Former Uptown Artworks owner proposes new studio for Northeast Greensboro

by Kashif Stone

Partners in the Prime Noir art space include Joseph Wilkerson at left with DJ herbin and Phil Young.

A new artist studio is being proposed for the Northeast community of Greensboro. The project entitled Prime Noir was developed and is currently managed by Joseph Wilkerson, the former owner of Uptown Artworks.

Wilkerson was born in Brooklyn, New York yet spent most of his formative years in Fayetteville. Growing up, he would travel back to the city every summer with his sister for visits and became captivated by the canvas of graffiti displayed everywhere. “From simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, I began to emulate what I was seeing on paper and developing my own style,” said Wilkerson. In high school, he fell in love with drafting, specifically design versus HVAC and structure, and decided to pursue this as a career at the same college his parents met.

Wilkerson moved to Greensboro in 1988 to attend school at NC A&T State University and studied architectural engineering. While in college, he developed his entrepreneurial spirit once he and a friend began producing T-shirts with the financial support of his father, known around campus as Kappa Joe. This endeavor led to many others as Wilkerson once owned a company called Urban Literature, which through that business, he created a magazine and ran a film festival for five years. He also sat as a member on the executive boards for the African American Atelier and the United Arts Council Grassroot grants committee. His involvement in these organizations made him realize the lack of what he describes as “urban arts programs,” and thus began to view the Greensboro arts scene from a different set of lenses.

After doing a walk-through of Lyndon Street Artworks, now called the 205 Collaborative, he went on to establish “Uptown Artworks.” The 6,000 square foot building on Arnold Street next to Boston’s House of Jazz contained all the necessary components that an artist would need. The 24-hour facility had 15 studio spaces and was accommodated by monthly exhibits, workshops, and the occasional arts events either in house or produced from the community abroad. “The space wasn’t perfect, but I made it work for four years until I shut it down at the first of October,” said Wilkerson.

The new proposed spaced entitled “Prime Noir” will be vastly different from his previous studio, not only in size, but also influence. “The 14,000-square-foot space has a lot more potential,” said Wilkerson. “Instead of 15 studio spaces, there will only be eight spaces. The setup is completely different than my previous building and with that, I’m changing the business plan to also incorporate the selling of coffee at Prime Noir. I used to frequent the Green Bean coffee shop downtown in my early foray into the arts. A place outside of the home to be productive and alongside other creatives on their laptops drinking coffee or tea discussing projects is where I want to take this space.” The space will also provide outdoor seating, out front as well in the rear of the building, which will be surrounded by walls of artwork for visitors to relax, eat a pastry, and enjoy the beverages of choice.

Prime Noir will be developed in the Northeast community of Greensboro, intending to bring change to an area of Greensboro that lacks artistic venues.

During his time at NC A&T State University, Wilkerson recalls having to go explore other parts of the city because the things he wanted to experience were not located on that side of town. “I want to be the change I would have wanted to see for myself all those many years ago,” said Wilkerson. “I came up with the idea of marketing and branding the Northeast side of Greensboro as ‘Uptown Greensboro,’ and everything that I do, I plan to do there.”

Former Uptown Artworks studio artists Phil Young and DJ Herbin are assisting Wilkerson with the development of the project. “This space is a game changer, just like my old gallery but this is that 2.0 upgrade,” said Wilkerson. “Not only because of it’s size, but the energy that will radiate from it. The artistic concepts, programs, and events my partners and I are looking forward to implementing will be the difference. This is not downtown Greensboro’s $65 million Performing Arts Center, we are just three black men working to bring an arts concept to fruition that we believe will have just as much of an impact, if not more.” Wilkerson anticipates having the project complete next year. !

WANNA contribute?

Wilkerson is accepting donations for the Prime Noir project on his GoFundMe account. Donations can be made at