ARTIST: ARTIE BARKSDALE
Location: 706 E Main St
Facing Fayetteville Street and nestled in Durham’s historic Hayti District, a mural and a menu adorn the eastern wall of JC’s Kitchen. Well-known for its upbeat slogan, “Where the food is anointed and you won’t be disappointed,” this family-owned business opened its doors in 1998 and was the passion project of Durham-native Sheila Lee. Lee, a spiritual woman whose faith was the center of her life, launched JC’s (Jesus Christ’s) Kitchen on the premise that it would provide fellowship, fete, and food. And it did just that for nearly 10 years. In 2008 Lee unfortunately succumbed to cancer and her sister, Phyllis Terry (a missionary in Japan for nearly 18 years), took over operations shortly thereafter. Now 19 years in operation, JC’s Kitchen is still a go-to spot for Durham locals and visitors alike. The best part of it all is Terry herself will likely greet you upon entry, making you feel welcome and at home.
The mural which we see today was repainted by Durham-based artist, Artie Barksdale. However, the identity of the artist who painted the first rendition is still unknown to us. In the original signage, illustrations of a hamburger, plate of pork chops with green beans and potato salad, and sausage accompanied an abridged version of the restaurant’s menu. It served as an open invitation to any passersby. Never been to JC’s before? Curious about what they offer? Well, all of the information you needed was right there on the wall.
The 2014 version captures much of the same vernacular found in the first, but with a few twists. The illustrations of food are paired down to a sausage and hamburger, and the sign now floats in a vibrant blue sky with wispy clouds—a subtle nod to the eatery’s namesake. The menu was slightly updated and much of the other text remains the same, but a fresh coat of paint makes them sing again. To the right of the menu text sits a monumental and beautifully rendered portrait of Sheilah Lee in monochrome. Two ribbons, flanked by white doves, hover over her portrait with text that reads “The dream lives on.” It’s a wonderful tribute to the late founder, a grassroots philanthropist and life-long servant of God.