#SparkTheArtsNC

Sparks of Light: healing

Story by Brenna McCallum

Monday, May 9, 2022

To understand the evolving impact of Covid-19 on the state’s arts network, the North Carolina Arts Council sent a survey to all 2021-22 grantees. We asked many quantitative questions and were also interested in learning about the less measurable aspects of Covid-19’s effect on how organizations do their work. We received 200 survey responses, with many organizations indicating they had a unique story to share about unexpected opportunities or innovations that arose from the pandemic.

As the Arts Council evaluated the data received from the survey, we also conducted group sessions to hear first-hand testimonies and reflections from organizations. From October 2021 and to January 2022, we held five such sessions and heard from nearly 40 organizations. Some themes rose to the top. North Carolina arts organizations described the following commitments:

♦ Supporting artists who were financially impacted by the pandemic
♦ Facilitating safe, innovative programming 
♦ Engaging children who were experiencing the detrimental effects of isolation
♦ Delivering opportunities for healing experiences during a time when physical gatherings were impossible

The Sparks of Light series explores what the past two years have meant for the arts. The commitments just listed are a testament to the ways in which North Carolina arts organizations continue to exhibit resilience and dedication during a time of unprecedented struggle and darkness. The stories staff told when they met with us on Zoom over the past four months are important and inspiring. Sparks of Light will gather some of them and share them with you.


 

The arts have been a source of healing during the pandemic. Sharing some stories about that is a fitting way for the North Carolina Arts Council’s Sparks of Light series to close.
Arts as a mechanism for healing is not a new concept: organizations in the state have long incorporated use of the arts for healing in their missions and objectives. However, the pandemic introduced a drastic change in the ways that healing arts experiences could be facilitated. The experiences of the three organizations reported here are good examples of those challenges. They show how a sense of community and connection can be fostered even when the medium must be digital, and how logistical hurdles of access to technology and supplies can be overcome. 
 

Creative experiences for veterans

The primary mission of the Joel Fund, based in Wake County, has been to identify and relay services to veterans that help them reconnect to life at home. “Operation ART”—which offers workshops primarily in the visual arts—is one vehicle it uses to do so. When the pandemic hit, the fund was trying to figure out how to keep its services to veterans operational and extend them to people on active duty. Making more services virtual was challenging, and not all participants wished to participate that way, but for others, online access was an advantage. For example, two active-duty soldiers stationed in the Middle East were able to call in and attend one Operation ART workshop series because it was online.

Organizations these days are wondering if virtual programming will be viable in a post-pandemic world, but the Joel Fund has found that the internet is a good fit for its programs. Since adopting virtual modes of operating, the organization has increased the reach of Operation ART to men and women on active duty, as well as to veterans in rural areas for whom a trip to Wake County might have been a struggle even before the pandemic. The fund provides scholarships for those who can’t afford the fee for a workshop series.

 

Services for children with medical conditions

Headquartered in Buncombe County, Arts For Life provides guided visual art, music, and other creative activities for patients and their families in pediatric hospitals in three chapters across the state. When visits to hospitals had to stop, the organization realized that the pandemic presented an opportunity to improve its services to children with compromised immune systems. A virtual platform allowed Arts For Life to bring live arts lessons to children inside and outside of hospitals, in the safety of their own environment. Offering lessons online was also a chance for Arts For Life to take advantage of virtual translation programs that enable access by non-English speakers. As the pandemic wore on, Arts For Life recorded and shared instructional videos of varied duration, allowing participants to choose projects that worked with their interests and schedules. Arts For Life also ultimately implemented a concierge service, “Creativity on Call,” which pairs families with a staff member to determine the best online participation model for their needs. These programs culminated in an online hub for virtual creative resources titled “Arts For Life Anywhere.” The organization incorporated innovations inspired by the pandemic into its in-person program design, and learned much from the experience of delivering programming entirely online.

 

Programming for aging populations

 

Creative Aging Network-NC (CAN-NC), in Guilford County, discovered one positive outcome of the pandemic: an increased public awareness of the needs of aging populations and the detrimental effects of isolation and loneliness. CAN-NC believes that arts are essential for people in living facilities for the aging to build community and form friendships. During the pandemic, the network built out new programs that allowed these residents to have arts experiences when they could not gather face-to-face. It delivered creative activity kits to group living facilities and began offering virtual art classes right away, positioning a camera directly over an art teacher’s project so residents could follow along. Because some facilities lacked the technology that residents needed to participate, CAN-NC bought six Chromebooks for them, which residents who wished to access virtual programming could share. The network began to offer short series on topics such as women in art and African American artists at no charge to assisted living and nursing facilities. The virtual audience for these extended to locations nationwide and in Canada.

CAN-NC operates 22 studios, which it rents at affordable rates to resident artists. Generally, the rent helps cover the network’s own overhead costs. During the pandemic, however, the network was able to cover these costs using government relief funds, freeing it to make studios available at no charge to resident artists whose income had dropped. The network also had some older artists on fixed incomes who typically split studio space with a friend; with the need for social distancing some of those artists chose to relinquish their space leaving their partners in a financial bind. The network was pleased to be able to honor the lower rate for those who wanted to continue their studio work at no extra cost.

 

Venues for healing and connecting arts experiences were perhaps more important than ever during the period of isolation. These stories document the urgency with which organizations in North Carolina worked to facilitate therapeutic and healing experiences through the arts in new ways during the pandemic.

 

This concludes the Sparks of Light series. The stories that organizations told North Carolina Arts Council staff show the vitality, fellowship, and healing that the state’s arts community drew upon during the pandemic. Bringing those stories to you here has been an honor and a joy.

 

For more stories about how arts organizations have navigated the pandemic with strength and determination, check out the latest season of the North Carolina Arts Council's podcast, Arts Across NC, wherever you listen to podcasts.


Brenna McCallum

Brenna McCallum is the research director of the North Carolina Arts Council, where she coordinates internal and external research efforts and helps the Arts Council evaluate the impact of its grants and programs. With a degree in Art Management from Appalachian State University, she is interested in North Carolina's unique and rich arts and culture.

Sparks of Light: engaging children

Story by Brenna McCallum

Monday, April 11, 2022

To understand the evolving impact of Covid-19 on the state’s arts network, the North Carolina Arts Council sent a survey to all 2021-22 grantees. We asked many quantitative questions and were also interested in learning about the less measurable aspects of Covid-19’s effect on how organizations do their work. We received 200 survey responses, with many organizations indicating they had a unique story to share about unexpected opportunities or innovations that arose from the pandemic.

As the Arts Council evaluated the data received from the survey, we also conducted group sessions to hear first-hand testimonies and reflections from organizations. From October 2021 and to January 2022, we held five such sessions and heard from nearly 40 organizations. Some themes rose to the top. North Carolina arts organizations described the following commitments:

♦ Supporting artists who were financially impacted by the pandemic
♦ Facilitating safe, innovative programming 
♦ Engaging children who were experiencing the detrimental effects of isolation
♦ Delivering opportunities for healing experiences during a time when physical gatherings were impossible

The Sparks of Light series explores what the past two years have meant for the arts. The commitments just listed are a testament to the ways in which North Carolina arts organizations continue to exhibit resilience and dedication during a time of unprecedented struggle and darkness. The stories staff told when they met with us on Zoom over the past four months are important and inspiring. Sparks of Light will gather some of them and share them with you.


 

Although converting school classrooms and after-school programs into virtual iterations was necessary to keep children and families safe from the virus, it was also highly disruptive and, for many, isolating. Routines were upended, and parents and children alike struggled to maintain not only the day-to-day motions of life but also their mental well-being. Arts organizations jumped in to help with whatever resources they had.

Arts for all students

Pocosin Arts School, in the coastal town of Columbia in Tyrell County, was one such organization. It had very recently published its 2020 curriculum for adults and children when the pandemic hit, and everything shifted. Translating as many in-person classes and workshops as possible into virtual offerings became imperative. Most urgently, Pocosin wanted to ensure that young students would still be able to engage creatively with after-school programming. A virtual instruction set-up—with a camera positioned directly over the instructor’s work—allowed Pocosin to serve more students at a time, by giving everyone a front-row seat. So, instead of cutting back on after-school and regular adult workshop offerings, Pocosin ramped them up. Normally, the programs serve 450 students a year; delivered virtually, they have served 5,000. Since the pandemic began, Pocosin has held more than 600 workshops geared to adults and kids, who are logging on not just locally but also nationally and internationally. Pocosin plans to retain these expansions as the pandemic subsides.

Pocosin realized that some local students would lack easy online access to its workshops; to reach them, it enlisted its resident artists to create art activity kits, and then connected with local schools to deliver those kits. Schools were already sending school supplies and meals to children’s homes. Pocosin was able to add the art kits to those deliveries, and reached every elementary school-age child in Columbia.
 

Kid-driven public art

Craven Arts Council, in New Bern, knew that another problem kids had during the pandemic was the loss of opportunities to socialize and collaborate. In response, the organization designed and fabricated a metal frame covered in chicken wire for a large-scale sculpture of two clasped hands. The council contacted Boys and Girls Clubs, libraries, and other such local resources to recruit children. Then it brought five or six at a time to the sculpture site, gave them lunch, and explained their role in the project. The children’s task was to cover the frame with papier-maché, design a color scheme and pattern, and paint the object. The resulting sculpture, titled “Unity,” stands twelve feet tall and “represents the unity and strength of [the] community when working together.” About 100 children participated in the process. Staff of the Craven Arts Council said that those involved were proud of their creation and their community.

Helping children understand Covid-19

Book cover of Covid Vaccines
Image courtesy of Blair

As the pandemic worsened, parents wondered how to talk to their kids about what was happening. When Blair, a nonprofit press based in Durham, learned that the writer Beth Bacon and the illustrator Kary Lee had created a book for children about COVID-19, it decided to jump the normal schedule and put the book into production right away. Titled COVID-19 Helpers, and published in November 2020 in English and Spanish hard-cover and paper editions, the book “gives kids the facts of the pandemic, but also offers hope,” according to the publisher. The publisher and author opted to leave publishing rights to the book open, which led to international versions being published in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Schools in Granville and Buncombe Counties bought the books in bulk and gave them out to their students. Thanks to donors, the publisher was also able to donate books to the Charlotte Bilingual School. The book was chosen from 260 entries to win the 2020 Emory Global Health Institute Children's eBook Competition, and the institute published a digital edition. Given the book’s success, the author and illustrator teamed up to create another children’s book about COVID-19: Helping Our World Get Well. This book, which Blair published in November 2021, shows how “kids can do their part to help heal the world and stop the pandemic by getting a COVID vaccine.” 

 

The effects of the pandemic will become clearer as time passes, but we know that children’s lives have been unsettled. The stories shared here demonstrate the vital role that arts organizations have played in providing services to help children enjoy and participate in the arts, safely socialize, and understand the pandemic in an age-appropriate context. Together they are yet another example of the impact on people of all ages that arts organizations have across this state.

 

For more stories about how arts organizations have navigated the pandemic with strength and determination, check out the latest season of the North Carolina Arts Council's podcast, Arts Across NC, wherever you listen to podcasts.


Brenna McCallum

Brenna McCallum is the research director of the North Carolina Arts Council, where she coordinates internal and external research efforts and helps the Arts Council evaluate the impact of its grants and programs. With a degree in Art Management from Appalachian State University, she is interested in North Carolina's unique and rich arts and culture.

Sparks of Light: organizational innovation

Story by Brenna McCallum

Monday, March 21, 2022

To understand the evolving impact of Covid-19 on the state’s arts network, the North Carolina Arts Council sent a survey to all 2021-22 grantees. We asked many quantitative questions and were also interested in learning about the less measurable aspects of Covid-19’s effect on how organizations do their work. We received 200 survey responses, with many organizations indicating they had a unique story to share about unexpected opportunities or innovations that arose from the pandemic.

As the Arts Council evaluated the data received from the survey, we also conducted group sessions to hear first-hand testimonies and reflections from organizations. From October 2021 and to January 2022, we held five such sessions and heard from nearly 40 organizations. Some themes rose to the top. North Carolina arts organizations described the following commitments:

♦ Supporting artists who were financially impacted by the pandemic
♦ Facilitating safe, innovative programming 
♦ Engaging children who were experiencing the detrimental effects of isolation
♦ Delivering opportunities for healing experiences during a time when physical gatherings were impossible

The Sparks of Light series explores what the past two years have meant for the arts. The commitments just listed are a testament to the ways in which North Carolina arts organizations continue to exhibit resilience and dedication during a time of unprecedented struggle and darkness. The stories staff told when they met with us on Zoom over the past four months are important and inspiring. Sparks of Light will gather some of them and share them with you.


In March 2020, everything changed. Organizations were forced to be creative, and despite the hardships, there were benefits. Online platforms offered an opportunity to connect with audiences regardless of the distance, and arts organizations got inventive by generating virtual programming that sustained both audiences and artists. Live performances and exhibitions were presented in new, sometimes untraditional spaces, creating fresh experiences for the participants. Many organizations that were forced to change their practice report that their innovations opened up new creative possibilities that will last beyond the pandemic. 

Creative use of alternative spaces

Located in Fayetteville, Cape Fear Regional Theatre (CFRT) faced the same obstacles that a lot of presenters were up against: indoor performances in its 300-seat theater were no longer an option, and social distancing was required. Theater staff turned to their neighborhood for inspiration. A few doors down from CFRT was the Haymount Auto Repair shop. This full-service station, which had served the community since 1965, had closed its doors in 2019. CFRT saw potential at the unused site for outdoor programming, and with the support of the property owner, got to work outfitting a temporary stage. For two weeks in October 2020, the location was alive with a production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, the story of the last concert Billie Holiday gave before her death. CFRT took precautions to keep its audience safe, selling limited pods of seats, doing away with paper items such as tickets and programs to minimize physical contact, and requiring masks. The production was a resounding success, and had a bonus outcome: the shop, which had been vacant for more than a year, was sold to a business that is converting the venue into a food-truck rodeo. What began as an effort to deliver the joy of theater during the pandemic resulted in the revitalization of a local landmark.

The following spring, CFRT remounted the production Murder for Two, which Covid-19 had halted. This time, Cape Fear converted another shuttered site in Fayetteville—D&E Auto Gallery—into a theater. This show was a success, too: seats were in such high demand that six extra performances were scheduled. And at the end of the production, the property was leased—again the happy by-product of CFRT’s reactivation of a vacant commercial space.

Virtual performance and lecture series

The Leela Foundation (Leela) combines the components of a classical Indian dance company, educational efforts, and outreach through participation in local community events and workshops. The foundation says it seeks to “explore the truth and beauty in all art forms and celebrate their unity in spirit.” Leela embraced the freedom to make programming more accessible during a time of limited in-person events, using Instagram Live as a virtual performance platform. Instagram Live allowed the Cary-based organization to conceive and execute projects on a shorter timeline than traditional venues allowed. Through an initiative called the Baithak, or “house concerts,” series, the foundation produced performances representing four of the eight Indian classical dance forms over a span of eight months. After the performances, dancers stayed on Instagram Live to interact with Leela Dance Company students and answer questions. 

A tradition in Indian culture is to begin a new venture with blessings from teachers and elders. To ensure that Leela students learned about their dance lineage, in the summer of 2020 the organization had kicked off Legacy—a series of lectures by renowned Indian classical dance scholars—with a presentation led by Guru Kalyana Sundaram, one of the oldest living traditional teachers of the art form Bharata Natyam. During the pandemic, the foundation presented two more virtual lectures. Physical distance was no longer a limiting factor in connecting speakers with audiences, so Leela was able to secure guest lecturers who might not have been available otherwise. Dr. Naima Prevots, Professor Emeritus, of American University, in Washington, D.C., led the workshop Introduction to Contemporary Dance. Mandakini Trivedi, an artist in Mumbai, India, who practices the traditional dance form Mohini Attam, led the workshop Aesthetics of Indian Classical Dance. Because these presentations were virtual, participants worldwide were able to attend.

Many organizations faced a decision either to shut down their programming indefinitely or find a fast and safe way to pivot when Covid-19 struck. For those choosing to pivot, innovative and adaptive programming became imperative. The stories shared here show the ingenuity that arts organizations all over North Carolina summoned in order to keep the arts bright during the pandemic.

 

For more stories about how arts organizations have navigated the pandemic with strength and determination, check out the latest season of the North Carolina Arts Council's podcast, Arts Across NC, wherever you listen to podcasts.


Brenna McCallum

Brenna McCallum is the research director of the North Carolina Arts Council, where she coordinates internal and external research efforts and helps the Arts Council evaluate the impact of its grants and programs. With a degree in Art Management from Appalachian State University, she is interested in North Carolina's unique and rich arts and culture.

Sparks of Light: supporting artists

Story by Brenna McCallum

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

To understand the evolving impact of Covid-19 on the state’s arts network, the North Carolina Arts Council sent a survey to all 2021-22 grantees. We asked many quantitative questions and were also interested in learning about the less measurable aspects of Covid-19’s effect on how organizations do their work. We received 200 survey responses, with many organizations indicating they had a unique story to share about unexpected opportunities or innovations that arose from the pandemic.

As the Arts Council evaluated the data received from the survey, we also conducted group sessions to hear first-hand testimonies and reflections from organizations. From October 2021 and to January 2022, we held five such sessions and heard from nearly 40 organizations. Some themes rose to the top. North Carolina arts organizations described the following commitments:

♦ Supporting artists who were financially impacted by the pandemic
♦ Facilitating safe, innovative programming 
♦ Engaging children who were experiencing the detrimental effects of isolation
♦ Delivering opportunities for healing experiences during a time when physical gatherings were impossible

The Sparks of Light series explores what the past two years have meant for the arts. The commitments just listed are a testament to the ways in which North Carolina arts organizations continue to exhibit resilience and dedication during a time of unprecedented struggle and darkness. The stories staff told when they met with us on Zoom over the past four months are important and inspiring. Sparks of Light will gather some of them and share them with you.


 

Art has always been an essential part of how we move through life with enjoyment, and that became particularly evident during the pandemic. Good music, movies, television shows, books, and podcasts helped keep us sane when we were feeling isolated and exhausted. Inevitably, the artists who make this work were experiencing duress, too.

Arts organizations across North Carolina rushed to provide as much support as possible to artists who lost income, their platform from which to perform or exhibit, and the sense of connection and well-being that comes from delivering an art form to its audience. Relief funds quickly sprung up across the state, granting dollars to artists in need of money. Fundraisers were organized on the turn of a dime to extend the reach of these relief funds. But organizations found other ways to help artists get the resources they needed during the pandemic, as well.

Broader access to funds

Asheville Creative Arts, a family-friendly theater company, knew that artists would need other sources of funding now that opportunities for performing or exhibiting and selling work in  person were curtailed. They shifted dollars previously earmarked for now-canceled programs into microgrants and zero-interest loans for artists. “Artists are the heart of our organization,” said the executive director, Abby Felder, and the goal of these grants and loans was to support artists’ ability to buy equipment needed to move work to a digital platform or develop new revenue streams. The organization feels the program was successful and hopes to make it a permanent part of its portfolio.

Technical assistance

Toe River Arts, an arts council in Burnsville serving Mitchell and Yancey Counties, partnered with the Mayland Small Business Center, at Mayland Community College, to hire consultants who could coach member artists on setting up digital commerce platforms. Many set up Etsy shops or other, similar platforms or added an e-commerce option to an existing website. Toe River Arts has a gallery and online shopping platform and offered member artists reduced commissions on the work they sold.

Focusing on inclusion

The Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge (PCAC), in Greenville, felt called to respond after the killing of George Floyd, in May 2020. It lobbied the city for permission to create a mural focused on racial justice, and eventually won support. The council invited more than 20 Black artists to create a mural along First Street, in downtown Greenville, that read “Unite Against Racism.” The mural was completed in December 2020. An upshot of the project was PCAC’s realization that its network of “artist friends” was not as diverse as its body of constituents; it sought to change that by building on the foundation of its new relationships with the mural artists. The muralists formed an artist collective called “Black Creatives of Pitt County,” and, with PCAC’s guidance, created a budget and workplan, which includes hosting a monthly event to gather Black makers for networking, professional development, programming, and exhibitions. PCAC also raised $15,000 for the Black Creatives in just two weeks. Since then, and because of the new relationships that arose from the mural project, members of the Black Creatives have gone on to submit applications to the PCAC’s requests for proposals for public art projects, and some have been selected for funding.

Efforts like these give us glimpses of the pandemic’s silver linings: because organizations had to get creative to support artists, many stretched and innovated in ways they might not have tried otherwise. These adaptive efforts are worthy in themselves, and promise to continue as ongoing programs to support artists in North Carolina well past the days of the pandemic.

 

For more stories about how arts organizations have navigated the pandemic with strength and determination, check out the latest season of the North Carolina Arts Council's podcast, Arts Across NC, wherever you listen to podcasts.


Brenna McCallum

Brenna McCallum is the research director of the North Carolina Arts Council, where she coordinates internal and external research efforts and helps the Arts Council evaluate the impact of its grants and programs. With a degree in Art Management from Appalachian State University, she is interested in North Carolina's unique and rich arts and culture.

Sparks of Light: the data story

Story by Brenna McCallum

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

To understand the evolving impact of Covid-19 on the state’s arts network, the North Carolina Arts Council sent a survey to all 2021-22 grantees. We asked many quantitative questions and were also interested in learning about the less measurable aspects of Covid-19’s effect on how organizations do their work. We received 200 survey responses, with many organizations indicating they had a unique story to share about unexpected opportunities or innovations that arose from the pandemic.

As the Arts Council evaluated the data received from the survey, we also conducted group sessions to hear first-hand testimonies and reflections from organizations. From October 2021 and to January 2022, we held five such sessions and heard from nearly 40 organizations. Some themes rose to the top. North Carolina arts organizations described the following commitments:

♦ Supporting artists who were financially impacted by the pandemic
♦ Facilitating safe, innovative programming 
♦ Engaging children who were experiencing the detrimental effects of isolation
♦ Delivering opportunities for healing experiences during a time when physical gatherings were impossible

The Sparks of Light series explores what the past two years have meant for the arts. The commitments just listed are a testament to the ways in which North Carolina arts organizations continue to exhibit resilience and dedication during a time of unprecedented struggle and darkness. The stories staff told when they met with us on Zoom over the past four months are important and inspiring. Sparks of Light will gather some of them and share them with you.


 

Before we dig into those stories in the coming posts, what did we learn from the survey? 

We asked our grant recipients questions about changes in budgets, funding sources, revenue streams, staffing numbers, and new opportunities they realized in response to the pandemic. These data show that the experiences of arts organizations through the pandemic vary greatly. The most important lesson, in the Arts Council’s view, is this: North Carolina’s arts network is still here. We did not succumb to the grave fates predicted for nonprofit organizations early in the pandemic. We supported one another, got scrappy, and battened down the hatches. 

Organizations with a decrease in overall budget by a quarter or more

Organizations with a steady or increased budget

While many budgets decreased, an almost equal number remained steady or increased.

While 38 percent of organizations surveyed had a decrease in their overall budget by a quarter or more, 38.5 percent experienced a steady or increased budget. The increases point to the number of relief funds that came onto the scene all at once, and with speed. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provided funding that was distributed from the federal, state, and local levels. The Payroll Protection Program (PPP), Covid-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) also injected funds into the field. Unfortunately, not all organizations were able to access relief funds; 6.5 percent of respondents said they were not able to access any relief funding. 

changes in revenue patterns: •	77% of orgs had decreased revenue from ticket sales •	66% of orgs had decreased revenue from corporate donations •	56% of orgs had decreased revenue from individual donations •	55% of orgs had INCREASED revenue from grants

 

Revenue losses from ticket sales and donations were pervasive, but many organizations experienced an increase in grants revenue. 

Changes in revenue sources and patterns were somewhat predictable. Most organizations (77 percent) experienced decreased revenue from ticket sales. For 66 percent, corporate donations dropped, and 56 percent lost individual donations. The only revenue increases the organizations (55 percent of them) experienced came from grants, which points to the large influx of federal and state relief dollars dispersed through a wide variety of organizations acting as pass-through distributors of those funds. 

Employment numbers: •	53% of orgs lost 0 positions •	47% of orgs lost some positions •	Of the orgs that lost positions, 4% said they did not expect to be able to rehire those positions any time soon, while 96% said they had already, or expected to be able to soon rehire those positions soon

 

Perhaps the most hopeful data in our view shows that despite early losses, North Carolina’s arts jobs are bouncing back.

When it comes to employment numbers, we saw an unanticipated but welcomed result: Between March 2020 and September 2021, 53 percent of respondents said they lost no positions. While 10 percent lost one employee, 10 percent gained one. Ten percent of organizations lost two employees, while 3.5 percent of organizations gained two. Thirteen percent lost three or more positions, while 3 percent gained three or more. Of the organizations that lost employees, 4 percent said they did not expect to be able to fill those positions any time soon. The rest—96 percent—said they had already restored and filled some or all of the positions they had lost. Those that still had some vacant positions said they expected to be able to fill some of those, or all of them, soon. 

Organizations demonstrated agility and creativity in their innovations to serve constituents during the pandemic. 

Last, we asked whether the pandemic had created any unexpected opportunities for the organization. Unsurprisingly, 87 percent of respondents mentioned increasing their virtual offerings; 83 percent of those said that, by moving online, they were engaging non-local guest artists and participants. For 61 percent, new opportunities meant new programmatic partnerships; 77 percent said they were using new technologies and tools. About a quarter of respondents said their programs were more accessible by disability communities and saw an increased interest from media outlets to feature the arts during the pandemic. 

We should be proud of our collective accomplishments during these last two difficult years. While the work needed to facilitate and deliver public value through the arts never stops, the information gleaned from this survey leaves us optimistic about the health and resilience of North Carolina’s arts network. Stay tuned for the rest of the Sparks of Light series to learn more about how some organizations created light and hope during the pandemic’s uncertainties. 

 

For more stories about how arts organizations have navigated the pandemic with strength and determination, check out the latest season of the North Carolina Arts Council's podcast, Arts Across NC, wherever you listen to podcasts.


Brenna McCallum

Brenna McCallum is the research director of the North Carolina Arts Council, where she coordinates internal and external research efforts and helps the Arts Council evaluate the impact of its grants and programs. With a degree in Art Management from Appalachian State University, she is interested in North Carolina's unique and rich arts and culture.

The NEA Highlights the work of North Carolina's Local Arts Council, Wilson Arts

North Carolina Arts Council

Friday, January 7, 2022
The National Endowment for the Arts highlights the incredible work of Wilson Arts and its efforts for its art community to recover. Wilson Arts recently received $150,000 in American Rescue Plan grant funding from the NEA to support jobs, operations, health and safety, and marketing. 
 
Formerly known as the Arts Council of Wilson, Wilson Arts has a fifty-year history as a local arts agency, beginning on April 24, 1967. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Wilson County by providing cultural leadership and opportunities in the arts. They fulfill that mission through participatory and passive programming in visual and performing arts disciplines. According to the NEA, "The ARP grant will be a significant investment in the Wilson arts community because it allows recipients the opportunity to subgrant to individual artists and other arts organizations".
 
Click here to read the full spotlight article written by NEA staff Mary Lieb.
 
 

One North Carolina photographer and journalist investigates sea level rise in the Outer Banks

Story by Sandra Davidson | Photos by Justin Cook

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

I’m going to guess I was in the fourth grade when I learned about the Outer Banks. In the 1990s (as now), that was the grade in which North Carolina public school students learned about our state’s history and culture. If I had to summarize in key words what I remember from that curriculum, they would be Graveyard of the Atlantic, lighthouses, and First in Flight—markers of stories so grand they defined how I imagined the Outer Banks for most of my adolescence.

As I grew older, though, stories about big storms, erosion, and relentless development began to fill the frame.

The unique geography of the Outer Banks is what makes the vistas beautiful, the fishing world-class, and the surfing and boating so popular. Geography has shaped and defined the islands’ culture and it is what drives tourism and development. It is also what makes the islands supremely vulnerable to climate change.

Seen from above, the barrier islands that compose the Outer Banks look especially fragile. Thin ribbons of sand trailing more than 200 miles are flanked by brackish sounds and the vast Atlantic Ocean. No wonder images of washed-out Outer Banks roads, flooded homes, and broken piers inundate news feeds every few hurricane seasons. On this stretch of coast, it’s disturbingly easy to imagine what rising sea levels and bigger storms will do, and what that will mean for the people who live there.

Concern about sea-level rise on the Outer Banks is at the core of photographer Justin Cook’s project Tide and Time: Sea Level Rise and Solastalgia on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Published in May 2021 by CoastalReview.org and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Tide and Time is a photography and reporting project that tells the story of the Salvo Community Cemetery, which is slowly washing away into the Pamlico Sound. A confluence of manmade factors is driving the fate of the small cemetery on Hatteras Island: Our dependence on fossil fuels is making the world hotter. Glaciers are melting. Seas are rising. Storms are getting stronger. All the while, people still want to visit, own, and maintain beachfront properties, and the livelihood of many coastal communities depends on tourism and development. In the Outer Banks specifically, strategies in one area to mitigate the slow, westward movement of these sandy islands—a natural process over millennia—and sea-level rise often have negative consequences in other areas of the same island. For every action, there is a reaction.

Reported over four years, Tide and Time investigates the ecological effects of sea-level rise and the emotional and psychological impact that the gradual loss of this cemetery is having on longtime locals. Cook introduces readers to Ruby Jean Hooper, an 85-year-old woman whose husband, grandparents, and great-grandparents are buried there, and who wants to be buried there, too. We meet Jenny Farrow Creech and Dawn Farrow Taylor, former president and vice-president of the Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society, who are leaders in a grassroots effort to protect the cemetery. Cook’s portraits of these women—rendered through interviews, images, and archival photographs—capture the profound relationship each has with the land and the deep sense of loss they feel when imagining a time when their community cemetery is completely under water. Cook says this “sense of loss, homesickness, and distress specifically caused by environmental change around someone’s home and a sense of powerlessness over that change” is what the philosopher Glenn Albrecht called solastalgia.

“So many climate-change stories I see—and these stories are important— are about the catastrophes and are about the hurricanes, but they’re not about the slow creep of climate change in people’s lives every single day,” Cook told me recently. “I wanted to know more about that.”

Cook uses photographs, scientific data, and these residents’ stories to paint a full picture of what’s at stake. In one passage, he cites an East Carolina University study that estimates that the sea will rise by four and a half feet in northeastern North Carolina by 2100. A 1970 National Park Service aerial photo of the cemetery juxtaposed with a 2017 aerial photo by Cook shows how much of the shoreline is already under water. Cook reports that several bodies in the cemetery have been sucked out into the sound already. Dawn Taylor told him, “I know this sounds morbid, but they are forever finding bones that look human out there in the sound.”

When I asked Cook what his approach offers to the genre of climate-change stories, he said this:

I think it helps us give words to things that we are experiencing. . . . Part of it is expanding the visual vocabulary of what climate change is. It’s starving polar bears. It’s wildfires in California. It’s also like. . . Dawn Taylor talks about how when she slept in her grandparents’ house in Avon [as a child] she could see the beam from the Hatteras lighthouse, but erosion has changed that situation and the lighthouse has been moved and she can’t see it anymore. I think a lot of people can resonate with this idea of feeling like the things from childhood that you loved have disappeared or been taken away.

Dawn Taylor’s story about the Cape Hatteras lighthouse triggered a memory of my own. In 1999, the year after my fourth-grade introduction to the Outer Banks, the lighthouse was moved 1,500 feet back from the shore. I followed that story closely in the daily paper, where it was often front-page news. We’ve been skirting the issues Cook documented for a long time.

Cook is one of 385 artists who in 2020 received North Carolina Artist Support Grants, which the North Carolina Arts Council created to support individual artists during the pandemic. His grant helped to fund Tide and Time. In addition to publishing a print version of Tide and Time, Cook is developing an outdoor exhibit of the project that he plans to display at the Salvo Community Cemetery this September, barring any big storms. Learn more about his work at www.JustinCookPhoto.Com, or on Instagram @JustinCookPhoto. Read Tide and Time here.


Sandra Davidson

Sandra Davidson is the marketing and communications director of the North Carolina Arts Council, where she curates, produces, and develops content that highlights the diversity and vitality of the arts in our state. Trained as a folklorist, she is a practicing photographer and multimedia storyteller who lives in Durham.

Justin Cook

JUSTIN COOK is based in Durham, North Carolina but works everywhere. His long-term photographic essays tell stories about resiliency in communities living along the edges in America, often by focusing on environmental issues and climate change. He believes storytelling that not only shines light on these issues, but also investigates solutions is crucial to social change. Justin is a 2006 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication. His work has been funded by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Connected Coastlines Initiative, The North Carolina Arts Council, The Puffin Foundation, and honored by The Magenta Foundation, Photolucida, POYi, The Society of Professional Journalists, and American Photography. Learn more about his work at www.JustinCookPhoto.com.

Sparking Development: Webinars on fundraising for local arts councils

North Carolina Arts Council

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The North Carolina Arts Council invites local arts council directors and board chairs to attend Sparking Developmenta two-part webinar series designed to educate them about fundraising strategies, techniques, and best practices. 


Webinar topics include:

Fundamentals of Development
Friday, September 10, 10 - 11:30 a.m.
► Register for the Fundamentals of Development webinar

Donor Relations: How to get to the ask
Wednesday, September 15, 3 - 4:30 p.m.

Register for the Donor Relations webinar


N.C. Arts Council Deputy Director Dr. Tamara Holmes Brothers, who has a background in fundraising and development, will facilitate these free webinars. Registration is required.

Sparking Development is a program of Spark the Arts, the Arts Council’s statewide initiative to ignite the resurgence of North Carolina’s arts sector from the pandemic. 

For questions or accessibility requests, please contact Arts in Communities Director Dan Brosz at Dan.Brosz@ncdcr.gov.

 

 

Introducing Spark the Arts

North Carolina Arts Council

Thursday, June 24, 2021

As our state and nation turn a corner in the pandemic, we are looking to the future. We know that North Carolina’s recovery from the pandemic depends on the arts, just as its endurance of it did. What would the past 15 months have looked like for you without books, music, and movies?
 
The songs we make and sing together, the dances we dance, the stories we see ourselves in on screens, canvases, or pages lift our spirits. They bring us together. They help us grow.
 
Vitality. Fellowship. Healing. These are the qualities the arts spark, and they are what North Carolina needs to rebuild its economy and emerge resiliently from the pandemic. This is why we’ve created Spark the Arts, a statewide campaign to inspire public participation in the arts across North Carolina.

Learn more here

Subscribe to #SparkTheArtsNC