We’re trying something new with our Go See This series—a more intimate look at the behind-the-scenes of creating arts events in Chatham County. We hope you enjoy this, the second offering in this experiment, by Luis Melodelgado.
Catching a moment
While driving the back-county roads on route to my appointment with Catherine Hobbs and Robena Meek, the organizers of this year’s Pickin’: A Music Celebration sponsored by Opus Financial Advisors, my phone rings. Both Catherine and Robena are running just a little behind schedule.
A couple of hours earlier that morning I had been the ones to change the plans, and they had graciously adjusted to it.
“No problem,” I reply.
With the newly gained time, I stop by a friends’ home in Pittsboro for a cup of hot tea. Before we have a chance to talk my phone rings once again. It turns out Catherine and Robena were truly “just a little behind.” They are already waiting for me at their office.
I gulp with haste the yummy brew, and rush down the street.
It’s a Chatham County Saturday morning. Fall is arriving on the heels of this year’s hurricanes. And soon, on November 11, the Chatham Arts Council’s Pickin’ will help us transition into the dark season with the ever-shining light of the arts.
After the morning greetings, now at the arts council’s conference table, we arrange ourselves—like fallen autumn leaves—on a naturally occurring and cozy equilateral triangle. The geometrical coincidence is empowering. We drop into an easy flowing conversation.
Catherine and Robena tell me they’ve worked all year long to put the event together. “As soon as one Pickin’ ends, we start working on the next.” I don’t doubt it.
Arts for every child, every year
Both Catherine and Robena are raising their children in Chatham County, and they’ve had many an opportunity to count their blessings. They both speak of having a childhood interspersed with moments of exposure to good art—moments of curiosity and bliss. They want their own children to have the best possible education; that goes without saying.
Here’s what’s striking with these two ladies: Catherine and Robena are conscious that their children aren’t the only children in our county deserving of a good education. That’s why these two women, who’ve known each other for ten years, have joined forces to help bring exemplary artist residency programs to all our county schools through the Chatham Artists-in-Schools Initiative.
They are convinced they have a pretty good chance to do it.
Catherine and Robena work for the Chatham Arts Council, and the CAC is now partnering with all ten traditional public elementary schools in Chatham County. It’s welcome news for principals, teachers, and students at Bennett, Bonlee, Moncure, North Chatham, Perry Harrison, Pittsboro, Siler City, Silk Hope, Virginia Cross, and JS Waters Schools. And this milestone is a huge step toward the CAC’s vision to be in every school in Chatham County every single year by 2025. Wow.
To learn more about the Chatham Arts Council’s school initiatives explore here.
Right here at home in Chatham County
Don’t think, however, that Catherine and Robena are blind. When asked about the biggest obstacle to this vision, they almost voice in unison: “Finances.”
The equation here is simple: more money = more quality programs.
Nina Lloyd of Opus Financial Advisors certainly understands this equation. Opus is the naming sponsor for Pickin’ for the third year running, and the company’s heart for the arts is clear in their tagline: “Orchestrating your financial future.” Local business owners in Chatham seem to understand the importance of creativity for a growing brain, and there’s a growing list of businesses supporting Artists-in-Schools, including other leading partners Hobbs Architects, Cheek Electric, Workshop Orange, Deep River Mercantile, Monteith Construction Corp, Life 103.1, and The Jester Group at Baird.
At the individual level, the Pickin’ organizers would need you and me to support this big vision with our pockets, too.
Robena helps put things in perspective for us. She knows that there are a lot of county people who contribute generously with financial donations to all sort of important causes. Like them, Robena used to contribute to national and international endeavors. “I now contribute financially to local programs and agencies. I no longer give at the out-of-county level because I want to see the results of my contributions in my backyard.”
For her part, Catherine wants you to realize that your financial help will have a considerable impact in the county you call Home. “There are many people who sleep in Chatham County and conduct their lives somewhere else. We have to build a culture of giving locally.”
It’s easy to agree with her. We all have a duty towards each other. And there’s a lot more in Chatham County than the couple of streets we inhabit. Our backyard actually has 710 square miles of Piedmont beauty.
Catherine remembers the first time she traveled deep into Chatham County, taking her child to a party in Goldston. “It took us 45 minutes to get there.” Forty-five minutes of traveling—and she was still on Chatham County roads.
We have more than 71,000 neighbors and counting. That’s a lot of county, and that’s a lot of people. There’s no reason for alarm—you only have to do your part. Let the rest of us contribute as well.
Learning from one another
“If I had a magic wand,” says Catherine, “I would wave it and have on the same stage our community’s elders and youth jamming, collaborating, learning from one another. Making something new.”
Have you seen the program for Pickin’? You can learn all about it here. After seeing what Catherine and Robena have arranged for us this year, it seems the magic wand has been waved. Wouldn’t you agree?
Yes, this year’s Pickin’ fundraising event will see young musicians from Clapping Hands Farm and Chatham Central Advanced Chorus sharing the stage with a group of seasoned performers, The Bluegrass Experience. Young people who are just getting started with art and ensemble will open for these headliners who have been playing together for an astounding 47 years.
Other differences this year from past Pickin’ events?
- We’ll all have food, beer, and wine from the Carolina Brewery, and everyone gets a seat at a table. (If you and 9 friends come together, email Robena at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a table of 10.)
- High Strung Violins and Guitars instrument petting zoo will be there for anyone who wants to give an instrument a go in the lobby.
- There will be space for you to do a little dancing to The Bluegrass Experience tunes.
- And educators from across Chatham County will be in attendance, too, so you can ask them just how the arts impact Chatham County kids.
Go see this
Now, to make sure this magic works in full strength, we—yes! that’s you and me—we will have to Go See This.
You’ll have a good time. You’ll see a lot of friendly faces. You’ll be in good company—especially if you bring friends and family. You guys can buy your tickets here.
Where: Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center, 1192 US Highway 64 West Business, Pittsboro
When: Sunday, November 11 at 5 p.m. (Doors open at 4 p.m.)
What Will This Cost Me?: $50 all-inclusive for music PLUS food, beer, and wine by Carolina Brewery; $20 for children ages three to 18; Free for children two and under.
For more information on this and other projects, visit Chatham Arts Council’s website.