Posts Tagged ‘NC Arts Council’

NC Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, Educates Area Teachers About NC Pottery History

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011



For three days in late June, 2011, a group of 25 local teachers took a break from their summer vacation to participate in a special workshop hosted by the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, North Carolina, and funded by an educational grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Goodnight Educational Fund. The purpose of this special workshop was to introduce these teachers to the history of pottery making in North Carolina, from the earliest American Indian potters to contemporary potters of today, highlighting old traditions and new traditions. The teachers were selected by random, five from each of the surrounding counties of Chatham, Lee, Moore, Montgomery and Randolph. Each teacher received a packet of publications, posters, and educational materials to share with their students next fall.

Teachers get an orientation at the NCPC on the first day of the workshop from Dr. Linda Carnes-McNaughton

Day one of the workshop featured guest lectures by Dr. Charles Zug, noted folklorist and North Carolina pottery expert who provided a history of pottery making overview, Dr. Linda Carnes-McNaughton, archaeologist and ceramic scholar who taught them how to identify different ceramics and glazes, plus demonstrations by Caroleen Sanders, Catawba Indian potter who spoke about her heritage and training, and finally Chris Espenshade, an archaeologist who demonstrated hand-building techniques for the teacher’s hands-on experience.

Catawba potter, Caroleen Sanders gives teachers an overview of  her pottery tradition.

Teachers in the NCPC Education Building learning how to make coiled pottery from Chris Espenshade.

The second and third days involved field trips to various regional pottery shops to showcase different pottery styles, kilns, glazes, and vessels. The group visited Westmoore Pottery (Mary Farrell) to learn about North Carolina’s early redware industry and use of a chamber kiln. They then moved on to Jugtown Pottery to learn about groundhog kilns, salt-glazed stonewares and the “revitalization” of the craft which took place in the 1920s from generational potters, Vernon and Pam Owens. The afternoon was filled with a visit to Ben Owen Pottery to see new art forms and changes in this family’s wares over the past three generations, plus two functioning groundhog kilns. Last on the second day was a trip to the King’s Pottery to meet Terry, Anna and Crystal King, a family of local potters known for their whimsical face jugs and sculptural figurines of animals.

Mary Farrrell of Westmoore Pottery greets the teachers in front of her shop before showing them her decorative techniques.

The third day the teachers’ group traveled to Pittsboro, NC, to meet potter Mark Hewitt and learn more about the apprenticeship system of craft-transfer, along with his own version of traditional pottery, use of a catenary arch kiln and other decorative elements revised from North Carolina’s 19th century traditions. The group concluded the field trip day with a visit to Seagrove pottery family, the McCanlesses, where Millie (Dover Pottery), Eck (Eck McCanless Pottery) and Zeke demonstrated elaborate decorative techniques on porcelain-type ceramics.

Pittsboro, NC, potter, Mark Hewitt talks about his craft and appreciation of North Carolina pottery.

At the end of the workshop, the teachers received their diplomas and stood patiently for a final group photograph.  Overall comments from teachers were very rewarding and positive, “this is the best workshop I’ve attended in my 17 years of teaching”, “loved the literature and the presentations”, “learning firsthand history from NC potters”, “now I have more knowledge to spread with kids and families in the area”,  and “NCPC + Hospitality = Wonderful!”

Group of 25 Teachers from Chatham, Lee, Moore, Montgomery, and Randolph Counties who participated in the NCPC’s 3-day Teachers Workshop on Pottery making in North Carolina.

The workshop organizers, Dr. Linda Carnes-McNaughton, Mrs. Cindy Edwards, and Mrs. Ann Busick, along with the NCPC staff, hope to do another teachers workshop in the future, offering access to potters, history overview and hands-on demonstrations to teachers from throughout the state an opportunity to transmit this learning to their students….helping to preserve and promote the significance of pottery in North Carolina’s heritage.

Upcoming Fundraiser for the NC Pottery Center

The North Carolina Pottery Center, in Seagrove, partnering with Leland Little Auction & Estate Sales, Ltd (LLAES), is pleased to announce, the12th annual Going, Going, Gone to Pots fundraising auction on Aug. 11, 2011. This auction, the Center’s main fund raising event of the year, will feature an outstanding selection of contemporary and vintage North Carolina pottery donated by top NC potters and collectors, as well as other exciting participatory and pottery related items. The lots are available for viewing now at ( and (

NC Pottery Center’s Upcoming Exhibitions

The North Carolina Pottery Center will present two new exhibits including:Wild Fire: Alamance County Stoneware – Past and Present and Remember Me as You Pass By… North Carolina Ceramic Grave Markers, both on view from Aug. 19 through Oct. 29, 2011. A reception will be held on Aug. 19, from 5:30-7:30pm.

Exhibitions are made possible through the generosity of our membership, the Mary and Elliott Wood Foundation and the Goodnight Educational Foundation. This project was supported by the NC Arts Council, a division of the NC Department of Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The mission of the North Carolina Pottery Center is to promote public awareness of and appreciation for the history, heritage, and ongoing tradition of pottery making in North Carolina. The Center is located at 233 East Avenue in Seagrove. Hours of operation are Tue. – Sat., 10am – 4pm.

For more information, please call 336/873-8430 or visit (

NC Arts Council Community Arts Internship Application Deadline May 3, 2010

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

We received this e-mail at Carolina Arts – it’s about a couple of paid jobs!!!!! Act fast!

Here’s the news:


The North Carolina Arts Council, in Raleigh, NC, is accepting applications for two paid internships with local arts councils or arts centers through Monday, May 3, 2010.

This opportunity provides two individuals with a three-month intensive internship with one of North Carolina’s local arts councils or arts centers under the supervision of the executive director or staff member who will help the intern design a training program within the spectrum of community arts administration.

Interns receive a $5,000 stipend to cover living expenses. The intensive, supervised program is designed to introduce community arts administration skills including learning organizational structure, planning, fundraising, grant writing, financial management, marketing, programming, publicity and promotion, and building interagency relationships.

The specific location is based in part on interns’ expressed interests and the nature of the operations of the host organizations. Applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate a strong interest in a career in community arts administration.

About 75 percent of internship recipients have eventually been placed in full-time arts positions.

Internships are scheduled for a three month period between September 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. For guidelines, visit (

To apply, send a resume, cover letter, application and narratives and a list of three references by Monday, May 3, 2010.  Download an application at (

Further questions about the internships should be directed to Katherine Reynolds, NC Arts Council program assistant, by calling 919/807-6505 or e-mail to (

The North Carolina Arts Council works to make North Carolina The Creative State where a robust arts industry produces a creative economy, vibrant communities, children prepared for the 21st century and lives filled with discovery and learning. The Arts Council accomplishes this in partnership with artists and arts organizations, other organizations that use the arts to make their communities stronger, and North Carolinians – young and old – who enjoy and participate in the arts. For more information visit (

The NC Arts Council is a division of the NC Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency dedicated to the promotion and protection of North Carolina’s arts, history and culture. For further info visit (

NC Pottery Center Offers Summer Fundraiser – June 20 2009

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The doors of the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, were kept open due to the efforts of many last year, but – and I hate to be the one to tell you this – the Center is not yet saved, and the cavalry in the form of the NC Arts Council, a.k.a. the State of North Carolina – is nowhere in sight.

The State of North Carolina is not in the same shape it was a few years back when the plan to take over operations of the Pottery Center was first hatched. And, it may be several years before the State gets back to where it was before the bottom dropped out. So, Plan B is in effect – fundraising to keep the doors open.

There are still a few who would like to see the doors of the Pottery Center closed. For what reason – I can’t understand. From the perspective of someone who lives in South Carolina, we would love to have such a facility for any part of the arts here.

So here’s a press release about the fundraiser.

The North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, has planned an exciting, educational and free day for the public on Saturday, June 20, 2009, from 10am-4pm. Visitors from near and far, young and old are invited to spend the day at the Center to be entertained and educated about the history, heritage and ongoing tradition of pottery making in North Carolina, one of the state’s most well-loved and treasured art forms.

The “Pots from the Attic” Fundraiser runs all day and features a collection of over 200 highly unique pieces. Shapes and sizes vary from crocks to candle holders to sugar bowls and Rebecca pitchers as well as marked souvenir pots from the past tourist trade. A majority of pots were donated from the collection of Dr. Everette James. NCPC board member, Pam Owens from Jugtown commented, “I know I speak for the whole NCPC Board in expressing our gratitude to Everette James for the donation of his historic, and well known pottery collection from the Saint James Place Museum in Roberson, NC. There are many wonderful study pieces in the “Pots from the Attic” Fundraiser. We look forward to a full and interesting day of events on June 20.”

Mark Hewitt, accomplished Pittsboro, NC, potter and VP of the NCPC describes the collection like this. “In many ways pots are like people, we give them human associations by describing their feet, bellies, necks, and lips. Pots, like people, are also fragile. Over the course of a lifetime, we all get chipped and banged about, but carry on, somehow tougher for our experiences. Likewise the pots in this sale have been slightly damaged, but they still retain their core beauty, somehow made more real by their flaws. The pots in the sale have been well-loved. There are examples of all types of North Carolina pottery, from utilitarian to art ware, small pieces and large. The sale includes many hidden treasures, rare stamps, and familiar gems.”  The range of pots includes those from Cole Pottery in Sanford, Jugtown, Ben Owen-Master Potter and North State among many others. This is a great opportunity to begin or add to an existing collection in a very affordable way.  All pots are priced to sell.

There will also be live Celtic Music inside the main building from 1:30 – 3:30pm with Michael Mahan and Will McCanless.

In tandem, a reception and book signing of The Living Tradition: North Carolina Potters Speak takes place from 2-4pm. The recently released book includes intimate interviews with 23 of North Carolina’s most distinguished potters. With illuminating interviews conducted by Michelle Francis and Charles “Terry” Zug III, resplendent photography by Rob Amberg, editing by Denny Hubbard Mecham, and publishing by Goosepen Studio & Press, this is the culmination of a documentary project by the North Carolina Pottery Center to promote and preserve North Carolina’s unique pottery making history. The funding for this distinctive project was made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Sciences, a national organization. Featured artists from the book attending the reception include; Ben Owen III, Pam and Vernon Owens, Hal and Eleanor Pugh, Caroleen Sanders, Mark Hewitt and interviewer Terry Zug. Refreshments will be served. All proceeds from The Living Tradition and the “Pots from the Attic” Fundraiser directly benefit the North Carolina Pottery Center. Sample pages can be viewed at (

A full day can easily be spent at the Center with individuals and families free this Saturday to take in the significance of the permanent historical section, beginning with the Native American pottery exhibit and artifacts, through the tools and functional pots of the agricultural era, to the movement toward art pottery and to the more contemporary pots of today. Two large display cases hold samples of approximately 85% of the local Seagrove community potters. The Center rotates exhibits every 3 to 4 months and the current exhibit is Dan Finch and the Dan Finch Studio Potters on view through Aug. 1, 2009. Visitors are welcome to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the outdoor tables underneath the grove of 100-year-old oak trees, and wander the charming rural grounds. Here one can explore the outside groundhog kiln and double chambered wood-firing kiln designed and built by potters Ruggles and Rankin (also featured in The Living Traditions book) during a teaching event.

Day-long demonstrations are held on Saturdays in the Center’s Educational Building by local potter Chad Brown. He is a 5th generation potter; his great-great grandfather was William Henry Chriscoe, a portion of whose original log cabin pottery studio now resides in the Smithsonian Museum. Brown is an up-and-coming potter to watch on the Seagrove scene, having worked as a journeyman potter for numerous studios and assisting many local potters with their wood firings. His decision to pursue his own pottery full-time this year was rewarded last month when he received the “The Award of Excellence” at The Arts in the Park show in Blowing Rock, NC. Sid Luck of Luck’s Ware, coordinator of the 2008-09 TAPS (Traditional Arts Program for Students) said, “I was most fortunate to have Chad as an assistant in the TAPS program this year. He is an excellent potter, has a great rapport with students and is very dependable.” TAPS is an afterschool collaboration between the NC Arts Council, the NC Pottery Center, and Seagrove Elementary School. Its purpose is to provide public school students with the knowledge and practices of the Seagrove traditional pottery culture. Mark Hewitt remarked, “Chad Brown has quietly established his presence as one of the most talented younger potters in Seagrove. We all enjoy Chad’s humor and good nature, and know how much he contributes to the NCPC with his patient, insightful demonstrations and his warm, generous personality. His beautiful pots reflect who he is.”

Opened in 1998 in Seagrove, the NCPC mission is to promote public awareness of North Carolina’s remarkable pottery heritage. The Center welcomes and informs visitors to the Seagrove area, enriching their experience through exhibitions and educational programs, and promoting potters working today across the state. The NCPC is a private nonprofit entity, funded primarily through memberships, grants, admissions, and appropriations. The Center’s hours are Tue.-Sat., 10am to 4pm, Admission (excluding free special events) is $2 – adults, $1 – students 9th through 12th grades, Free – children through 8th grade, free – NCPC members. Handicap accessible. Groups and tours welcomed. For further information and details call 336/873-8430, e-mail (to or visit (

Update on NEA Stimulus Monday for the Arts

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

We’re finding out some things about the $50 million the National Endowment for the Arts got for economic stimulus recovery for the arts. Well, the non-profit part of the arts that is. Everyone else involved in the arts will be left out in the cold. And, it’s pretty cold out there in this economy.

The trickle down effect is taking its toll on the $50 million figure. First off, $30 million was set aside for previous NEA grant recipients who received funding within the past four years. That’s 64 groups in NC and maybe a dozen in SC. The remaining $20 million was split (almost in a King Solomon manner) between 63 – state arts agencies including the District of Columbia, regional arts organizations like the Southern Arts Federation and US territories like Virgin Islands, Guan and American Samoa. The pie is bigger than most would think.

As the money trickles down from there, here is what our states received and those of states near us.

North Carolina Arts Council ($339,100), South Carolina Arts Commission ($311,500), Georgia Council for the Arts ($342,000) and Tennessee Arts Commission ($321,800).

The big states didn’t do that much better.

California Arts Council ($502,400), Texas Commission on the Arts ($427,300), and New York State Council on the Arts ($399,900).

Imagine trying to split up $400,000 in recovery money for the arts groups in New York city alone, much less the state of New York.

And, what about the smaller states?

Alaska State Council on the Arts received ($290,000).

This hardly seems fair or makes good sense. Alaska gets just $100,000 shy of what was given to New York state. I’m not sure even King Solomon would see the justice in that.

And what about those “other” groups most wouldn’t think of off the top of their heads?

The Southern Arts Federation based in Atlanta, GA, will distribute $510,500 within the nine state arts agencies they represent. They say they will contribute $51,000 to each of the nine states to distribute within the states – saving a bit of the money for themselves ($51,500). A 10% finders fee – they have to eat too.

The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities received ($290,000), Virgin Islands Council on the Arts received ($50,000), and the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Council for Arts & Culture, Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities, and American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture & Humanities each received ($25,000).

Now, when you start to think about the hundreds and hundreds of organizations in each of these states, regions or territories – that trickle stream is going to start to look like a drip, drip, drip. That $50 million figure almost seems laughable as economic recovery.

Out of the $311,500 the SC Arts Commision is receiving from the NEA, they will keep about $50,000 (16%), but that money will be made up by the SAF money – so it’s a wash. The Arts Commission also has to eat.

How many jobs will this really protect? That’s what it’s all about, right – saving jobs in the arts?

Here’s what the NEA says this is all about.

“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides $50 million to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn. Forty percent of such funds will be distributed to State arts agencies and regional arts organizations and 60 percent of the funds will be competitively awarded to nonprofit organizations that meet the eligibility criteria established for this program.”

The NEA’s $50 million was to go towards saving jobs that were being lost in the arts community.

The SAF says: “Southern Arts Federation’s distribution of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds will be through partnering with our region’s nine state arts agencies to re-grant funds to arts organizations in our states for arts jobs preservation.”

But, here is what I found on the NC Arts Council’s website which sheds a different light on what this money can be used for or what it will be used for.

Letter from E-News from NC Arts Council Mar./Apr. 2009

From Executive Director Mary B. Regan

Updated March 9, 2009

“Last week the NEA released the guidelines for the $50 million in stimulus funds they received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The one-time grants will help preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector that are threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the economic downturn.

Thirty million of this will be awarded through direct grants to organizations that have been NEA grant recipients within the past four years.

About 45 North Carolina organizations (those that have received NEA grants within the last 4 years) are eligible to apply directly to the NEA for grants of $25,000 or $50,000. Groups can apply for salary support for critical jobs that are in jeopardy or have been eliminated as a result of the current economic climate and for fees for previously engaged artists or contractual personnel to maintain or expand their engagements. The application deadline is April 2, 2009. We strongly encourage all eligible groups to apply directly to the NEA for these funds.

The remaining $20 million of the NEA funds will be distributed to state and regional arts agencies. The N.C. Arts Council will distribute our state’s share of these funds. Nancy Trovillion is developing these guidelines and will send them out within the next six weeks. We anticipate that the deadline will be in June and we will work on a quick turnaround review process so that announcements can be made in July or early August.

The NEA is requiring that our guidelines be similar to their direct grant guidelines. Organizations that receive one of the stimulus grants directly from the NEA will not be able to receive a grant from our share of the NEA stimulus funds.

Additionally, we have studied the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Economic Stimulus Package) to find opportunities for the arts to be a part of rebuilding our economy. There are Economic Stimulus Arts Funding Opportunities outlined on our Web site with examples of how federal programs can fund the arts.

To be very clear about the language in the Stimulus Bill, there is no restriction on using the money for the arts. The Senate version did contain language prohibiting the money from going to museums, theatres, and arts centers, but this language was dropped in the final compromise bill. If you encounter any confusion on this issue, please let us know.

Hang in there. Let us know if there’s any way we can help.”

Mary B. Regan, Executive Director
North Carolina Arts Council

As the executive director of the NC Arts Council points out to the people who will be applying for this money in her last paragraph – “there is no restriction on using the money for the arts.” She underlined the words no restriction – giving these groups the green light for – whatever.

Even though every statement keeps stressing that this recovery money is for saving jobs in the arts – wink, wink – it’s really for anything and anybody we want to interpret it to be for.

And, people in government wonder why people (taxpayers) don’t trust them.

Finally, just before posting we received info from the NC Arts Council with a link to their guidelines to apply for this funding of $339,100 – minus whatever amount they are keeping in house – all Mama’s children got to eat. The guidelines are titled, Creative Workforce Grants, and they use the words job and salary a lot, but it also keeps mentioning the word “project” – maybe that’s the wink, wink part. Here’s a link to the guidelines.

This fuzzy interpretation of guidelines is something I have found to be the norm in the world of the non-profit arts. They put out statements as to what qualifications are for a program or a grant – to discourage many from applying, knowing that the savvy will call to find out from their friends at the agency – how soft those requirements are. And, when the final results are announced – many that didn’t apply, as they thought they couldn’t, find they maybe could have – since someone like them did and got it. Even though the two are equally qualified or disqualified. It’s all about inside info and playing the system.

Like the little understood fact that when it comes to federal money – all can apply. No one can be turned down from applying for something even if they don’t qualify. Then, only those who apply can be considered, whether they are qualified or not. And, things do seem to slip through the cracks at times. The trick is to get you not to apply.

Let’s hope some change will come to this system someday. Perhaps it’s time for Mary B. Regan to retire too – wink, wink.

With the full disclosure promised with these recovery funds, we hope to keep you posted as to where the money goes and what it is used for – saving jobs – I’m sure. We’ll see.

Maybe it’s time for the Art Police.

The Power of Potters – In Saving the NC Pottery Center

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Don’t mess with a North Carolina potter! Or their Pottery Center. At least that’s the word I have for anyone doubting the importance of the NC Pottery Center located in the small community of Seagrove, NC. I have just received word that $100,000 + has been raised to save the NC Pottery Center.

It was just three months ago when I decided to stop by the Pottery Center to see an exhibition of pottery by Native American Indians in hopes of doing a review for my new blog on my way to Greensboro, NC. It was an excellent show and while I was there almost an hour –  no where did I see or hear any indication that the Center was in the middle of an area-wide controversy or financial trouble. It wasn’t until I arrived in Greensboro that a friend asked me about the troubles at the Pottery Center based on a newspaper article he read there in Greensboro.

I went online and found his concerns were true. There was big trouble in Seagrove. And, as I researched the issue I learned that all of the fuss was being caused by a few individuals who were more interested in a power grab than what was good for Seagrove, the Pottery Center and the potters in the area. Based on some of the outlandish claims being made by these individuals – which I knew to be untrue from my own experience in dealing with the Pottery Center I decided to stand on the side of local potters in Seagrove and the Pottery Center. It was just a ridiculous notion that we could loose this marvelous ten year old center because of the back-room dealings of a few.

And, I wasn’t the only person who couldn’t imagine losing this wonderful center of pottery history and resource center for contemporary pottery in not just Seagrove, but North Carolina, and the Carolinas. In three months, during what could be easily termed as the worst economic time in the US – hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of people put their money in the kitty to help save the NC Pottery Center.

Leading the charge was the Board of the NC Pottery Center and local potters networking with potters in North Carolina and eventually potters everywhere. And, the public responded by sending in checks, making electronic donations, purchasing pots that were donated to help benefit the Center, buying raffle tickets and making auction bids.

There is no doubt that a few individuals did more in this effort. Dr. Everette James and his wife Nancy Farmer donated part of their pottery collection to be auctioned off to benefit the Pottery Center. Leland Little Auction and Estate Sales, Ltd. in Hillsborough, NC, donated their services for that auction which raised $35,000. An anonymous NC couple offered a $10,000 challenge contribution to cap the Pottery Center’s fund drive once the Center raised $90,000 in honor of Drs. Everette James and Nancy Farmer. I’m sure there where others who deserve mention, but I just don’t have their names at this time. But everyone who made a contribution – no matter how small or even if it was in just spreading the word – they made a difference. They saved the NC Pottery Center – for now.

The ultimate goal is for the State of North Carolina to take over operation of the NC Pottery Center under the North Carolina Arts Council – a state arts agency. But, under the current economy – that might take some time yet, so the fight might not be over just yet. A fundraising goal has been met, but the long-term future is still unknown, but it does look brighter today.

Another contributing factor in the fundraising effort was blogging potters around the Carolinas. When the call when out for help – the word spread fast and far. I had a hard time keeping up with all the things that were going on and I eventually came to rely on Meredith Heywood of Whynot Pottery in Seagrove, who was blogging on her own blog ( and eventually set up another blog – Potters for the NC Pottery Center  ( She had lots of help from others who were feeding her info or helping with the blog. And, what’s really amazing is that during all this mess – she and her husband, also a potter, were dealing with rebuilding their studio which burned down in July.

Also let’s don’t forget that there were a few victims during this battle to save the Pottery Center. First and foremost was the loss of the Center’s director, Denny Mecham. The Center’s board in an effort cut expensive had to cut Mecham’s position to a part-time level and then all together. Mecham was unable to wait and see how the fundraising effort would go, and  took a position as the new executive director of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi. Talented people don’t have to wait too long for good job offers. The Potter Center’s exhibition schedule was also adjusted, putting major shows on the back burner. And, although some say all publicity is good – it’s not always good for everyone. The anxiety levels of area potters caught up in the controversy has taken its toll – causing some to take sides in a very small community.

What have I learned from all this? One – Potters have a strong network and sense of community. Two – If you work hard for something – a good cause – people will respond and help, even in tough times. Three – the power of the blog in spreading the word about issues. And, Four – just another reminder – the arts are important to people.

Although the $100,000 goal has been met – if you’re so inclined and have the funds – I would still advise anyone to make a contribution or participate in one of the still ongoing fundraisers. It won’t hurt and I’m sure it can be put to good use.

Now, go visit the Center you helped save. The doors are open.

Saving the NC Pottery Center

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

About the same time we were posting my blog entry about a recent visit to the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, Martha Waggoner, an Associated Press writer was releasing a story about the financial problems of the Pottery Center. The headline hitting papers throughout the Carolinas was, “Supporters: NC Pottery Center needs $100,000″.

I had no idea where my little impulsive visit to the Pottery Center was going to lead me. First, I didn’t know about the dueling pottery festivals until I left Seagrove and arrived in Greensboro, NC, and now days later I’ve learned that the Center could close in a few months if $100,000 isn’t raised soon.

Golly Dark Knight – what’s a blogger to do?

I also saw the latest Batman movie while I was in Greensboro. The Caped Crusader and the Joker have come along way since their TV days, but that’s another dark tale, for another day.

This AP report was spawned by a letter signed by board members of the NC Pottery Center stating the Center’s current financial situation – which was not good, but not hopeless.

It seems that the board of the Pottery Center entered into an agreement in 2007 with the NC Department of Cultural Resources to transfer the Center’s assets to the State and operate the Center through the North Carolina Arts Council, but the funding was cut from the latest NC State Budget. The letter to hopeful supporters is a plea for donations which will help the Pottery Center hang on until that funding can be reinstated into the State Budget – hopefully in the next legislative session.

My only indication of financial need when I was at the Pottery Center was when I asked if they had a handout on the exhibitions – so I didn’t have to write down artist’s names for correct spelling. The person I asked laughed and said they just didn’t have money for any printed materials. I didn’t think much of it – that’s the story all over the art community. But otherwise, the Center was in tip-top condition – no signs of lacking on the upkeep of the facility – even after ten years.

I guess the State of NC didn’t think it could handle taking on two visual art institutions in the same year, in that the State of North Carolina just took over operations of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, NC. It is now a state-run facility operated in conjunction with the NC Museum of Art.

These are tough times for the arts. It’s tough times for everyone – except a few – about 1% of our population. They have been tough times since the year 2000. I wonder what happened that year and has continued through today? I wonder.

Well, the North Carolina Pottery Center needs help. For ten years it has been serving the traditions of Seagrove potters and potteries, NC’s pottery heritage, and the story of handmade pottery. It’s too important to lose now. The letter mentions how you can make a donation in increments of $25 on the Center’s website and it also mentions other forms of fund-raising which will be announced in coming weeks – if not sooner. But, there is nothing like cold hard cash to cure financial problems.

I know how tough it is to think about making a donation to another part of the arts while we’re all hurting – we’re hurting too, but it just seems like we can’t keep going backwards losing all that has been accomplished – just because times are bad. This is when the art community has to stand together and those who enjoy the fruits of that art community to step up and be counted.

If you can’t give money, maybe you can give art that can be used to raise money. Perhaps you can organize a fundraiser in your town or city. One of the Center’s problems is that Seagrove is such a small community – it can only give so much. A fundraiser there can just draw a limited amount of people. They really need money to be raised from and generated in communities – elsewhere.

You can even help by spreading the word that the NC Pottery Center needs help – help now. You never know who will and can respond to this plea, but they just don’t know of the need. A few folks from that 1% could solve this problem themselves, but it may take a lot of folks like you and me. They need an Obama type internet fundraiser – lots of little donations – all at the same time.

The Pottery Center’s website has the posted letter, a link to make electronic donations, info on how and where you can send checks, and a lot of info about what they have been doing in the last ten years – which gives you a snapshot of what this Center could continue to do in the future – with our support.

Finally, when I do these visits I usually go unannounced – it’s easier that way. The next time I just might ask – How you doing? Got any problems worth mentioning? It might save me some time.

Oh the Difference!

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

I was surfing my list of websites to check each day in order to keep up with the visual arts in the Carolinas and on the NC Arts Council’s website I found a couple of interesting items. First was the press release for an exhibition taking place in Rocky Mount, NC, featuring the NC Arts Council’s 2006-07 visual art Fellowship artists – all 14 of them.

Now it should be noted that the visual art Fellowships are only selected every other year in NC. So, to keep comparison with what the SC Arts Commission does – that would be like 7 Fellowships a year. You know this had to be about the SC Arts Commission if you know me and have followed my commentary.

Fellowship awards are financial awards given to reward an individual artist – on merit alone – decided by a panel, usually made up of qualified jurors from outside the state . These jurors look at slides of artists who have sent in an application for the Fellowship by a stated deadline. So the selection pool is made up only of people who apply. That’s an important item to remember. Fellowship awards also are given with no strings attached. Unlike matching grants or grants for specific projects – artists who receive Fellowship awards can do anything with the money. They’re not even required to create another piece of art – if they so wish. So for an artist, it’s the best kind of money – totally free. But, probably not tax free – not sure.

One of the reasons this press release caught my attention was the fact that it was about a curated exhibition of the Fellowship winners. The good folks at the SC Arts Commission don’t seem to think that part of the Fellowship thing should be an opportunity for the public to see works by the artists selected. In the past there have been a few retrospective exhibits by past Fellowship winners and when the calendar fell at the right time, recent winners were included in past Triennial exhibitions, but they don’t seem to see any value in giving the winners an exhibition or the public the opportunity to see what kind of work is being made by artists being rewarded in SC.

The exhibition at the Rocky Mount Arts Center in Rocky Mount will be on view through Sept. 21, 2008. It’s an opportunity for anyone – even folks in SC to go see what kind of works these Fellowship artists make. At least the Fellowship winners in NC.

On this same visit to the NC Art Council’s site I also found two other very interesting press releases about Fellowship awards. The two were listing the artists who were in the final running for the FY09 Fellowships for Visual Art and Crafts. These two articles were stunning to read. In the Visual Art category it listed 84 artists who were selected out of the 324 applicants – from which up to 13 will be selected for the Fellowship awards. In the Crafts category, 20 artists were listed out of the 109 applicants – from which up to 4 will be selected.

It seems that in 2007 the NC Arts Council made some changes to their Fellowship program – increasing the number of Fellowships by separating craft artists into their own category and the amount of money given to each recipient.

OK – artists in SC – you better sit down for this. Fellowship artists in NC are now receiving $10,000 – each.

NC is now selecting up to 17 artists at $10,000 a pop – $170,000 to visual artists – every other year. Or, for those who are slow with the math that’s 8.5 artists and $85,000 a year.

In SC, at best the SC Arts Commission has given 2 to 4 Fellowships a year (one year 5 and a couple just 1) and the money has fluctuated between $2,000 and $7,500 at its highest. Currently the award is $5,000 for 4 awards – every other year. And, that was just increased.

It’s clear that SC is far behind when it comes to this Fellowship thing – in numbers awarded and money given to the recipients. Well, after all SC is a smaller and poorer state, but as I’ve said before in other commentary the real shocker is that the SC Legislature gives the SC Arts Commission more money per citizen than the NC Legislature gives the NC Arts Council. And, although NC has more citizens netting them a bigger budget – they seem to be able to do more with the money they have. It could be that their staff is much smaller than that of the SC Arts Commission. The SC Arts Commission has one of the largest staffs in the nation for such a poor state. So less money is going to artists and for programing. A smaller state should use less staff than a neighboring state that has a much larger population – right.

Here’s another factor in how effective the two programs are. The NC Fellowship program for FY09 received 433 applications. Not too long ago the SC Arts Commission had to make a second call for applications because less than 6 applied and they can’t make an award with that few applications. SC’s visual artists didn’t feel it was worth applying for. But free money is free money.

Here’s another thing that amazed me about the press releases from the NC Arts Council. They were giving us 104 names of artists who were in the final running. They will select up to 17 out of that pool for the final awards. The SC Arts Commission only mentions the “alternate” artists in case the first picks are disqualified for some reason. I’m sure it’s great to know you came in second. But they keep the names of who applied from the public – at least they don’t volunteer the names. I’m sure you could get them by filing a Freedom of Information request, but why should we have to do that? What’s the big secret?

When you start playing with the numbers, for every 2 Fellowships the SC Arts Commission awards – the NC Arts Council awards 8.5. In five years that’s 10 to 42.5. In ten years it’s 20 to 85. Of course that’s if NC doesn’t keep expanding their program. Of course they didn’t always give so many each year. When they first started making Fellowship awards they only gave 4 a year much like SC, but they quickly increased their program while SC’s has slowly gone into decline. And, we don’t even want to get in the amount of money each state has awarded to artists. I don’t want to upset SC’s artists. But I bet you could find some artists in NC who wouldn’t think they are that well off – especially with so many people applying for the award. That means there are also more artists in NC who haven’t received a Fellowship, but were hoping to get one. I guess the grass is always greener…

The Complete Story

Friday, May 30th, 2008

On a recent visit to the North Carolina Arts Council’s (this is NC’s state arts agency) website ( under the Headlines heading I found a piece titled “Asheville in American Style Magazine” dated May 6, 2008. The short article informed me that in the June 2008 issue of American Style Magazine, Asheville, NC, was ranked second on the magazine’s annual Top 25 Art Destinations in small cities and towns category (populations of fewer than 100,000 people).

The article went on to describe Asheville’s art community and at the end suggested readers that for more info visit ( Good thing I did.

I’m sure this news was sent to the NC Arts Council by someone from Asheville, but I’m surprised before posting this news that Jessica Orr, who posted this item for the Arts Council’s website, didn’t visit the magazine’s website and check out the lists. I’m assuming she didn’t because there was good news there about other cities in North Carolina and I can’t think of why she wouldn’t post that info along with the info about Asheville.

Also, it should be noted that this ranking of top art destinations is a readers’ poll. Only readers of American Style Magazine vote. We are also never told how many votes any of the cities on the top 25 list got. So we don’t know if a city got thousands of votes or twelve to make the list.

The poll is broken down into three categories – Top 25 Big Cities
(Populations of 500,000 or greater); Top 25 Mid-Sized Cities
(Populations of 100,000 to 499,999); and Top 25 Small Cities & Towns (Populations of fewer than 100,000).

Asheville came in 2nd on the Top 25 Small Cities & Towns list, but Chapel Hill, NC, came in 9th. I think that’s worth mentioning and I’m sure the folks in Chapel Hill think it is too. The top ranked city in this category was Santa Fe, NM.

There is more good news. Raleigh, NC, came in 24th on the Top 25 Mid-Sized Cities list (Buffalo, NY was number 1) and Charlotte, NC, came in 17th on the Top 25 Big Cities list (New York, NY was number 1). Why Orr didn’t include this news – I don’t know, but I think it’s great that Asheville was only second to Santa Fe, but I also think it’s great that three other cities in NC made the three lists.

And, since we cover the visual arts in both North and South Carolina, I’m happy to tell you that Beaufort, SC, came in 14th place on the Top 25 Small Cities & Towns list and Charleston, SC, came in 6th on the Top 25 Mid-Sized Cities list.

So the Carolinas have six cities on these lists – not bad considering many states had no cities on any of the three lists.

If you want to see the other cities on these lists, visit (