With strong traditions in music, literature, dance, pottery and crafts, North Carolina’s cultural heritage is deeply rooted in the arts—and the state’s economy.
Created in 1964, the North Carolina Arts Council was the first statutory state agency focused on arts and humanities as engines of economic development. Now an agency of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, the council continues to play an integral role in promoting the state’s numerous artistic assets.
“North Carolina’s rich cultural and artistic traditions have long attracted visitors to our state,” says Wayne Martin, the council’s executive director. “Attending shows at our historic theaters, spotlighting musicians from the region and touring museums and galleries are a few ways planners can connect and engage with the creative industry in North Carolina.”
According to a 2010 report from Americans for the Arts, the non-profit arts and culture industry generates some $1.2 billion in direct economic activity in North Carolina, supporting more than 43,600 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $119 million in revenue for local governments and the state.
With over 3,000 local and nonprofit arts organizations around the state, planners can look forward to plenty of support as they plan their group itineraries—and no shortage of memorable venues and experiences, as the following 10 choices reveal.
N.C. MUSIC FACTORY, CHARLOTTE
In the national spotlight recently as host venue for the DNC’s opening night media party, this entertainment district on the edge of Uptown Charlotte is a one-stop shop for planners. Built on the site of a century-old textile mill about two miles from the Charlotte Convention Center, the 37-acre complex features 14 diverse group-ready venues.
Anchored by the Fillmore indoor music hall, with room for 1,500 revelers, and the outdoor Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, accommodating 5,000 concert-goers, the factory also features upscale dining at Bask on Seaboard and comfort food at Mattie’s, a refurbished New Jersey diner from 1948. VBGB (Very Big German Beer) is a contemporary version of a traditional German beer garden, while the 900-square-foot Small Bar features a 1,500-square-foot outdoor patio. Plus, there is a comedy club and Gotham-style cocktail lounge, and several nearby hotels offer free shuttle service and special N.C. Music Factory rates.
NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART, RALEIGH
With origins dating back to 1924, this local treasure was America’s first state-funded museum and is today among the most distinguished cultural institutions in the South. Adding to its allure is its location within the nation’s largest art park. Encompassing 164 acres of fields, woodlands and creeks, Museum Park features more than a dozen monumental works of art along with hiking trails and the outdoor Museum Park Theater.
From an initial acquisition in 1947 of 139 works of European and American art, the museum’s holdings have grown to encompass works ranging from Egyptian sarcophagi to the largest collection of Rodin sculptures in the southeastern U.S.
Opened in 2010, the 127,000-square-foot, glass-clad West Building is bathed in natural light and eco-friendly throughout. Admission is free except for special exhibitions and programs, and tours are available for groups of 10 or more.
DURHAM PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, DURHAM
Since opening in 2008, this award-winning venue has drawn one standing ovation after another for its run of Broadway shows, concerts and other events. Billed as “the largest and most modern performing arts center between Atlanta and Philadelphia,” the center has quickly become a cultural landmark for popular entertainment in the Triangle area and beyond.
Available for group bookings, the centerpiece of the full-service venue is the three-tiered, 2,700-seat Performance Hall. Featuring vibrant red carpeting and warm wood accents, the room achieves a unique intimacy despite its size, with the farthest seat only 135 feet from the center stage.
Planners can also rent the three-story glass-walled atrium, offering some 15,000 square feet of space for up to 1,000 guests, and the 6,000-square-foot Mildred and Dillard Teer Stage, accommodating gatherings for up to 500 guests.