Black Wall Street Gardens


0004The City of Durham’s Cultural and Public Art Program and the Public Art Committee have select the African-American artist team, David Wilson and Stephen Hayes to design, fabricate and install public art in the Black Wall Street Gardens, a greenspace located at 102 W. Main Street. The public artwork will commemorate and illuminate the importance of Black Wall Street and the legacy of Durham’s African-American business community.  The plaza has undergone lighting, landscaping, and walkway improvements to further enhance the greenspace as a pedestrian-friendly gathering space. Two walkways traverse the greenspace and provides a space for moveable seating, tables, and the future site for the Black Wall Street permanent art installation.

David Wilson is a Durham-based artist who explores the connection between architecture, nature and the public. The story of community and place is the primary driver of his installations is the narration. The Durham-based artist serves as Public Art Consultant for Go-Triangle, assisting in the creation of original art for new transit shelters throughout Durham. Stephen Hayes recently received a Master of Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design, whose power sculptural work has been exhibited in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and the Nasher Museum at Duke University. 

Image above: Potential locations within Black Wall Street Gardens, located at  the corner of W. Parrish St., W. Main St., and N. Mangum St., are depicted with blue triangles. 

Artists Statements

Stephen Hayes, Pyramid

“BWS [Black Wall Street] Pyramid is a reflection on the evolution and the past of Black Wall Street through the imagery and text on the top half of the brushed aluminum pyramid. Viewers will be able to reflect on past pioneers that helped build Black Wall Street and the architecture.  

The top half of the pyramid will also have some what of a mirror finish to show the current environment and buildings through the imagery. The bottom half of the pyramid will be bronze relief casting [using] peoples’ hands from the community, that will also have engraved text that reflects on the close knit economic community of then and the current environment.  

This sculpture is kinetic and asks for interaction with the viewers. Be that through allowing the viewer to turn [the pyramid] and look at the past and present environment at the same time, or by allowing [the viewer] to do rubbings off of the text.  

The work that I am interested in creating is not only to connect the environment and the architecture, but also to connect with the viewers and the human touch.” 

*Rubbings is an artistic technique where the texture of a surface is captured by placing a piece of paper or similar material over the subject and then rubbing the paper with something to deposit marks, most commonly charcoal or pencil.  

David Wilson, Book Tree  

"I look forward to partnering with Stephen Hayes on public art for the Black Wall Street Gardens, downtown Durham. Our approach to public art is to create for interpretation by all. Our goal is to foster introspection, education and communication.  

My work for the past 20 years has focused on revealing aspects of history, and its profound impact on contemporary culture today. I find myself continually returning to those aspects that are often hidden or misrepresented in the recorded narratives. As a result of varied and diverse community engagement sessions, Durham’s Black Wall Street history began to unfold. This “unfolding” served as inspirational context of the work that I propose to create.  

My primary goal is that the work has impact on the relationship to the viewer. “Book Tree” is a multi-faceted installation featuring an abstract representation of a tree. I have chosen a form that employs multiple elements that intrigue and inspire the viewer while interacting with the adjacent environment. Symmetry is achieved in the work via opposing sides of the same size. Movement is achieved through interaction with the hinged elements and afford the viewer an opportunity to actively participate in the narrative of Black Wall Street’s vibrant and thriving community.  

“Book Tree” is a multi-layered sculpture weaving patches and patterns of stories, narrating lesser know events that were instrumental in Black Wall Street’s rise to notoriety. Metaphorically, the lives of this once close knit economic community, and their subsequent “recovery” from extreme bouts of racism, line the pages of the kinetic elements that convert the piece from a static, stationary object on display to a living, speaking work of public art.  

The use of materials in my work is loosely calculated to its connection with the surrounding environment including, landscaping, architecture and pedestrian/vehicular traffic. I am often looking for unexpected plays of contrasting-complimentary textures, colors, and finishes. I like to include images or things you might or might not expect. Combinations that provoke a participant to new and perhaps unexplored identities is a primary driver."

Design Concept

The general and specific design features will: 

  • Honor achievements of African American women in business and education during early 20th century
  • Highlight social change that laid the foundation for what became Black Wall Street
  • Celebrate African American ingenuity and entrepreneurship

The actual look and feel of each sculpture emerged in a way that is thematically tied to Black Wall Street’s unique history. The diversity of materials used (e.g. metal, bronze, photographs) will metaphorically speak to the strength, foundation, and adaptability of Durham’s African American community. The artists team collaboration and community conversations has resulted in the development of Book Tree and Pyramid, with correlating elements that unites the two pieces through physical materials and storytelling.  

For the high-resolution PDF design concepts, please click the links below: 

Book Tree - View One

Book Tree - View Two


Book Tree (View One)

BWSG_Book_Tree_View one

Book Tree (View Two)

BWSG_Book_Tree_View two




For information about the public art project, please contact the Cultural & Public Art Program staff here: 

Alexandra Benson
Cultural & Public Arts Program Assistant
Phone: 919-560-4197, ext. 21238

Rebecca Brown
Cultural & Public Arts Program Manager
Phone: 919-560-4197, ext. 21245.