Love Durham: The Importance of Play and Whimsy

I recently revisited the work of urbanist and speaker Peter Kageyama and came across a TedTalk that he did about loving your city. I was surprised to see at the very beginning, a shoutout to Durham!

Here is the TedTalk (I do recommend taking a moment to watch it).

Apparently, in 2011, Durham held an event where residents decided that the love Durham so much, they held a wedding where about 1,600 brides and grooms married the City of Durham. Perhaps some of you remember this event?

This in line with the fun and whimsical nature of Durham that I have come to expect from events like the 0.262 mile race, the Mardi Gras parade, and the Beaver Queen pageant, just to name a few. More than that, it demonstrates the intense love for the city that I have found in my time here.

During this pandemic, many of the great Durham events have changed, morphed, or been cancelled sadly. With the COVID crisis as well as a renewed conversation around racial injustice, it may seem like these fun, whimsical events are unimportant, but as Peter Kageyama discusses, if we show love for the city, the city will perform better. There will be more engagement. It will attract more people who want to be engaged.

It may be a little much to suggest that the Beaver Queen pageant leads to a city that is more willing to wear masks and keep each other safe than some of the places around us. Or to suggest that the "Point 262" race is what has led to good and safe protests and dialogue about racial injustice.

However, it is one small piece of encouraging "buy in" to what happens in Durham. It's why, in my opinion, Durhamites ask not what their city can do for them, but what they can do for their city more often than many other places.

So how else can we "play" with our city during a pandemic?

Have you ever seen painted cows or horses? I thought that was a great idea the first time I saw it, but then I proceeded to see it everywhere and it lost a little magic.

In Manhattan, there is a block that has a different birdhouse on each of the street trees.

Artist Michael Pederson is perhaps my absolute favorite. Below is is "Urban Weed Awards" series:


However, he has so many more great installations that add a level of whimsy. Please check out his website if you are interested in this sort of thing.

So, if you feel so inspired, think about ways you can add whimsy to Durham, even if it is just on your neighborhood level. If you do, let me know and I would LOVE to feature it on this blog!

Any other ideas for adding fun, whimsy, and most importantly engagement to Durham? Come share on the forum here!

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To engage with other Durham enthusiasts, visit the forums here!

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