Throughout its history, ARTS North Carolina has been a strong membership network for individuals and arts organizations across North Carolina. Founded in 1974 as the North Carolina Association of Arts Councils, the organization was instrumental in developing and advocating for the Grassroots Arts Program, a nationally recognized program of decentralized, per capita funding for the arts through the North Carolina Arts Council and local arts councils.

Early on, the organization dedicated itself to providing services to its members. Fund-raising tool kits, board development workshops, solicitation license coverage, and an executive director retreat became key services. Soon, more workshops were offered, a quarterly newsletter and an awards program were produced. An annual trade show of performing artists, now ArtsMarket produced by the North Carolina Presenters Consortium and the North Carolina Arts Council, was begun at the 1984 annual conference.

ARTS North Carolina hired its first full-time executive director and established its first permanent office in 1986 after being staffed through an association management firm for three years. In the late 1970’s staff was provided and funded through CETA, a federal program.

ARTS North Carolina has worked closely on a number of programs with the North Carolina Arts Council throughout its history. Additionally, partnerships have been formed and nurtured among statewide arts organizations and nonprofit service organizations. In 1991 ARTS North Carolina established, in partnership with the NCAC, the Peer Advisory Network (PAN), a nationally recognized program of trained peer professionals who were available to work one-on-one with arts organizations for short-term management/technical assistance.


New Name

The organization entered into a strategic planning process in the spring of 1992. It created a new mission, focus areas, and changed its name from the North Carolina Association of Arts Councils to ARTS North Carolina in April 1993, setting a new course for leadership and service to the arts in our state. The strategic planning and resulting name change were driven by the need to address issues of racial inclusion within the organization governing body and its membership and to provide an organization that reflected the growing maturity and diversity of the arts industry in North Carolina.

In early 1996 ARTS North Carolina entered into discussions with Arts Advocates of North Carolina (a 501 c4 organization) to plan for consolidation of the two organizations. By November 1996 the consolidation was successfully completed and a new strategic plan and mission was adopted in the spring of 1997 that included advocacy, networking, and services as key components of the organization’s work. Arts Advocates was left dormant within the Secretary of State umbrella and the organization began to do business as Arts North Carolina.


Fiscal Challenges Required Focus

In 2000, ARTS North Carolina entered a challenging and potentially devastating period in its twenty-six-year history. Projected deficits and fund raising short-falls dictated the elimination of two full time staff and a period of “holding” that was enabled through the generosity of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. In 2001, Georgann Eubanks was contracted to lead a strategic planning process to determine the organization’s viability and what mission it should adopt to ensure a continuing service to the arts industry in North Carolina. Advocacy, Communications, and Member Services were identified as three key areas of focus.

ARTS North Carolina regained its footing and began an energized and renewed program of strategies as recommended by the 2001 Strategic Plan:

  • Create and implement an advocacy plan that systematically connects people from the arts field with key legislative officials.
  • Create and enhance awareness of the arts as key to economic development, community health and sustainability, bridging diverse populations, and the development of our youth.
  • Renew the vitality of ARTS North Carolina as an essential partner, information source, and skills-building resource to arts organizations of all sizes and disciplines across the state.

In 2007, the Board of Directors determined that ARTS North Carolina should become an independent voice for all the arts in the state, and to that end, determined to not seek state funding for programmatic support. ARTS North Carolina began focused efforts to create a “culture of philanthropy” that would secure the financial foundation for the organization in lieu of state funding, and the Charter Leadership Council of ARTS North Carolina was formed through gifts of $500+. Organizations of every size and discipline, from all regions of the state, joined in ever-increasing numbers to ensure a strong advocacy organization reflective of their needs and vision for the arts in North Carolina.


A Bright Future

In the years 2002-2008, ARTS North Carolina found its new voice and purpose. Unprecedented increases in public funding (81%) reflected the industry’s growing acceptance of advocacy as a responsibility and an opportunity to effect change in public value and support as well as profound support from the NC Legislature. Remarkable videos and materials became essential communication tools. ARTS Day became a successful legislative event drawing 300+ advocates to Raleigh. As the recession overcame the state, ARTS North Carolina’s greatest achievement was sustaining recurring grant funds with only 15% reductions during the worst economic crisis in the history of North Carolina and the nation.

In 2008 Arts North Carolina took on the charge of advocacy for arts education in the public schools, resulting in the Legislative appointment of the Joint Select Committee on Arts Education. A high school graduation requirement in the arts passed the North Carolina Senate in 2009, but the economic crisis stalled the requirement’s passage in the House. In 2010, the North Carolina House and Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 66 requiring the appointment of a joint Task Force to create a Comprehensive Arts Education Plan for K-12. The 2011 Session of the General Assembly included H758 establishing a Legislative Arts Education Commission whose primary purpose was to move the Comprehensive plan from the shelf to the schools. In 2013, the House passed H127 sponsored by Legislative champions Linda Johnson and Becky Carney to a credit in arts education as a requirement for high school graduation. The bill was not released from the Senate Rules Committee in 2014. Again in the 2015-2017, H138 passed the House with a resounding bipartisan margin but died in the Senate Rules Committee. The work continues.

A new era began for North Carolina in 2012 with a Republican majority in the Legislature and Governor’s seat. Susan Kluttz was appointed Secretary of Cultural Resources and just prior to her appointment, Wayne Martin became Executive Director of the North Carolina Arts Council following Mary Regan’s 39 year tenure. In 2013, 60% of the Legislative Members had one term or less of experience, necessitating a “start over” in cultivating new friends and support from the General Assembly. By 2016, arts advocates had successfully achieved a 28% non-recurring increase in Grassroots Arts funding and $700,000+ in non-recurring A+ Schools support.

Arts North Carolina is a 501c3 tax exempt organization guided by a Board of Directors representative of individuals and organizations who believe every community should have access to public resources and opportunity to build healthy communities through the arts. Staffing includes one full time Executive Director/Lobbyist, a part time Administrator, a part time Marketing Associate and are represented in the North Carolina General Assembly by Ken Melton and Associates. Arts North Carolina offices are located in the Glenwood South area of downtown Raleigh through a rental agreement with United Arts of Raleigh/Wake County.


Arts North Carolina Leadership

Board Chairs of ARTS North Carolina

Matthew McEnnerney 1974-75
Jim McIntyre 1975-77 (deceased)
Chic Dambach 1977-78
Reid Cone 1978-79
Carolyn Cone Weaver 1979-80
Julian Long 1980
Charles Hesse 1980-81
Jan Eric Strohl 1981-82
Elaine Lorber 1982-83
Jon Gossett 1983
Jan Ellis Kohl 1983-85
Marvin Miller 1985-86
Robert Bush 1986-87
Michael Marsicano 1987-88
Jane Lonon 1988-89
Reggie Johnson 1989-90 (deceased)
Chris Griffith 1990-91
Bruce LaRowe 1991-92
Karen Wells 1992-93
David C. Hudson 1993-94
Sharon Kanter 1994-96
Vincent Marron 1996-97
Blucher Erhinghaus 1998-99
Nancy Dawson-Sauser 1999-2001
Linda Wilkerson 2001-02
David zum Brunnen 2002-04
Georgann Eubanks 2004-07
Deborah Martin Mintz 2007-08
Barbara Benisch 2008-10
Pierce Egerton 2010-2012
Jim Hoyle 2012-2015
Sarah Merritt 2015-2016
Nate McGaha 2016 – Jan 2017
Gilda McDaniel Jan 2017 – present

Board Chairs of Arts Advocates of North Carolina

Mary D.B.T. Semans 1984-86
Betty Cone 1986-88
Dave Phillips 1988-90
Roy Parker 1990-92
Scott Parker 1992-94
Margaret Baddour 1994-96