The Student News Site of Teen Scene, Inc

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Like Us on Facebook

Support Local Arts and Culture

Many of us retired here for the beaches, temperate climate, and lower cost of living.  Only later did we discover how rich the area is in arts and culture.  Within just a few miles, we have a university, two community colleges, and anchor institutions like Thalian Hall, the Cameron Art Museum, Kenan Hall, and the Wilson Center.  

Music lovers have a choice of symphonies, opera, and choirs.  The area is a mecca for film enthusiasts because of EUE Screen Gems Studios, Cucalorus, and its partner organization, Working Films. For over 25 years, they have promoted the careers of hundreds of independent filmmakers and crews.  And this is just scratching the surface—there are numerous small museums, theatre, film, and dance nonprofits that provide us with a wealth of educational and entertainment options.

Less well appreciated is the extent to which local arts and culture nonprofits have served as a powerful economic engine for the region, at least before the COVID-19 pandemic.  The most recent American for the Arts study (published in 2017) determined that nonprofit art and culture organizations in New Hanover County (NHC) generated $55.8M in total economic activity and $5.5M in local and state government revenue. (And this did not take into account the economic boom provided by the Wilson Center, whose budget has almost doubled every year since its opening in 2015).  According to Rhonda Bellamy, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Wilmington and NHC, “arts and culture” is the second greatest job generator in the county after health care.   

Many art and music institutions offer free concert tickets or arts programming to students. NHC’s Arts Education Supervisor Jacki Booth ensures that every child in the system is exposed to music, visual arts, dance, theater, and ceramics at an early age.  She also runs the annual Best Foot Forward program at the Wilson Center, where local youth get to perform and work alongside experts on stage or in the theater’s technical side.  DREAMS, a youth development organization, provides free artistic programming for over 600 youth, most of whom live in underserved and underrepresented communities.  

Just over the Memorial Bridge, the Leland Cultural Arts Center provides a vibrant hub for the arts in Brunswick County with courses in painting, pottery, theater, dance, jewelry making, and the literary and healing arts.  A large auditorium and stage are available for community theatre and musical performances, craft fairs, and other art-related events.  In the Southport area, you can find the Brunswick Little Theater, which has been entertaining audiences for 38 years.  As more retirees call Brunswick County home, the importance of the arts and its impact on the local economy is only likely to grow. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 put local art and culture treasures in financial jeopardy.  Many had to furlough staff, either temporarily or permanently, to pay their bills. Grants have helped to some degree, but some of the smaller institutions closed or are still struggling.  Artists are creative people who have worked hard to stay solvent by collaborating on projects or finding ways to make their offerings available virtually.  But not all could make such structural changes and even those who could still need our support.  

Some people think of the arts as a “nice to have,” but it develops youth, creates commerce, and supports lives. So please don’t take what we have here for granted.  Patronize your favorite, try something new, and donate what you can.  Because if we don’t support them today, there is no guarantee they will be here for us tomorrow.    


Note:  The author is a member of the Women’s Impact Network of New Hanover County, whose philanthropic focus in 2021 was on Arts and Culture.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *