03/20/16 — Value of art touted during meeting

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Value of art touted during meeting

By John Joyce
Published in News on March 20, 2016 1:45 AM

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Sarah Merritt, director of the Arts Council of Wayne County

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Nancy Trovillion, deputy director of the Arts Council of North Carolina, speaks at the Arts Council of Wayne County during the SmART Initiative break-out session Wednesday afternoon.

The Arts Council of Wayne County hosted its "Art is Smart" session Wednesday amid the shuffle of events that marked the first day of the Main Street Conference 2016.

Executive Director Sarah Merritt welcomed community art experts from other cities to announce -- and explain -- that Goldsboro has been selected as the state's next SmART community.

"What it means for Goldsboro is we will receive a grant that will provide $30,000 a year for the next three to five years to plan and implement public art and arts-based economic development," Merritt said.

"It also sets us up for some very large grants from the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and big funders of projects like that."

N.C. Arts Council deputy director Nancy Trovillion explained that cities throughout the state have been selected over the past few years to receive the financial boost to take existing spaces and make them viable and functioning public art spaces.

The same has recently been done in Kinston, where business owner Stephen Hill, founder of the Mother Earth Brewery, purchased 40 dilapidated historic homes and renovated them. He turned them into "live, work, sell" studios, where artists can live, work and sell their works all in one location, creating what Kinston officials later designated as the city's art district.

A consultant, Walter Manley, visited Goldsboro from California in February. He and his team -- Manley is from North Carolina originally -- have since been working up some ideas to inspire community art projects in downtown Goldsboro. The team will return to Goldsboro April 11 and 12, during which it will meet with the arts council, with city leaders and with the public to discuss ideas.

"There will be an opportunity for the public to come in and kind of hear his ideas and his presentation and see some images," Merritt said. "And they can offer their input."

Merritt, who has been with the arts council since it was located on the corner of East Ash Street and North Spence Avenue and who has been instrumental in moving the operation downtown and overseeing its growth, said it feels amazing to see so much progress taking shape.

"It seems like it has flown by. It has only been here really up and running at 100 percent since 2012," she said.

The arts council -- located at 102 N. John St. -- has become a vital part of downtown living. And it continues to grow.

"It is very exciting. Our biggest thing right now, because all the stuff we do we do with three full-time staffers and then a couple of part timers, so our goal right now is ... as an organization, is to evaluate and strengthen our existing programs," she said.

Since the move, the arts council budget has grown from $250,000 a year to $350,000 a year.

"So one of the things we really need to focus on is getting to that place over the next 12 months that we know we are financially sustainable," she said.