It’s the beginning of the new year. Another opportunity to go out and see more beauty.
Thankfully, January’s cold in North Carolina isn’t too bad. Right now, for instance, as I work on my notes from my visit with the NC Arts Incubator’s director, April Weaver, the sun’s light lends life to all sorts of art pieces placed throughout both the Chatham Rabbit Coffee Shop in downtown Siler City and its adjacent large space.
A lot is going on at the Incubator even in this early stage of the new year. In February the Incubator will inaugurate the Artshop, the nonprofit’s own retail shop. Simultaneously, the Incubator will launch its second annual Folk Art show. At some point in my interview with April, she mentions that in 2019, the Incubator will celebrate its seventeenth anniversary. I’d later realize that the Incubator has played an important role in promoting much more than the arts in Siler City. Among the various examples, I offer you two, with the hope that they will illuminate the point.
First, on the economic front, the Incubator’s encouragement of small-business ventures such as the coffee shops that have been leasing — now or in the past — operating space inside the Incubator’s building. The first successful “marriage” between coffee and the local arts champion — and for a good part of its 17 years of existence! — was with the beloved Courtyard Café (now Peppercorn), which only recently moved out of the Incubator and into its own space across the street. The space left behind at the Incubator has been successfully occupied by the Chatham Rabbit. Cheers!
Second, the Incubator has also been a socially conscientious actor in our county. Partnering with various local community agencies, the Incubator has made a point of advocating for cultural diversity and for social equality. The Incubator has always been ready to lend space and marketing power to endeavors of gregarious nature, such as the ones organized by Siler City’s Hispanic Liaison.
Seventeen years have not passed in vain.
Back at the Rabbit, a lively bass guitar pulsates while the coffee kicks in. Enticing music is an extra nudge to wake up. The moment makes me think that the whirling activity I am witnessing is an indication of how good business is around here. There is laughter and conviviality. Conversations bubble all around. And the seemingly indefatigable figure of April paces the building’s floor in all directions — taking notes and showing her collaborators where and how things should ultimately look.
Things promise to get even better under her expert direction. The NCAI is energized.
A Virginia-born artist turned arts administrator, April arrived in North Carolina about ten years ago. In addition to her executive duties in Siler City, she is also raising a beautiful family. Before her Incubator job, April was the general manager of an art store in Sanford–a position which successfully tested her administrative skills. April was recruited for the Incubator’s directorship a little over a year ago and, while talking with me, she sounds genuinely grateful for it.
April also confesses with sober sincerity her uneasy start with the Incubator, “There’s a lot of trial and error to this.” She remains level headed all the same. All learning curves are like this. “I arrived with lots of ideas, and in the beginning I tried various strategies which never paid off.”
And now? Well, now she feels she’s begun to find her own stride. April is confident that the wheel of success will soon begin turning with a much brighter spin for the Arts Incubator.
As part of her strategy, the director would like the Incubator to grow into the regional presence heralded by its name: NCAI. April wants to both influence and be influenced by nearby counties’ art and artists. In this sense, April aims to create partnerships with both local and non-local artists who are working in all types of media. She wants to strengthen the Incubator’s partnership with Siler City’s officials and with the community at large. “Anything we do to improve the Incubator is going to benefit our city’s economy.”
April reminds me that various storefronts in downtown Siler City are currently occupied by the art shops and studios of current and former members of the NCAI. “Our circle has started to widen, and that feels good,” she adds, and concludes, “We have started to see more movement in the downtown area. We are creating a good buzz!”
April tells me she is not alone in this effort. The NCAI Board of Directors has started a campaign of advertising the NCAI on different social media platforms. Their Facebook followers have doubled up already to over 1200 friends. You can like and befriend the Incubator at the Facebook page.
April is also convinced that the Incubator will benefit with the opening of its own retail store. She plans to continue and strengthen some of its traditional marketing efforts–such as the Folk Art show in February.
As far as the opening of the retail store called the Artshop, which will showcase the work of over 20 exhibitors, April comments that the initiative didn’t fail to cause some pain. This past holiday season, for instance, the Incubator didn’t hold its traditional Holiday Market. April says that the fact didn’t sit well with many of her agency’s artists. I am sure it might also have disturbed some of the most loyal NCAI patrons. In the path of progress, April feels, change is necessary. We all know the rest: change isn’t necessarily painless. April is now counting on the Artshop to more than make up for this past holiday’s losses. Both in emotional and also in financial capital.
Artshop opens Saturday, February 2 during the opening reception for “Folk Art February” from 6-8 pm.
And as for the folk art show, she has this for you: “The Second Annual Folk Art show will display the work of over a dozen NC folk artists including the late James Harold Jennings. Jennings’ work is widely known in the folk art movement and has been featured in the Smithsonian. Our show will also have the work of singer-songwriter David Childers of Concord NC, who will be providing entertainment for the event. Other artists include Katie B. Nunn, Robert Childers, Jason Morris, Diane Hubbard, Zeke McCanless, Fiva McCanless, Judith Maier, Trudy Thompson, Thomas Graham, Roger Person, Michael Snipes, Louise Bippart Hobbs, and Emily Merletto.”
April is convinced that the Incubator is going to be able to cash in on Chatham County’s current urban revolution. Siler City, the Incubator’s director opines, “already has the infrastructure needed to become the arts center” of our county and region.
The North Carolina Arts Incubator is indeed well poised to bring patrons on account of arts and cultural tourism. Its director seems to have the drive to help the Incubator pull it off. Please visit the NCAI. Go find out for yourself.
Go See This. Visit and support the North Carolina Incubator in downtown Siler City.
What: Folk Art February and the opening of the Artshop.
When: February 2, 2019.
Where: NC Arts Incubator, 223 N Chatham Ave, Siler City 27334
What will it cost me: Entrance is free.
Accessibility: Wide and open entrance, handicapped accessible.
Parking: Free and plentiful in downtown Siler City.
For more information: 919-663-1335 www.facebook.com/NcArtsIncubator/
Read more about Jay Hubbard’s NC Arts Incubator event at this link
Read more about the NC Arts Incubator history at this link.