October Events to Celebrate Durham Native Son, Artist and Former NFL Player Ernie Barnes


The North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, in partnership with the Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Museum of Durham History, Empower Dance Studio, The Repertory Dance Company at NCCU and Thomas DeFrantz + SLIPPAGE, will celebrate the life and legacy of North Carolina artist Ernie Barnes (1938-2009) with events exploring and celebrating his famous painting, “The Sugar Shack,” Oct. 6 and 11 in Durham.

On a summer evening in 1952, 13-year-old “June” Barnes walked one mile from his home in Durham’s “The Bottom” neighborhood to sneak into the Durham Armory. There, he saw his first adult dance party. That scene, along with his other experiences at parties and dance clubs during his professional football career, inspired him to create one of the most iconic images by an African American artist – “The Sugar Shack.”

Painted in the early 1970s, “The Sugar Shack” is one of the nation’s most recognizable works of art, especially among African Americans. The painting—which served as the cover art for Marvin Gaye’s 1976 “I Want You” album and appeared in the opening and closing credits of television show “Good Times” for three seasons—has inspired countless dancers and visual artists for generations.

The original painting is currently on display at the North Carolina Museum of History in downtown Raleigh, as part of the exhibition “The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes.”

Events Oct. 6 and 11 in Durham to celebrate Ernie Barnes through dance, music and art:

Oct. 6, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Sugar Shack Dance Workshop, Empower Dance Studio, 109 W. Parrish St. – This free movement workshop for young people will channel the spirit of movement and music in Ernie Barnes’ work. Available to youth ages five and up. Register online at https://empowerdancestudio.wufoo.com/forms/ernie-barnes-dance-workshop-registration-form/.

Oct. 11, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. “Artist Ernie Barnes: Durham Native Son,” Museum of Durham History, 500 W. Main St. – This free, daytime event will feature a proclamation from the City of Durham, a pop-up gallery of Ernie Barnes art and artifacts, as well as an opportunity to share memories of Ernie Barnes in the museum “Story Room.” Visitors may also purchase Ernie Barnes merchandise.

Oct. 11, 6-10:30 p.m. “The Sugar Shack” Experience, Durham Armory, 220 Foster St. – Held at the site of the original inspiration for “The Sugar Shack,” the Durham Armory, the day’s signature event will include a live performance by SLIPPAGE, The Repertory Dance Company at NCCU, poet J. Ivy, and a DJ Niena Drake funk and soul dance party. Tickets are $28 and can be purchased online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-sugar-shack-experience-tickets-49858955478.

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