Durham’s thriving creative community has earned the city a reputation as an acclaimed arts center filled with museums and galleries, high quality theater companies, and fantastic live entertainment. At any given moment, there’s something to get your creative juices flowing while living in Durham, NC.
Take a look at Durham, from its beginnings as a sleepy railroad stop to its height as a bustling textile and tobacco town, at the Museum of Durham History. Learn about the city’s past, including its early settlers, the Civil Rights Movement, and prominent industries, all presented through artifact galleries, interactive multimedia, and guided tours. The museum is also associated with the History Hub, a free, open-to-the-public venue that features rotating exhibits covering Durham-centric themes.
Situated inside the 21c Museum Hotel, a boutique hotel in Downtown Durham, 21c Museum was founded with a mission of broadening contemporary art’s audience and increasing appreciation. The “21c” stands for the 21st century, to which the museum is entirely devoted. Since opening in 2006, 21c Museum has showcased works from emerging and internationally-acclaimed artists. The museum features 9,000 square feet of exhibition space and features commissioned installations and a rotating selection of solo and group exhibitions that reflect the contemporary artistic landscape. 21c Museum also offers cultural programming, including film screenings, poetry readings, guest lectures, and live music and theater.
Theatre & Performing Arts
The Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) has only existed since 2008, but it has quickly skyrocketed to prominence and is considered North Carolina’s live entertainment hub. The 2,700-seat theater is intimate and equipped with state-of-the-art sound and video. DPAC hosts more than 200 one-of-a-kind performances annually, including touring Broadway productions, well-known musical acts and comedians, family-friendly events, and the famous American Dance Festival.
In the heart of Downtown Durham lies the Carolina Theatre, a Beaux Arts-style building that houses Fletcher Hall, restored to its former 1926 glory. The facility hosts more than 60 musicians, comedians, speakers, theater companies, and film festivals each year, attracting more than 150,000 patrons annually. The Carolina Theatre also has two adjacent cinemas that show new releases and classics as part of the theater’s Retro Film Series, and hosts several annual film festivals, including the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the NC Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and the Nevermore Film Festival of horror movies.
With a 450-person capacity, Motorco Music Hall is Durham’s largest music venue, located in the city’s Central Park District. The venue, a former midcentury car dealership, is an entertainment complex, complete with a patio, a bar and kitchen, and a showroom that hosts live music, film screenings, and comics. Check out their calendar for well-known regional headliners and nationally touring acts.
Durham’s new center for the vibrant local jazz community, The Shed, plays host to local and touring acts, as well as up-and-coming artists. At The Shed, it’s all about the music. It’s a zero-commission performance space, meaning musicians come first. The venue offers featured artists pro bono for professional development, including recording and promotion. Whether you’re a diehard jazz enthusiast or a casual listener, The Shed is the kind of place where you can participate in a grassroots music movement and watch musicians launch their careers.
Will all of these things and more, there are plenty of things to do in Durham, NC.