Edie Cohn « Back to Studio Artists

Charcoal Portrait Artist

Location: Studio 3-113
Email: edie.cohn@gmail.com
Phone: 919-451-1122


  • Durham Art Guild,  57th Annual Juried Art Show, juror: Linda Johnson Dougherty of the NC Museum of Art, Durham NC, Dec 2011
  • Exotique Gallery, Durham NC, Oct 2011
  • Gallery 110, “Generating Art—the Steudel Family” Plymouth WI, Aug 2011
  • Pop’s Restaurant, An Ongoing Exhibit of Travel and Animal Paintings–plus The
  • Homeless People Exhibit: “A Life Worth Mentioning.. . .”Durham NC, 2010-current
  • Seymour Center, “Strength of Character” Chapel Hill NC, Nov 2010


  • The Women’s Center, “The Homeless People Project” UNC, Chapel Hill NC, 2002
  • Durham County Library, “Through Our Eyes, A Community Explores Homelessness”
  • Durham NC, 2001
  • Gallery 110 North, “The Homeless People Project” Plymouth WI, 1999
  • Carolina Friends School, “The Homeless People Project” Durham NC, 1997
  • Louisburg College, “The Homeless People Project” Louisburg NC,1996
  • Durham Art Guild Gallery, “Edie Cohn-Retrospective” Durham NC, 1996
  • Community Shelter for H.O.P.E., “The Homeless People Project” Durham NC, 1992-current
  • Carolina Union Galleries, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill NC, 1985
  • The ArtsCenter, “Strength of Character” Carrboro NC, 1985
  • Durham Art Guild Gallery, “Hidden Corners: Portraits in Charcoal” Durham NC, 1983


  • Portrait Society of America, 2010-current


  • The Women’s Center, “The Homeless People Project” (lecture) UNC, Chapel Hill NC, 2002
  • Durham County Library, Community Conversations (panels), Fall 2001
  • “Homeless People Tell Their Stories”; “A Community Explores Homelessness”; and
  • “An Artist Shares the Stories of Homeless People”
  • The Center for Documentary Studies-Connect Project, TROSA (drug rehab center),
  • “Portraiture” (drawing/writing—adults), Durham NC, 1997-2000
  • Gallery 110 North, “Portraiture Workshop” (drawing—adults), Plymouth WI, June 1999
  • Carolina Friends School, “Portraiture” (drawing—high school), Artist-in-Residency
  • Program, Durham NC, 1997
  • Documentary Studies Brown Bag Lunch, “Through my Eyes, an artist explores the
  • homeless in her community” (lecture), Duke University, Durham NC, 1997
  • Carolina Friends School, “Nursing Home Portrait/Oral History Project” (middle &
  • high school), Artist-in-Residency Program, Durham NC, Spring 1997


  • Carrboro Citizen (front page),  “Portrait of a mystery” Nov 24, 2010
  • Chapel Hill News, “Artist seeks relatives of long, lost subjects” Nov 13, 2010
  • WUNC Public Radio—Morning Edition: “Edie Cohn and The Homeless People Project”
  • Amy Nelson (producer), Chapel Hill NC, 2002
  • North Carolina Humanities Council, NC Crossroads, “A Life Worth Mentioning” March 2002
  • North Carolina Humanities Council publication “NO CALL FOR PITY, Candid Views of
  • Homeless and Formerly Homeless People” writer/artist Edie Cohn, 2001
  • Durham Herald-Sun (Sunday, front page), “Art draws upon changing lives” Durham NC, 2001
  • Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, “A Voice from the Streets” Oct 1999
  • WTVD-11,“Making A Difference: Documentary on Artist Edie Cohn” Ervin Hester (producer),
  • Durham NC, 1993
  • Independent Weekly (cover story),“Hoping Against Hope:
  • The Homeless People Project” Durham NC, July 21-27 1993
  • Raleigh News & Observer, “Artists uncover strength in faces of senior citizens” Aug 9, 1985


  • North Carolina Humanities Council, 2001
  • Durham Arts Council Season Grant, 1996
  • Durham Arts Council Mini Grant, 1993



In the early 1980s I was the moderator for life drawing classes at the Carrboro ArtsCenter. I often invited senior citizens from the Meet Your Neighbor Club, which shared the space with us at the center, to pose for the class instead of hiring traditional nude models. Over the course of 5 years I did over 80 drawings of seniors, and they were the subject of my first solo shows at the Durham Art Guild and the Carrboro ArtsCenter in the mid 1980s.

In 2010, 25 to 30 years later, I set out to find homes for the drawings that I had kept safe in a box for all those years. With the help of friends, lots of publicity, and an exhibit at the Seymour Center (Carrboro and Chapel Hill’s current Senior Center) I was able not only to find the families of over 80% of the portraits, but also able to give to them the drawings of their loved ones right before Christmas.


In the early 90s I went to the Community Shelter for H.O.P.E. in downtown Durham in order to draw and interview homeless residents. I did that every Thursday for 3 years. I would pay each individual $5 for posing and another $5 for allowing me to interview them. I also gave them an 11 x 17” print of their finished portrait—protected in plastic; to survive shelter life. I also received a few small grants from the Durham Arts Council to help offset the cost of framing a traveling exhibit. Also during that time I had numerous solo shows in the area and gave talks at local universities, colleges and schools about the project. ;;l

In 2001 I got a major grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council to find the people

I had drawn 10 years earlier. I did not find many, but four people were willing to be re-interviewed and re-drawn–all of them were no longer homeless. During this time I had scholars working with me from UNC’s Oral History Department and from the Duke Center for Documentary Studies. Through an exhibit at the Durham County Library and 3 community forums, we brought the topic of homelessness to the front burner in Durham.   http://www.nchumanities.org/publications/crossroads/xrd0302.pdf


8 x 16’ indoor mural–Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, 420 Stadium Drive, Wake Forest NC, 1999

Commissioned by the Wake Forest Cultural Arts Association, the DuBois Alumni Association, and the Wake Forest Historical Preservation, I was asked to help students from the Wake Forest-Rolesville High School design and paint a mural that would tell the story of the DuBois School–an African American community school which was closed down in the early 70’s during desegregation and had fallen into disrepair. The finished mural was meant to hang in the lobby of the DuBois School once renovations were completed.    http://wfrms.wcpss.net/dubois.html#Mural


15 x 21’ outdoor mural–1104½ W. Chapel Hill Street, Durham NC, 1993

In the early 1990s the Durham Food Co-op moved into the economically struggling West End Neighborhood. I volunteered to paint a mural that would reflect the co-op’s mission: to build bonds of solidarity across racial and class boundaries while providing quality food for their members and the surrounding community. The mural was of a farmers market, populated by a diverse group of people—all working together, On the day of the mural dedication speakers from the community spoke eloquently of the building‘s history in the Civil Rights days and its importance to the community. And, although the Durham Food Co-op has now shut its doors, the mural continues to be a source of pride for the entire West End neighborhood.


In 1983 I brought my drawing supplies to the hospital as I anticipated the birth of my daughter Rachel. I ended up with an emergency C-section, but my determination to draw her did not diminish, and even though I would fall asleep as I ate my lunch, I managed to draw her on her second day of life. The response of the staff, nurses, and doctors to the charcoal portrait was overwhelmingly positive; so I thought to myself, “Hey, perhaps some day I can earn money as an artist with a baby portrait service at Durham Regional Hospital.”  Four years later I approached the hospital and became a “concessionaire” for them. Starting in 1988, on two days a week I went into the hospital and sketched babies, and after twelve years I had drawn over 3,200 portraits! In fact, I still do them on occasion for mothers who have new babies and want a picture to match their first one, or who hear about me by word-of-mouth or by seeing a framed baby-drawing on a friend’s wall.