Over four decades ago, a group of like-minded individuals united to bring more — more exhibits, more art classes, more performances, more culture — to Beaufort County. From a mainstay art exhibit at the county fair, this group evolved into an organization, the Beaufort County Arts Council, an organization that would go on to be an arts leader in eastern North Carolina, presenting, sponsoring and partnering to provide school artists’ residencies, festivals, art exhibits, concerts and more.
As the arts council grew, its reach grew, from Washington to Ocracoke, to neighboring Hyde and Washington counties, as administrator of those counties’ Grassroots Grant arts funding from the state. Signature events were tacked on: the annual BCAC Juried Fine Arts Show, drawing entries from across the southeast; the BoCO Music Festival, recognized by regional and national musicians as a respected event, one recommended among traditional music lovers; the annual juried photography exhibit, which has grown each year to include more entries, cash awards and the participation of nationally and internationally recognized jurors; the annual Pamlico Writers Conference and Competition, known for its attention to literary trends and the participation of well-known and established authors and publishers.
The arts council continued to push its cultural and physical boundaries, and in 2013, purchased the historic Turnage Theatre in downtown Washington, a major step that allowed for further growth and evolution, rewards and opportunity. It was a calculated risk — an optimistic one based on good stewardship and broad community support.
Louise Lane was considered the founding force that drove the creation of BCAC. In 1974, she became its first paid director, and until her death in December of 2011, she and her husband Harold were members of BCAC's Board of Directors as Founders/Directors Emeritus. Harold continued his involvement with BCAC until his death in 2014.
The first formal workshop/class ever offered by the early BCAC in the 1960s was a belly-dancing class. Why? Who knows … Perhaps it was a sign of the times, or it may be there was a professional of the sort who was passing through or who lived in our community at the time.
Moving to a New Location
Formerly known as the Beaufort County Arts Council (BCAC), made the move to the Turnage Theater in January of 2014 and changed its name to the Arts of the Pamlico (AOP) to reflect its collective resources available to the region. At that time, the AOP was already a well-established arts presenter and our new location allowed for even more opportunities.
Recognizing the diversity of the demographics of the three counties the AOP directly serves, we aim to provide programming that is both inclusive and affordable. Events fall into three categories: free, donation only and ticketed, with ticket prices typically ranging from $5 to $50. The higher visibility at the Turnage and more programming options, means the AOP has more opportunities to offer varied programs and collaborate with artists and community partners to fully utilize its space.
In the summer of 2016, Debra Torrence became AOP's Executive Director working with AOP's seasoned team of staff, artists, volunteers and Board members to support growing the vision and community collaborations to build varied and accessible programming options. For example, supports for member artists now include an online Artist Directory adding to existing networking options and the new AOP School of the Arts and AOP School of the Arts for Kids offers arts enrichment and instruction for adults and youth respectively. The Young Patrons of the Arts was formed by Board member Jeffrey Phipps, building an active base to support AOP activities. Comedy shows, matinee offerings for older adults and special populations, more community theater offerings with dinner options and opportunities for K-12 and early childhood teachers to grow their art skills and knowledge have also been added.
To read about the impact of the Arts of the Pamlico in the the previous year and learn about what's next, please click here and visit the AOP Calendar of Events.