Next week, local artists are taking to the street.
Elm Street in Lumberton, that is …
Imagine a street lined with painters, potters, sculptors, woodcrafters, jewel-smiths, musicians, performers, food vendors and more. Since its inception three years ago, Arts on Elm has become a regular event in Lumberton. Visitors can watch artists and musicians perform their skills up close, and they can even purchase their favorite pieces right there.
The event will take place April 28 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. between 10th and 15th streets. It is a joint venture of The Robeson County Arts Council and the city of Lumberton Downtown Development Office. It’s fun, it’s free and the event helps to highlight the talents of local artists while providing a family-oriented event.
Arts on Elm has become a regular event since its inception three years ago. The concept was borrowed from a similar event in Raleigh, and its goal has been to promote the talent of local artists. The event also features musical performances throughout the day.
Organizers for the event continue to hear good things, said Mary Ann Masters, Robeson County Arts Council president.
“People enjoy talking to the artisans about their creations,” Masters said. “Visitors have told me a plus to the event is they love chatting with friends and neighbors as they stroll Elm Street.”
She added that the performance tent where musicians perform also has been popular with visitors.
Another plus is this year’s event will feature more artists than years past, Masters said.
Arts on Elm is a win for everyone, not just the artists.
Family fun is the first and most obvious benefit that Arts on Elm brings to the community. It makes a leisurely activity available for the community and provides an opportunity for people to network, interact and engage. The event also promotes local artists, giving them a space to perform and a forum to present their work. It also provides a market where their work can be sold and where the community can buy quality work. What is special about this community arts event is that there is value for attendees even if they don’t buy anything. It’s an opportunity for young people to see artists creating and performing. Numerous studies point to the academic and social benefit of arts exposures on young people.
Arts on Elm delivers deeper value than just providing fun and entertainment in the form of a leisurely weekend event. First, it sends a good message, and second, it’s good for the economy. There are plans for revitalization in downtown Lumberton and already progress is being made. Downtown America has charm. It attracts tourists and visitors.
Art has been used to revitalize downtowns and Arts on Elm is one such event that helps harness the creative community and market its potential in the revitalization effort. And the message it sends to potential investors, tourists, and businesses is that a rich culture and appreciation for the arts is intact. These are qualities that are attractive to companies looking to relocate.
Another bonus is that this event has widespread support from the city of Lumberton, elected city and county officials, the Lumberton Visitors Bureau and grassroots arts funding from the North Carolina Arts Council. That is the kind of partnership and support that synergizes events into better opportunities.
There’s also something to feel good about. Arts events like these can be very good for local economies. And while no one is expecting a windfall from the event, those who buy art or spend money should know that supporting local artists means that money stays in the community and can be redistributed in other areas.
Who knows, some lucky buyer may even be making an investment in a beautiful piece of art that is going to grow in value.
James Bass is the executive director of Givens Performing Arts Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He may be reached at: [email protected]