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Cultural arts: providing an experience of a lifetime

The first Northampton County Community Arts Day was recently held and by far it was a success.

On Saturday, I drove to the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center just outside of Jackson on assignment and expecting to see your typical art show.

What I found was art in all kinds of mediums, incredibly talented artists and, most important of all, community spirit.

The event was organized by the Northampton County Cultural Arts Committee, a 13-member team made up of county officials and community constituents, and funded in part by a grant made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council and local sponsors.

In addition to the event, the grant also provided for an artist in residence, Bryant Holsenbeck, who worked with (public, private and home school) school children for a week. She also assisted students in creating an environmentally friendly art piece.

And, yes, this happened in Northampton County.

During one of our conversations at the event, Judy Collier, Chairperson of the Cultural Arts Committee, posed me the question, “Would you believe this could happen in Northampton County?”

I told her no. I wasn’t suggesting there was a lack of talent in the county, but rather there had been little to no opportunity for artists in the area.

Rural areas and rural people are often filed under derogatory stereotypes—the uncultured, the simpleminded, the unsophisticated…not so much.

Rural life has always been rich with culture and art despite what urbanites might believe. Sure metro areas are known to have their affluent cultural arts neighborhoods; New York has SoHo and Chelsea, Philadelphia has Center City and Avenue of the Arts and Charlotte has NoDa.

The only difference between metro and rural areas is the lack of resources in the latter.

The ability to have such an event in Northampton County has always been present, but there has never been a community platform for artists alike to share their work.

Providing a space for artists and art-geared events at the Cultural Arts and Wellness Center was the beginning of that platform.

While at Community Arts Day, I chatted with a few of the artists. Some were familiar faces like eclectic artist Millie True, fine artists Myrna Perry and Leroy Edwards and Blues guitarist Bishop Dready Manning.

Then there were some that were new to me, including opera singer Quentin Powell, the Conway Baptist Bells group, Leah Futrell who crochets and Karmane Williams, a very gifted young man who just needs a pencil and paper to bring a portrait to life. There were even more talented people with their works on display.

While stopping at each booth displayed with the different arts, I observed many sharing their gifts with others. It was the proverbial passing of the torch, whether it was Millie teaching Karmane macramé or Myra asking school children about their own art. Sharing was at the center of this event.

Most important of all, Community Arts Day provided school children exposure to the arts and inspired them to delve in their imaginations.

The arts are more than pretty pictures on a piece of paper or in a frame; the arts are life celebrated and expressed in individual, creative and unique ways.

Cultural Arts Committee members say this event is just the beginning. I really hope so and maybe next time a lot more citizens will take advantage of the event.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.