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2012 The year in the arts

by Jordan Green

 jordan@yesweekly.com

In February, I assumed responsibility for arts coverage as part of a larger restructuring of the editorial staff at YES! Weekly, which also entailed my news coverage reassignment to Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

Winston-Salem is marketed as “the city of arts and innovation,” but Greensboro also has a thriving art scene.

Forget about the planned performing arts center in Greensboro; that’s an entertainment facility. The Greensboro Cultural Center on Davie Street is a fabulous facility where anyone can go take a workshop in painting, photography, dance, African drumming or theater. It’s a true arts center. Likewise, the Milton Rhodes Arts Center, which opened in Winston-Salem in 2010, houses first-rate galleries and a school for arts and craft instruction for all ages, along with an impressive theater.

Winston-Salem has a whole host of art museums and galleries in the historic footprint of the Reynolds and Hanes families, including Reynolda House, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and the Hanes Art Gallery at Wake Forest University, but Greensboro proudly boasts a phenomenal facility anchored to the urban grid at UNCG in the Weatherspoon Art Museum. The Green Hill Center for NC Art, housed in the Greensboro Cultural Center, regularly produces exhibits that highlight artistic talent across the state of North Carolina.

Trade Street in Winston-Salem and South Elm Street in Greensboro are chock-a-block with fine arts and craft galleries and boutiques. The new Delurk Gallery in Winston- Salem highlights the work of bracing, young artists, while Elsewhere Collaborative in Greensboro pushes the envelope of the avant-garde and civic engagement.

Broken out in dollars per capita, the arts plays a more significant role in Forsyth County than the more populous Guilford County. An economic impact study commissioned by the NC Department of Cultural Resources found that non-profit arts and culture generates $136.6 million in total economic activity and supports 4,769 full-time equivalent jobs in Forsyth County, compared to $118.1 million and 4,269 jobs in Guilford.

“This new study is fantastic news for our community,” Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins said. “We now have the research to back up what many of us have known for some time — that our arts and culture industry is a huge economic engine that rivals some of Greensboro’s largest companies in its impact on jobs and economic activity. When a business sector generates more than $5 million annually in local government revenue alone, that is something to celebrate and support.”

The Triad’s third city, High Point, lags its neighbors in art activity, even taking into account its smaller population. Considering the design and photographic talent associated with the furniture industry and inexpensive real estate, one would expect High Point to have a prospering art scene, but that’s not exactly the case. Yet there are seeds of promise. Entrepreneurs, investors and civic leaders are working to make Washington Street, the neighborhood that spawned jazz great John Coltrane, the arts and culture district of the city. Yalik’s Modern Art has produced exhibits of consistent quality that tie in with the legacy of African-American culture in the district. And the High Point Fine Art Guild is working to renovate what’s known as the Big Red Building at the intersection of Washington and North Centennial streets.

Bernita Sims indicated that she recognizes the value of the arts during her remarks after being sworn in as High Point’s new mayor on Dec. 3. Sims noted her mayor’s commission on arts and culture, which she hopes will bring citizens together to strengthen community ties.

At least two significant passages must be marked in the arts world this year. Sculptor Jeff Taylor, who worked out of a studio in the old Lyndon Street Artworks, died suddenly and unexpectedly in May. Taylor’s friends soldiered on and reopened the repurposed industrial space at 205 Collaborative in October. And Anne Kesler Shields, a prolific painter and collagists who helped establish Associated Artists of Winston-Salem in the 1950s, died in October after a long illness. Shields had the pleasure of seeing friends and admirers at a major retrospective of her work curated by Tom Patterson at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. Patterson also curated spin-off exhibits focusing on various aspects of Shields’ lifework at the Mary Davis Holt Gallery at Salem College and the Hanes Art Gallery at Wake Forest University.

Year 2012 saw major retrospectives, including the inaugural stop of Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey, a traveling exhibit that launched at Reynolda House with financial support from the city of Winston-Salem, and The Cone Sisters Collect, displaying paintings collected by Etta Cone and Claribel Cone, including works by Matisse and Picasso, at the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Elsewhere helped facilitate public art projects in Greensboro through guest artists. The Italo-Canadian artist Zada painted a mural at the Interactive Resource Center. And the Primary Flight group from Miami painted a mural on the columns of the overpass at Freeman Mill Road and Spring Garden Street to open a new section of the Downtown Greenway.

Prints, original paintings and photography from the Reynolds corporate collection went up for sale at the Milton Rhodes Arts Center in Winston-Salem in February and the Doll and Miniature Museum of High Point closed in September.

Art consistently tends to bring people together and strengthen the bonds of community. That was demonstrated with Art for Art’s Sake, a festival on Trade Street in Winston-Salem that YES! Weekly covered in July, and the Release the Youth Music and Arts Festival, meant to give High Point a booster shot in November.

High school students came from across North Carolina for a poetry recitation contest in March, and Greensboro multimedia group Invisible dazzled an audience at the Weatherspoon with The New Obsolete in July.

Not only are vinyl records still a medium for listening to music, but the format provides an ongoing platform for visual arts. Art on Record corralled dozens of artists, mainly in Winston-Salem, to paint on vinyl, and the results remain on the wall at Earshot Records. Similarly, Tattoo Archive put up a small exhibit showcasing albums that display tattoo themes and images.

See you in 2013.

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