Durham, NC — A beleaguered neighborhood in Durham, hit hard by the coronavirus, is celebrating completion of a unique community mural started back in early 2019 and now coming to completion on Sunday, November 8th at 4pm. In fact, it is the largest mural in Durham at 2,760 square feet.
The mural project, led by Durham based artists Cornelio Campos and Estephani Sanchez in collaboration with nonprofits El Futuro and the Scrap Exchange, is the result of an amazing journey.
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation launched the Inclusive Public Art Initiative in 2018 and selected 10 projects statewide to open the door to community conversations and share stories of diversity, equality and inclusion as they relate to the people and places of North Carolina, especially those whose stories are often untold. Maurice “Mo” Green, director of the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation, says: “It’s so inspiring and humbling to witness the work of all who contributed to make this project a reality.”
Indeed, it was a community effort involving hundreds of neighbors who came together, after work and on weekends, to help design and paint a mural that is 30 feet high and stretches an impressive 150 feet down the entire length of the El Futuro nonprofit mental health clinic, part of the revitalized Lakewood Shopping Center in Durham. The mural stands as a tribute to the legacy of the Lakewood area and incorporates elements of the newest immigrant neighbors who have moved to the area.
“When we selected Lakewood for our clinic, we intentionally found a site with an adjacent green space area that we could develop into a therapeutic garden,” said Dr. Luke Smith, director and lead psychiatrist of El Futuro. “Art is an important part of healing for many people and through the Inclusive Public Art project we witnessed how art can bring people together in community and build relationships.”
The mural features a Mayan sun on one end and the Statue of Liberty on the other with a multitude of vibrant colors and symbolism throughout, each anchored in contributions from community members and rich with significance.
The therapeutic garden and green space at the foot of the mural features a 100-foot-long recycling stream with climbing rocks, small waterfalls and interactive features including a fire hydrant gushing water. The space is due to open to the general public later this year following local and state guidelines to adhere to coronavirus health and safety measures.
The mission of El Futuro is to nurture stronger familias to live out their dreams through providing culturally appropriate mental health and substance use treatment services for the growing Latino community. They serve 1,800 people a year with over 13,000 counseling and psychiatry appointments. The mural and therapeutic green space is a place where community members come to connect, form healthy and supportive relationships, and benefit from the healing effects of art, nature, gardening and play.
The Scrap Exchange is a nonprofit Creative Reuse Center whose mission is to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse. In 2016, with the help of community investment partners, The Scrap Exchange purchased the northern end of the Lakewood Shopping Center and established the Reuse Arts District (RAD). RAD is an effort to transform the previously underutilized shopping center into a national model for creative reuse and an inclusive neighborhood destination for creativity and vibrancy in Durham. It was this vision for shared maker, entrepreneurial, and nonprofit spaces, along with the green space adjacent to what is now El Futuro’s clinic in the RAD, that drew El Futuro to the space.
After El Futuro moved to the space, it soon became apparent to both organizations that many children and families regularly passed by the long wall which had a faded mural from long ago.
The complex is a vibrant development in a shopping center that a short time ago was run down and uninhabited. The Lakewood community and surrounding neighborhoods are a rich texture of races and ethnicities, and many have felt the direct and indirect effects of the coronavirus.
“This place brings peace and gives me a feeling of joy,” says long time neighbor Tonnie Markham who many in the area refer to as “abuela,” the Spanish word for grandmother. “I love seeing people come here because they feel safe and welcomed.”
Perhaps that is why the large words on the mural that read “Bienvenidos a su casa” and “Welcome Home” resonate so deeply with the neighbors. This and other ongoing efforts of El Futuro, The Scrap Exchange, the Durham Community Food Pantry and other businesses are bringing the Lakewood Shopping Center back to life and inspiring a sense of hopefulness in the neighborhood.
The unveiling ceremony will be this Sunday, November 8 at 4pm on Facebook Live. Special guests include Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, Durham County Commissioner Chair Wendy Jacobs, and Durham Councilwoman Javiera Caballero.
The Facebook Live Event information for the unveiling ceremony:
To learn more visit El Futuro online at
To learn about Z Smith Reynolds Foundation Inclusive Public Art Initiative:
Contact: Luke Smith, MD (Psychiatrist and Executive Director) (984) 244-2205, email@example.com
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