Project initiator and artist Will Durkee shares the importance of a community-building art project after weathering a pandemic
By CLARA FISCHER — [email protected]
Davis might not be the first town that comes to mind when you think of art, but the humble town is full of local artists working on their own projects every day. Among these artists is Will Durkee, the 29-year-old Bay Area native behind the “Hearts of Davis” project.
As a community effort, the concept is quite simple – Durkee provides blank, white wooden hearts to any member of the community who wishes to paint one and will then place the finished products around the city.
The hearts act as a visual representation of love within the Davis community: proof that even a pandemic cannot strip the best qualities of humanity.
“It was really difficult during the pandemic — especially during the first year — not being able to see anyone,” Durkee said of the inspiration behind the project.
Lack of true connection is something that many people have suffered of this long health crisis. Art has always been a response to the times and has often served as an outlet for the ills of humanity.
It therefore seems appropriate to respond to the difficulty of the past two years with a project designed as a visual demonstration of the region’s resilience – particularly in Davis, where the Sense of community is so strong.
Continuing the concept of collaboration, Durkee took inspiration from another nearby town for the real hearts.
“I was actually staying in Sonoma at the time with [my] family, and they kind of had that heart thing there,” Durkee said. “I thought, ‘Oh, we should try that in Davis!’ »
After creating a few of his own wooden hearts, Durkee teamed up with the Davis City Arts program, which awarded him a scholarship to bring his vision to life. This action highlights what makes the project so special: it is a true community effort from the ground up, with public offices getting involved at the grassroots level and ordinary citizens (not just trained artists) creating rooms.
Having these hearts around town can give a little boost to those who need it after a few rough years. By turning Davis into a sort of curated community gallery, Durkee paints the town in a colorful and loving light.
“A lot of people got sick and it was really tough, but hopefully having a positive message lets us know that we’re okay and that we still love each other,” Durkee said.
Anyone looking for more information about the project, like how to pick up a heart or when the next community painting session is, should watch Durkee’s Instagram for details (@will_durkee_fine_artiste_69).
Written by: Clara Fischer — [email protected]