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Saturday, April 20, 2024

‘Hearts of Davis’ project celebrates love among the community

Project originator and artist Will Durkee shares the importance of a community-building art project after weathering a pandemic

By CLARA FISCHER — arts@theaggie.org

Davis might not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of artwork, but the humble town has a mighty spring of local artists working on their own projects every day. Among these artists is Will Durkee, the 29-year-old from the Bay Area behind the “Hearts of Davis” project.

As a community effort, the concept is simple enough — Durkee provides blank, white wooden hearts to any member of the community who wants to paint one and will then place the finished products up around town. 

The hearts act as a visual representation of the love among the Davis community: proof that not even a pandemic can strip away humanity’s best qualities.

“It was really rough during the pandemic — especially during the first year — just not being able to see anyone,” Durkee said about the inspiration behind the project. 

Absence of genuine connection is something that many people suffered from during this long-standing health crisis. Art has always been a response to the times and has often served as an outlet for humanity’s troubles. 

It seems fitting, then, to respond to the difficulty of the last two years with a project meant as a visual display of the area’s resilience — especially in Davis, where the sense of community is so strong.

Furthering the concept of collaboration, Durkee took inspiration from another nearby town for the actual hearts. 

“I was actually staying in Sonoma at the time with [my] family, and they kind of had this heart thing going 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 City of Davis Arts program, who bestowed him with a grant to bring his vision to life. This action highlights what makes the project so special: It’s a true community effort from the ground up, with public offices getting involved at the base level and regular citizens (not just trained artists) going on to create the pieces. 

Having these hearts up around town may provide just a little boost of encouragement to those in need after a hard couple of years. By turning Davis into something of a curated community gallery, Durkee is painting the town in a colorful, loving light. 

“A lot of people got sick and it was really hard, but hopefully having a positive message out there will let us know that we’re ok and that we still like each other,” Durkee said.

Anyone looking for more information on the project, such as how to pick up a heart or when the next community-painting session will be, should look on Durkee’s Instagram for further details (@will_durkee_fine_artiste_69). 

Written by: Clara Fischer — arts@theaggie.org

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