after Emancipation, she worked at Stagville as a sharecropper for her former master. One day he called for her and accused her of insolence. She told him: ”My skin is as white as yours, my hair is as straight as yours and now I am quite as free as you.” With these words she turned and walked away to start a new life in Durham with her family. Emma was able to leave Stagville in daylight as a free woman, but many before her ran at night with only the North Star serving as guide.
The solid circular bench gives way to tubing that rises from its center to support a shade structure in the shape of the North Star. The North Star is domed with angled flat surfaces. The sheet metal that is framed to create the domed star shape will be perforated by hand-shaped cutouts in a variety of sizes. The shape of the Northstar will be cast, as a shadow, onto the bench and its surrounding as the sun moves during the day. The hand-shaped cut outs will reflect on the bench and the ground around the bench and also move throughout the day. These handprints are inspired by the imprints of knuckles and thumbs that were found in original brick and mortar at Stagville.
3300 Fayetteville St.
Durham, NC 27707
The NorthStar Bench is dedicated to the African American Community of Durham, North Carolina, in admiration of their resilience, creativity, and leadership.
Inspired by my surroundings, I use steel, bronze, brass, copper, concrete and wood to create art that reflects the random beauty of imperfection I see in nature. Often, this creativity leads me down surprising paths that I openly embrace and explore as it allows me to continuously grow as an artist.
The magic of patinas and the juxtaposition of strength and malleability of metal fuels my creative process.
My most recent work, installed in outdoor and indoor spaces, explores the infinite multitude of possible reactions of copper and brass to patinas. This exploration, along with the collaboration and connection with my clients, allows me to express myself in ways that results in art and speaks to their wishes and emotions.
I look forward to hearing the community’s stories, thoughts and ideas for the public art-informed bench at the Beechwood Cemetery and, in turn, creating art that reflects our shared vision.
As a self-taught artist, I have explored many media. I have broad experience with wood, acrylic painting, ceramic, charcoal/graphite drawings, graphic design and, most recently, have added pyrography, epoxy and glass. I enjoy experimenting with all these different types of media as combining them in different ways offers me the ability to express a unique flavor of design. My pieces range from abstract design to expressional wildlife.
Wildlife fascinates me, because animals do not speak a language we can understand. They are a mystery and have to be observed and studied in order for us to even have an idea of them. That is the very reason I enjoy incorporating animals into my art. They remind me that there is another world out there. It is refreshing and inspiring to step away from our world and to spend time focusing on another.
As someone, who has family members resting in the Beechwood Cemetery, I find this project to be very meaningful. I am most excited to hear the stories in the community and to help translate those stories into a beautiful art piece.
To view the initial designs by Jackie MacLeod and Whitney Hunt, please click here. The artist team worked with the community and stakeholders to refine the designs and selected the North Star Bench as the final design for the installation.
Jackie MacLeod and Whitney Hunt developed the three design concepts working with community members and stakeholders beginning in October 2020. The artists have shared their thoughts on the process: “Throughout this process, we have visited Beechwood and Maplewood cemeteries, the Stagville State Historic Site, met in our studio and other artists’ working spaces, chatted on zoom and in person and shared design details online. Delving into the African American history of Durham, we found ourselves discussing the attributes inherent in this vibrant community, which continue to be demonstrated and embraced again and again. The attributes--resilience, enterprise, creativity, literacy, workmanship, independence and leadership--became the foundation of our inspiration and designs and formed our connections to this part of Durham’s history. We would like to dedicate each design to the resilience of people of color in America and in particular, the City of Durham.”
For information about the public art project, please contact the Cultural & Public Art Program staff here: