Citizen Spotlight: Dara Baldwin Is Living In Her Purpose

By Ms Jheri Worldwide

Staff Writer

Our next citizen spotlight highlights a Durham native with a unique eye for beauty and art! Early on, Dara Baldwin was able to explore painting, drawing, and sculpture in various art classes while attending Durham School of the Arts. Dara explained, “I received a very close to college level of exposure to the arts with full facilities, my parents were also supportive and let me draw or paint instead of being social.” A graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design studying art history and museum studies, Dara then transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill to complete her BA in Art History in 2018. 

Dara is deeply rooted in the North Carolina culture and art, “During my time at SCAD, I had a year of online classes, so I interned at Historic Stagville. My final project was to curate an exhibition about arts in the enslaved communities, the focus ended up going toward quilting and textiles because that was where the majority of information led me. So I did research and was able to borrow quilts from the African American Quilting Society in Durham and display my research of markets along the coast, as well as some inventories from Stagville and other nearby locations. I have worked at a couple of local art stores, ARTPost (on Iredell Street in Durham), and the Scrap Exchange where I helped with outreach events.”

Currently, Dara is the Curator and Gallery Manger for Durham Art Guild, we discussed how this role came about, “I volunteered at the Durham Art Guild helping the previous Executive Director, Katie Seiz with installations and office work. In 2019, after volunteering for 3 years, Katie gave me a job offer as Gallery Assistant. So I was responsible for the solo exhibitions in our Golden Belt Gallery.” 

What are the ups and downs of curating collections? “ One thing that challenges me as a curator is repetition of actions, though the art is different every time, the process of going about curating them is similar and can be monotonous. One thing that is rewarding is when a sense of cohesion is created from a wide variety of work that visitors and artists can recognize.”

What should we know about Durham Art Guild? Dara shared, “Everyone should know that the Durham Art Guild is not the same as the Durham Arts Council. The Durham Art Guild is a member-driven organization and does not have any ability to provide/distribute grants or funding outside of our internal programming. Which include: Three Yearly Artist in Residence opportunities with a stipend and studio space; Art@Work Program that connects local artists with paid opportunities to display their work in local businesses and a variety of other opportunities that are accessible through membership. I would suggest joining the Durham Art Guild! We have a yearly fee of $75 that gets you automatically featured in our yearly member showcase.”

As an art curator I had to know an artist that influences Dara, “I am a big fan of dead artists for the most part in terms of style/technique. It is difficult for me to model myself after a person that I don’t know personally. But of the dead ones I am a fan of, I find Rembrandt to be very interesting, he was somewhere between business savvy and ruthless, especially in terms of commissioned work that he didn’t want to do. If someone wanted a portrait he would say no, then if they insisted he would give them a terrible sketch, if they didn’t like it they would have to pay him to do it over. I thought that was funny and such a hard flex”

Where can we find you, “Our galleries are free and open to the public at 800 S. Taylor St. (follow signage for DAG) and 120 Morris Street (glass enclosed gallery inside of the Durham Arts Council building) both in Durham.”

Any advice to folks interested in the art industry? “My advice is to be strong and stay flexible. There are many artists whose work just needs to be in front of their specific niche of audience. There are more and more themed shows and markets that target certain groups and those scenes may fit better than a traditional gallery setting, or vice versa. Try everything before whittling down your options. And always consider your time and energy, most hustles are fruitful partially because they are exhausting.”

A quote that I hope to learn to live by is: “Many things will catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart” - Indian Proverb

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