Over fifteen years ago Durham resident and UNC School of the Arts graduate, Artie Barksdale lead the creation of “Los Amo, One Love,” a colorful community-painted mural that was once the gleaming face of the Los Primos Supermarket (located on the corner of Alston Avenue and East Main Street in Durham). Barksdale was invited by the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC to lead the mural project. It was one of many aspects of the Center’s “Listening for a Change” initiative in which they explored the impacts of the growing Latino population in the northeast central neighborhoods of Durham. The initiative focused specifically on themes of assimilation, ethnic and political identity, entrepreneurial activity, the immigrant experience, as well as retaining community traditions and relationships to home and country.
Barksdale’s mural design sought to illustrate this cross-cultural experience. It was his hope that through the process of painting the mural, and later through the stories and images depicted, that he could spark conversations and break down barriers between members of the community. In a playful typographic style, Barksdale placed the emblematic words of “Los Amo – One Love” in the mural. When translated to English, “los amo” means “I love them” expressing the murals themes of unity and altruism. In 2015, sadly, the mural was painted one solid shade of cream; its history and messages were erased in just a few strokes of a roller.
This issue of losing cultural assets to the personal tastes of business owners, politicians, and community members is not unique to Durham. All over the United States there is a constant challenge in preserving public works of art. In confronting this issue communities, artists, museums, and other groups have stepped in to help with funding, creating educational programs, and providing regular physical and cultural maintenance of the work. In Durham the Nasher Museum, Preservation Durham, and the Museum of Durham History have created a new bicycle tour series of outdoor murals. The tours will take bike, history, and /or art enthusiasts on an adventure in which they will visit a diverse list of murals located right here in Durham. This new tour series may not be able to bring back the “Los Amos, One Love” mural, but it can certainly help bring awareness to the growing needs of others (like Black Wall Street painted by Emily Weinstein).
I had the great pleasure of researching a number of the murals selected for the tour series, and the stories of each have truly instilled in me a greater sense of pride for my university’s hometown. I encourage anyone reading this blog post to join the Nasher Museum and its partners on the fourth Saturday of each month from May through November for one or more of these tours. They will surely have a lasting impact on you as the research did on me.
About the writer:
Maiya Aiba is an Art, Art History & Visual Studies major at Duke University. She spent her junior year working as a curatorial intern under the guidance of exhibitions and publications manager, Reneé Cagnina Haynes. She is also an active member of MUSE, a student-lead event planning and advisory board with the Nasher Museum of Art.
[Photos by Naundi Armour of the Durham Voice]