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Salisbury is blessed in the arts


Edward Norvell lives in Salisbury.

Edward Norvell lives in Salisbury.

By Edward Norvell

Special to the Salisbury Post

Salisbury is a “city of the arts.” How many cities of our size have three theaters downtown that can seat a total of more than 760 people, offering a variety of venues from big musicals to small intimate plays, children’s theater, and music concerts?

How many towns our size have one of the only nationally accredited art galleries in the state that is of statewide and regional significance?

How many towns our size have a symphony orchestra that is well established and well respected, plus an outdoor sculpture show that has been featured by Our State magazine, recognized by the governor and imitated by numerous other cities.

How many cities our size have 10 historic districts, a restored downtown, a restored depot that is a center of activity and has been featured at the Smithsonian and in several well-known movies?

How many cities our size have a great history museum downtown and two house museums within walking distance of Main Street. Not many!

Here are facts and figures about local arts groups, as of February:

Salisbury Symphony

• Is about to celebrate its 50th year during the 2016-17 season! When you consider that very few (five) communities as small as ours in this country can boast of supporting a professional orchestra for 50 years or more, That’s nothing to sneeze at.

• Supports 75+ professional musicians from the surrounding area with concerts, “Nutcracker” and Pops at the Post every year.

• The North Carolina Symphony performs here twice: once on their season series and once for about 3,000 fifth graders!

• Introduces third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders to classical music and the concert-going experience.

 Offers a free outdoor concert every June, Pops at the Post, with attendance of 4,000

• Presents a professional “Nutcracker” experience during Christmas season.

• Manages an After-School Strings program, a youth orchestra, and a summer strings camp; the only opportunity for a young person to learn to play a classical string instrument in a group setting. And they offer scholarships so those who cannot afford tuition (which the symphony keep sas low as possible) can participate.

Waterworks Visual Arts Center

• Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, one of 780 in the country and only 12 in North Carolina.

• Has more than 21,000 visitors annually, representing 39 states and six foreign countries, 70 percent from Salisbury, 30 percent from North Caroline and 8 percent from outside the state.

• Three thematic rotating exhibits every year with over 70 local, regional and national professional artists’ work exhibited.

• Serves over 1,800 school children in curriculum-based gallery tour/art activity.

• Provides extended classrooms for local, regional colleges and universities’ art curriculum.

• Has seven employees and 20 artists.

• Is a community partner with many organizations providing classes, enrichment and collaborations.

Historic Salisbury Foundation

• The Salisbury Depot is the signature project of the Historic Salisbury Foundation, serving both as our Amtrak Station and as a much loved events center for parties, reunions, weddings, fund raisers and political events.

• The 1820 Dr. Josephus Hall House on Jackson Street had roughly 2,600 patrons last year.

• OctoberTour brings 1,500 to more than 2,500 people, with about 400 children attending.

They have various displays at the Hall House and participated in Scrooge’s Trolley Tour which always stops at the Hall House. So many people buy property here after visiting our community.

A most dynamic statement is the action of the foundation’s revolving fund, which operates in Salisbury’s 10 historic districts involving both residential and commercial properties including many downtown. The properties that have gone through that process have an assessed value of $18 million.

Rowan Museum

The purpose of the Rowan Museum, Inc, established 1953, is to collect, preserve, research, exhibit, and educate the public about the history of Rowan County and piedmont North Carolina through the use of its properties, programs and collections.

Operates three sites:

• The Utzman-Chambers House, 1815, a federal style house museum in the 100 block of South Jackson Street.

• The 1766 Old Stone House built by German immigrant Michael Braun, 770 Old Stone House Road off U.S. 52 in Granite Quarry

• The 1854 Courthouse Museum at 202 N. Main, houses the general history collections of our community and has rotating award winning exhibits. The Messinger Room is available for rental for community and private events.

Educational programming:

• Thousands of school children tour the museum annually, all third graders, and many fourth graders.from public, private and home schools, along with scout troops, senior citizens and so many more

• History Club, free to public: second Tuesday of every month, Sept.-June in  Messinger Room

• History Class, 13-week course sponsored by Museum and Historic Salisbury Foundation. 

• Summer History Camp: four  week-long, camps, for elementary and middle schoolers, offer hands-on history in colonial and Civil War life in our community.

Special events

• Annual Antiques Show, 63rd coming up Nov. 11 & 12, to raise money for museum programming and upkeep of sites.

• George Washington’s visit to Salisbury and Rowan 225 years ago.

• Colonial Spring Frolic, Old Stone House, to herald the coming of spring with music, dancing and  more

• Night at the Museum, Aug. 13 at Rowan Museum and Spencer Toy and Doll Museum, trolley takes you back and forth.

• Germanfest Sept. 17 at the Old Stone House to celebrate early German heritage in Rowan.

• Gingerbread Workshop, Dec. 4 at the museum

• Old Christmas at Old Stone House, Dec 31, and Jan. 1, celebrate the way early Rowan citizens in the 18th century would have.

Piedmont Players Theatre

• Meroney Theater opened 1995, with five shows per season. This past season: The Addams Family, Welcome To Mitford, Cabaret, A Time To Kill and Hands On A Hardbody.

Each season, approx. 19,000 theater goers attend shows at the Meroney, with more than 100 area volunteers involved as cast and crew in the shows.

• Youth Theatre: The Norvell Theater opened 2010, with five stage productions per season. Cast and crew are all youth, third- through 12th-graders.

2015-2016 shows were Magic Tree House: The Knight at Dawn, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Taming of the Shrew, Junie B. Jones: The Musical and The Wizard of Oz.

Annual Audience at the Norvell:

• Mainstage productions (average 16 performances per season) 4,100

• School performances (45 per season) 7,779

• Public performance of school shows (18 performances per season) ,

• Total Norvell attendance, 15,879

Lee Street Theatre

• 10 theatrical productions – including musicals, plays, and an annual New Play Festival featuring local playwrights. In our 2014-15 season, we served over 5,500 patrons. We are only halfway through our 2015-16 season, but have already entertained over 3,000 patrons.

• 6 concerts – This year’s line up included/includes Sam Bush, Chatham County Line, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Mipso.

• Additional community events, such as Voices from the Margin, a show benefiting and highlighting those in our community who may be overlooked. This year, the theme was education and benefited the Salisbury-Rowan County School System. Last year, the theme was homelessness and benefited a local shelter.

• Over 75 season subscribers

• Bar and concession area featuring local wine and beer.

• Partnerships with local colleges, especially Catawba College’s theatre department.

• Space is also available for the community to rent for private events.

Rail Walk

• 6,000 square feet of studio space, shared by working artist professional and common exhibit space

Blues and Jazz Festival

Annual festival in downtown Salisbury, emphasis on musicians from the Piedmont region. Annual Budget $45,000

Salisbury Sculpture Show

Annual juried outdoor show since 2009, exposes art to people who otherwise might not see it.

• Over 61 artists from 10 different states, and over 133 works have been exhibited

• Budget has been $20,000-$30,000 some from Salisbury, some from CVB some from foundations and some from private individuals

• Usually exhibits 12-20 pieces. For the second year, all four colleges have participated

• Ten pieces have sold including the four piece set at the interstate paid for by the Rowan County CVB

Land Trust for Central NC

Covers a 10-county region including Rowan, over 26,000 acres preserved. In Rowan County involved in the Eagle’s Point Nature Preserve on High Rock Lake, Dunn’s Mountain park and the Stanback Nature Preserve in Spencer and the Catawba College Preserve on campus as well as the Old Stone House, the Alexander Long House, the Barber Farm and other historic sites and farms in Rowan County. Saves historic landscapes, farmland and important natural areas, primarily in the Uwharrie National Forest as well as many sites along the Yadkin and Pee Dee Rivers.

Quick facts about the N.C. Transportation Museum

N.C. Transportation Museum quick facts

Annual visitors about 120,000. Polar Express over 26,000 people paid to attend from all over the region. Train and transportation museum unparalleled in this part of the country.

• 18 structures spread over 57-acre site. Four buildings, including the 120,000 square-foot Roundhouse, contain exhibits open to the public.

• 80 pieces of rolling stock (trains, cars, engines, etc.), including 25 locomotives. Also on the site: three airplanes, a Conestoga wagon, a 1935 Highway Patrol car, vintage automobiles, more than 10,000 small artifacts and 1,500 pieces in the research library.

• Staffed by 16 permanent state employees and 5 temporary state employees.

• Benefited by 43 volunteers, who give tours and explain the history of transportation to visitors, and 104 rail operation volunteers, who restore and maintain rolling stock.

• Visitation topped 1 million in 1997 and is quickly nearing 2 million. A record 129,597 people visited the museum in 2001.

• During the state’s 2004–05 fiscal year, more than 12,350 students and their teachers visited the site.

• A study completed in April 2000 found that the museum generates 132 jobs, 127 households, more than $2.4 million of annual income, $3.3 million of annual retail spending, and nearly $2.5 million of annual service purchase activity.


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