Throughout its existence, Arts North Carolina has been a strong membership network for individuals and arts organizations across North Carolina. Founded in 1974 as the North Carolina Association of Arts Councils, the organization was instrumental in developing and advocating for the Grassroots Arts Program, a nationally recognized program of decentralized, per-capita funding for the arts through the North Carolina Arts Council to local arts councils.
Early on the organization dedicated itself to providing services to its members. Conferences, board development workshops, fundraising tool kits, solicitation license coverage, and an executive director retreat became key services. Soon, more workshops were offered, a quarterly newsletter and an awards program were produced. An annual trade show of performing artists, Arts Market, currently produced by the North Carolina Presenters Consortium and the North Carolina Arts Council, was begun at the 1984 annual conference.
Arts North Carolina hired its first full-time executive director and established its first permanent office in 1986 after being staffed through an association management firm for three years. Previous to that, staff was provided and funded in the late 1970s through CETA, a federal program.
Arts North Carolina has worked closely with the North Carolina Arts Council throughout its history. Additionally, the organization nurtured partnerships among statewide arts organizations and nonprofit service organizations. In 1991 Arts North Carolina established the Peer Advisory Network, a nationally recognized program of trained peer professionals who were available to work one-on-one with arts organizations for affordable short-term management and technical assistance.
The board created a new mission and changed its name from the North Carolina Association of Arts Councils to Arts North Carolina in April 1993, setting a new course for leadership and service to the arts in the state. Driven by growing demands for its services from discipline-based arts groups and the need to address issues of racial inclusion within the organization, the new name acknowledged an organization that reflected the growing maturity and diversity of the arts industry in North Carolina.
In 1996 Arts North Carolina entered into discussions with Arts Advocates of North Carolina, a 501(c)(4) organization founded in 1984 focused solely on advocacy, to consolidate the two groups. The consolidation was successfully completed in the fall of 1996 and a new strategic plan and mission was adopted that included advocacy, networking, and services as key components of the organization’s work.
Fiscal Challenges Required Focus
Arts North Carolina entered a challenging and potentially devastating period in 2000. Projected deficits and fundraising short-falls dictated the elimination of two full-time staff and a period of “holding” that was enabled through the generosity of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. A year later the board had an extensive strategic planning process to assess the organization’s viability to ensure continuing service to the arts industry in North Carolina. Choosing advocacy, communications, and member services as its key service areas, focus groups were held to seek input about Arts North Carolina’s future.
Arts North Carolina regained its footing and began an energized program of strategies:
- Create and implement an advocacy plan that systematically connects people from the arts field with key legislative officials.
- Create and enhance awareness of the arts as key to economic development, community health and sustainability, bridging diverse populations and the development of youth.
- Renew the vitality of Arts North Carolina as an essential partner, information source, and skills-building resource to arts organizations of all sizes and disciplines across the state.
In 2006 the Board of Directors decided that Arts North Carolina should fully become an independent voice for all the arts in the state and elected to stop seeking state funding for programmatic and operational support. Arts North Carolina began building a culture of philanthropy to secure the financial foundation for the organization in lieu of state funding. From all regions of the state individuals and organizations of every size and disciplines joined in ever-increasing numbers to guarantee a strong advocacy organization reflective of the needs and vision for the arts in North Carolina.
A Bright Future
Since 2002 Arts North Carolina continues to find success in its new voice and purpose. Unprecedented increases in public funding in 2005-2009 and proportionate reductions during the economic crisis reflect the industry’s growing acceptance of advocacy as a responsibility and an opportunity to effect change in public value and support. Remarkable videos and materials are now essential communication tools. Arts Day is a powerful legislative event drawing 300+ advocates to Raleigh.
Arts North Carolina took on the charge of arts education in the public schools, resulting in the 2008 legislative appointment of the Joint Select Committee on Arts Education. A high school graduation requirement in the arts passed the North Carolina Senate in 2009, but the economic crisis stalled the requirement’s passage in the House. In 2010, the North Carolina House and Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 66 requiring the appointment of a joint Task Force to create a Comprehensive Arts Education Plan for K-12. The current session of the General Assembly includes H758 establishing a Legislative Arts Education Commission whose purpose is to move the Comprehensive Arts Education Plan from the shelf to the schools.
Arts North Carolina Leadership
Board Chairs of ARTS North Carolina
Matthew McEnnerney 1974-75
Jim McIntyre 1975-77 (deceased)
Chic Dambach 1977-78
Reid Cone 1978-79
Carolyn Cone Weaver 1979-80
Julian Long 1980
Charles Hesse 1980-81
Jan Eric Strohl 1981-82
Elaine Lorber 1982-83
Jon Gossett 1983
Jan Ellis Kohl 1983-85
Marvin Miller 1985-86
Robert Bush 1986-87
Michael Marsicano 1987-88
Jane Lonon 1988-89
Reggie Johnson 1989-90 (deceased)
Chris Griffith 1990-91
Bruce LaRowe 1991-92
Karen Wells 1992-93
David C. Hudson 1993-94
Sharon Kanter 1994-96
Vincent Marron 1996-97
Blucher Erhinghaus 1998-99
Nancy Dawson-Sauser 1999-2001
Linda Wilkerson 2001-02
David zum Brunnen 2002-04
Georgann Eubanks 2004-07
Deborah Martin Mintz 2007-08
Barbara Benisch 2008-10
Pierce Egerton 2010-2012
Jim Hoyle 2012 – present
Board Chairs of Arts Advocates of North Carolina
Mary D.B.T. Semans 1984-86
Betty Cone 1986-88
Dave Phillips 1988-90
Roy Parker 1990-92
Scott Parker 1992-94
Margaret Baddour 1994-96