The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)


September 17, 2013

N.C. Arts Council Grants Catalyst for Winston-Salem Theatre District

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 — WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A small investment through the N.C. Arts Council's SmART Initiative pilot project has served as a catalyst for an ambitious expansion of the Winston-Salem Theatre District and the unveiling of an arts-driven economic plan for the city's downtown.


The SmART Initiative Theatre District Study was released by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and a local planning committee last week. North Carolina Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz and state Arts Council Director Wayne Martin also participated in the announcement, which calls for about an $80 million investment to create a theatre district.


Winston-Salem was one of five projects across the state that received funding from the N.C. Arts Council's SmART Initiative Pilot Project last year. The $30,000 investment from the state was a planning grant that the local committee also leveraged for economic impact research.


"The SmART Initiative accomplished what we envisioned. It brought together almost one hundred community leaders and interested citizens who studied, evaluated and dreamed about a vibrant arts destination - a place where people want to live and work," Susan Kluttz, Secretary, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources said.

"Our investment has been more than matched by the private sector partners. Now, a broad coalition of supporters is advocating building on an already vibrant downtown."


Greg Scott, chair of the Winston-Salem SmART Initiative committee, said that the Theatre District would boost the city's economy, enrich the lives of residents, bring visitors downtown and reinforce the image of Winston-Salem as the "City of Arts and Innovation."


After several months of meetings, needs assessments and various studies, Scott and the committee recommended five projects that would be components of a Downtown Theatre District campus sited around an iconic public park:


Creation of a National Black Theatre Hall of Fame

Renovation and expansion of the Stevens Center

Construction of a new Central Library on the current Winston Square Park site

Construction of a new 500 to 700 seat theater

Creation of a new, iconic park between Spruce and Poplar streets around which Theatre District development will be clustered


The statewide SmART Initiative was launched last year as an arts-driven economic development program. Winston-Salem was one of five cities selected to be part of the pilot projects.


"Our investment in the Winston-Salem project has the potential to dramatically enliven the downtown Theater District, bringing new theater facilities, better parks and open spaces, downtown residential and commercial investment andpublic art and cultural attributes to spur tourism," said Chris Beacham, the Arts Council's Creative Economies Program Director.


In addition to the intrinsic value of the arts, the 2010 national Arts and Economic Prosperity study found that audiences spent an average of $26.64 per person beyond ticket costs when attending events in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County. By investing in enhanced facilities, the community will draw increased audiences, generating additional income for businesses and revenue for local and state governments.


Another N.C. Arts Council placed-based economic development projects includes the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park project in Wilson. So far, the project has created more than 20 jobs, and the initial grant to conserve 32 whirligigs has spurred additional grants totaling $1 million and a $2 million downtown residential and retail project. Over the next three to five years four additional projects are slated.


For more information visit


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

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