Placemaking at HeadquARTers

Police-Community Connections Through Art and Culture


1. Why was Durham Police Headquarters and Durham Emergency Communications Center selected as a site for public art? The City of Durham recognizes that public art has the potential to create a unique sense of place for residents and visitors. The construction of the City’s first purpose-built police headquarters and 911 center presented a timely and unique opportunity to explore the idea   of public artworks that encourage positive law  enforcement and community engagement, and promote the rich heritage, diversity, and character of Durham. In addition, the complex is located at   the gateway to downtown from east Durham and is adjacent to a major thoroughfare connected to Durham’s historic Hayti community.

2. What works of public art are featured at Durham Police Headquarters and Durham Emergency Communications Center?  Who are the artists? Three public artworks were installed in July 2019 - two interior pieces and one exterior. RE:site artist team of Norman Lee and Shane Albritton are the  creators of Woven Shield and Sewing Peace. Durham artist David Wilson created Culture of Transparency. Each artwork uniquely expresses a theme of common threads and the weaving together of ethnicities and cultural traditions.

Woven Shield is an exterior sculpture near the main entrance that is made of stainless steel, sculptured rods coated with industrial paints of various hues. It measures 12 ft. high and sits on 6 ft. plinth. The sculpture depicts the police officer’s shield dynamically formed by three intersecting elements that symbolize the  community, the police, and the historical Hayti police converging into a singular radiant gesture.

Presented in headquarters’ three story atrium is Sewing Peace, a multi-dimensional 22 ft. x 10 ft. wall art that appears from afar as a large, hanging colorful quilt. Word heddles threaded with blue, red, or gold cords form an excerpt from the police Oath of Office for an effect that is dramatic and readable as one views the artwork from below.

Culture of Transparency is a mixed media collage mural created on laminated poly-carbonate and measures 7'x19'. The work is an endlessly-layered, brilliantly-colored fusion of Durham’s diversity through facial silhouettes. Inspired by multiple community engagement sessions, the mural is a collaborative response to the question "What  Does Peace Look Like?" by artist David Wilson. Wilson partnered with Durham Tech and the City of Durham to connect art and understanding. Myth and metaphor are explored through contemporary quilt-like patterns, shapes, and elements of Durham's skyline and unique architecture. The contour of the Durham  Police Department shield anchors the center. Motorists and pedestrians passing headquarters’ Main Street facade can peer through the wall of corridor windows leading to the Special Services Division to view this contemporary, community-inspired public art addition.

4. What is the cost of the public artworks at Durham Police Headquarters and Durham Emergency Communications Center? The public art pieces were paid for from the project’s  Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Funding approved by City Council. On November 6, 2017, City Council authorized the City Manager to execute contracts for Public Art and Placemaking at the Police Headquarters Complex in the amount of $200,000. The second contract in an amount of $25,000 was recommended to Council and funded through the CIP budget as well.

5. How many artists responded to project’s Request for Qualifications (RFQ)? City of Durham General  Services received 182 submissions from artists around the world. To narrow the field of candidates, a multi-stage pre-jurying process was implemented. 

6. How was the community involved in the process? Durham residents, Cultural Advisory Board Public Art Subcommittee representatives, and community members were involved throughout. Community participation starting with the artist selection pre-jurying process in January 2018 to the culminating celebratory event on July 30, 2019. Of particular note are the following:

The Artist Selection Committee included local design and architectural agency professionals; business owners in the direct vicinity; artists and arts organizations administrators;  police department and City department liaisons; and citizen group representatives. Committee members participated in rounds of submissions review, and interviews at the semi-finals and finals stages, to help the City identify artists with the best qualifications to design, fabricate, and install public art for the project.

Three Public Art Community Engagement Sessions were hosted by Durham Technical Community College to engage participants in focused discussion on diversity, racial equity, inclusion and peace. Artist David Wilson, and Durham Tech facilitators Angela Davis and Constanza Gomez-Joines, worked with a group of intergenerational community members that represent the inherent diversity in Durham. The group was composed of members from the LatinX community, African Americans, Whites, Muslims, refugees, neighborhood residents of subsidized housing, students from Durham Tech’s Associate in Fine Arts program, and Durham police employees. Artist Norman Lee also participated in the initial engagement session.

New HQ Art Finalists Selection10
New HQ Artist Selection Semi-Finals13
New HQ Artist Selection Semi-Finals11
New HQ Artist Selection Semi-Finals04
Session 2 (2)
HQ Artist DPD Visit  (18)
Session 1 Art Engagement Session (9)
Session 1 Art Engagement Session (8)
Session 1 Art Engagement Session (4)
Session 1 Art Engagement Session (2)

7. Were police (and 911 employees) involved in the process in additional ways? Yes. Police department command staff, police employees and 911 employees were invited to “Meet and Greet the Artist Teams” sessions in March 2018 to help guide the artists in their proposed ideas and design work.  Participants were encouraged to ask questions and to share their ideas. Throughout the process, the police department Public Affairs Unit worked closely with General Services’ Public Art, Culture and Sustainable Communities unit to coordinate administrative dialogue and meetings, promotions, logistics and event planning. 

8. What is the role of the City’s Cultural Advisory Board? The City’s Cultural Advisory Board is ultimately charged with providing advice to the City Council and the City Manager on commissioned public art works and to advise on whether works offered for donation should be accepted by the City. The Cultural Advisory Board’s Public Art Subcommittee is designated to carry out these two functions, and to make recommendations to the Cultural Advisory Board. The Public Art Committee is made up of a diverse group of residents, including professional artists and professionals in related fields, such as architecture and landscape architecture and members of the general public with knowledge or experience in public art projects or related activities. The Committee actively seeks diverse members of the population to encourage broad community participation. Committee members must live or work in Durham, with priority given to city residents. 

9. Does the Durham Police Department have additional plans for “placemaking” through  the arts and culture? Yes. As funding and human resources allow the Public Affairs Unit anticipates creating professional displays of the department’s history, operations and services. Police Public Affairs is seeking viable collaborations that will culminate in rotating photography, paintings and/or wall art exhibits to further energize and enhance the public areas and secured work spaces in police headquarters.

In addition, police have launched a “Take a Book, Leave a Book” outreach program. Children and adults visiting headquarters, or who live nearby, can take a book from an eye-catching mini library at police headquarters’ Main Street entrance.  They are free to sit outside and read, or inside while waiting for accompanying adults to transact business, or take the book home. Visitors can also leave age and theme appropriate books in the mini library.

10. Who do I contact if I have additional questions about placemaking at police headquarters?

Kimberle Walker, Senior Public Affairs Specialist

Durham Police Department

Office of the Chief, Police Public Affairs Unit

(919) 560-4322 ext. 29194

Visit to learn more about the Durham Public Art Program.