Milton Rhodes steps down

by YES! Staff

You can’t function as a citizen of Winston-Salem without encountering the name of Milton Rhodes. Most are familiar with the name because of the downtown arts center that bears it, dedicated in 2010.

A lot of buildings in the Triad are named after people who made differences in their communities.

But Milton Rhodes is distinct not just for his efforts in the arts scene of a city that prides itself on it, but because — unlike Lawrence Joel or RJ Reynolds — he is very much alive. Not too many people get buildings named after them while they still draw breath.

Rhodes got the nod after almost 40 years in the business, first serving as the executive director of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County in 1971 when he was just 26 years old, a post he held until 1985 and then reclaimed in 2004, after working for the American Council for the Arts, the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC and Outward Bound, among a dozen other philanthropic and creative organizations.

Now he’s stepping down.

Not too many people get buildings named after them while they still draw breath.

The press release says Rhodes will serve his last day on the coun- cil on Sept. 30, and it comes with the boil- erplate quote usually tucked into things like this:

“I have enjoyed my time with The Arts Council,” said Rhodes. “We have accomplished a lot and can take pride as a city and county in having one of the most active and effective arts councils in the nation. I give credit for this to the talented and dedicated staff members who have been a part of our arts council family and literally thousands of community volunteers who have helped us chart our course and given generously of time, energy and personal resources over the years.”

And while we generally use this space to critique, complain and bemoan the state of things in the Triad, this week we’d like to use it to bestow a few laurels.

Rhodes didn’t found the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County — it dates back to 1949, the first locally established arts council in the nation. But he put his mark on it from the moment he got involved.

It was during his tenure that the council became the agency for public arts funding, and under his leadership that the onetime tobacco town became known as the City of the Arts and, later, the City of Arts and Innovation. Under his watch, institutions like the Arts District and the First Friday gallery hop came to be. Scores of arts-based organizations have benefited from the council’s largesse. Last year the arts council presided over more than $2 million in grants for local artists and organizations. And then there’s that beautiful new facility named in his honor.

So thanks, Milton Rhodes, for your service to the arts in a city built on them. We are grateful for the things you’ve put in place here, and wish you well in your next endeavor.

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