Where To Go For African American Arts in Durham

Sherri Holmes is the Founder and Director of the Triangle Friends of African American Arts, an organization that strives to expand awareness, understanding, and support of African and African-American arts.

Posted By Sherri Holmes on Apr 26, 2017

Last week I was driving to work listening to the radio and an announcer said that Vogue magazine had just named the hippest city in North Carolina. Even before she told us, I knew the answer. Durham! In addition to the restaurants and historic districts mentioned in the Vogue article, I believe that African-American arts are an important part of Durham’s status as a mecca for culture.

Here are some of my top picks:

The Art of Cool Project | The Art of Cool Project is a non-profit organization that considers itself “the rhythm of the Bull City that connects music and art to people." From April 28-30, they are hosting the Art of Cool Festival, which will feature over 60 performers and presenters.

Great jazz venues | Beyu Caffé, The Shed Jazz Club, and the Durham Jazz Workshop are all wonderful places to enjoy a jazz performance. In addition to great music, The Shed Jazz Club and Durham Jazz Workshop both present educational programs, and you can enjoy a great meal at the Beyu Caffé while listening to music.


Art museums and galleries | The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University features a diverse contemporary art collection and exhibitions. Tour the Nina Chanel Abney: The Royal Flush exhibit, on view until July 16. There are several other art galleries that feature artists of African descent. From April 26 until May 7, The Carrack Modern Art is presenting Andre Leon Gray’s exhibition no polite disguise. From July 13 until August 6, the Pleaides Gallery is presenting Truth to Power 5, a community show about matters of social justice.

Moogfest| From May 18-20, there’s Moogfest, a music, art, and technology festival. It features amazing concerts and workshops. One of the festival’s program themes is Black Quantum Futurism which is an “intersectional theory and practice combining quantum physics, futurist traditions, and Black and African diasporic cultural traditions of consciousness, time, and space”. It is too, too cool.

Durham Symphony Orchestra | That’s right. An orchestra. Led by Maestro William Henry Curry, every year they have a wonderful concert that features African-American composers and performers. On May 21, they are presenting A Tribute to Nina Simone at the Hayti Heritage Center.

A post shared by Blackspace (@thespaceblack) on

Hayti Heritage Center | An African-American cultural center, Hayti presents a film festival and blues festival annually. It is also home of the Jambalaya Soul Slam, a monthly competition that features some of the best poets in the country.

Top-Notch Universities | Both Duke University and North Carolina Central University (NCCU) present amazing concerts and dramatic performances throughout the year. NCCU hosts an annual jazz festival each April.

World-class theaters | Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) and the Carolina Theatre both present a diverse mix of phenomenal performers. From August 1 - 6, DPAC is presenting Motown: The Musical. On May 16, Robert Randolph & The Family Band take the stage at Carolina Theatre, performing a dynamic fusion of rock, funk, soul, and jazz.

For more information about these and other African-American art exhibitions, performances, and special events, go to africanamericanarts.org.

About the Author

Sherri Holmes