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Bringing the arts to Dare County for over 40 years

Over the years hundreds of dedicated, hard-working individuals have volunteered their time and donated their resources to heighten interest in the arts by bringing a wide variety of arts activities and performances to residents of Dare County.


Arts in education is big part of the Dare County Arts Council. Pat Fearing, a former schoolteacher, says she has always felt that a child’s education isn’t complete without a fine arts education as well. “Children must be exposed to the arts if their souls are going to develop. We want to be sure that Dare County children have every educational advantage and are exposed to cultural opportunities that are accessible to children in a metropolitan area.”

Before her death a few years ago, Mollie Fearing remembered when dance programs were among the early performances sponsored by the new organization. “Dance was something the kids took to immediately. It was like setting them afire.” A very special event which takes place every year since 1998 is the Mollie Fearing Memorial Art Show. This show is in honor of Mollie, who was one of DCAC’s original founding members. Her artistic vision and drive helped to create an organization dedicated to nurturing the arts in Dare County. Winning the “Mollie” is considered a huge accomplishment.

In the years since the establishment of the Dare County Arts Council, the group has sponsored several performances by North Carolina Symphony, Frank Holder Dance Group, Graciela Mime Theater, Shady Grove Band, Carolina Players, African American Dance Ensemble, Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys, and the New York Chinese Folk Dance Company, among many others.

The Dare County Arts Council has succeeded in establishing what has become the oldest and largest fine arts exhibition in Dare County, the Frank Stick Memorial Art Show. The show was created to increase participation and the diversity of work by involving artists new to the area, and to encourage artists to submit their best, most recent pieces. The number of participating artists in 1985 was 53. By 1991 that figure had grown to 80. By 1994 the number had jumped to 140. It has grown to become one of the most successful fine art shows in the region.

With the artistic vision from Glenn Eure, Tanya Young and Linda Porter, the first Annual Artrageous Art Extravaganza was formed over twenty years ago. This has turned into one of DCAC’s major fund raising events. The first weekend in October offers a Saturday festival held at the Dare County Family Recreational Park in Kill Devil Hills, and features artist show and sell booths, creative hands-on booths for kids, live music, great food, and a kid’s auction. It allows the children of Dare County to touch upon their inner artistic abilities, and have a blast doing it! The next night is a fun-filled adult art auction with food, drink and music to benefit the arts council and its programs. Included in the auction are last years top winners from the Artrageous kids poster contest which are auctioned off, along with original pieces donated from talented local professional artists.

From late 1990 to mid-1992, under the leadership of Barbara Leary Bald, DCAC expanded its role in the community by offering writers’ workshops and readings, establishing a quarterly newsletter, and acquiring nomination and approval as the Designated County Partner (DCP) for Grassroots funds from the North Carolina Arts Council. This status gives DCAC the responsibility of determining how their Grassroots funds are to be distributed and spent in Dare County. Up to 50% of the Arts Council Grassroots Allotment is subgranted out to various local non-profit cultural arts organizations. The continuing goal of the Dare County Arts Council is to identify and help support emerging and growing arts organizations in the county, and in this way we are able to meet that goal.

Partnerships with other community organizations and individuals has become increasingly important with limited arts funding coming from the state. DCAC partners each year with the local PTA groups to bring quality arts programming to all Dare County schools. In 2002, presenting artist grants from the Outer Banks Community Foundation, the North Carolina Arts Council, PTA groups and support from Dare County enabled the Arts Council to bring the New York Chinese Folk Dance Company for a 5 day in-school residency to all Dare County schools. Without their assistance many of our youth would not have had the opportunity to learn and experience a different culture in all its forms. These are just some of the many partnerships the Dare County Arts Council is fortunate to have each year.

Dare County Arts Council opened its first office in the Central Square complex in Nags Head, September 1996. Thanks to an original 3-year Salary Assistance Grant (SAG) from the North Carolina Arts Council, DCAC was able to hire its first employee in November 1996. Dare County Arts Council moved to a larger location in historic downtown Manteo on Sir Walter Raleigh Street in 1999, which housed their offices, workshop space and gallery. In July of 2010, DCAC relocated to the historic Dare County Courthouse, also in downtown Manteo, nearly quadrupling our space and securing a permanent home within our community.

As Dare County grows in its residential and tourist population, so does arts programming services. DCAC is always very thankful for your membership, participation, and support associated with meeting the needs of our community. We rely heavily on our volunteer network and funding sources to provide these programs and services.

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