For Hillsborough, the arts are a priority because they increase the quality of life.
The small town sets itself apart from other areas in North Carolina with its unique arts scene. In an effort to bring the community together, the town holds events throughout the year that foster an environment for artists and the community to engage with one another.
“It’s an economic issue, a tourism issue, an economic development and employment of artists issue for not just the town but the whole county,” said Hillsborough Arts Council Chairperson Neil Stutzer. “It is so rich in artists that it can’t be ignored.”
Stutzer said the Arts Council develops programming to provide a venue for emerging artists in the area, as well as to make connections and collaborations with artists and organizations.
“We do a ton,” said Arts Council Outreach Coordinator Araceli Cruz. “We do Last Fridays which is all about music and food and art walks in the community.”
Cruz said Last Fridays are her favorite event the council holds because they show how much the community supports the arts.
“It’s really nice to see everyone come out and support the Arts Council but also support the local musicians that we feature and a lot of the restaurants are packed because everyone is out eating and so it’s just a really great time to be out in Hillsborough,” Cruz said. “You get to see everyone on the streets and a couple of the streets are closed for pedestrians only.”
Cruz said Last Fridays happen year-round — every last Friday of the month, in fact — but draw the largest crowds in spring, summer, and fall.
“Another thing we offer in Hillsborough is the Lantern Walk which we just had a month ago for Christmas,” Cruz said. “That was a really beautiful event with the community of people coming through the night with paper lanterns and they do a walk through River Park.”
One of the Arts Council’s biggest events is the Art in the Heart of Hillsborough Arts Show. This year’s show is set for April 21.
“It started as a way for the Arts Council to help promote the artists before we had a retail space and we really wanted to help having venues for local artists to display their work,” Stutzer said.
“We started the arts and crafts festival and since then we now have a gallery and gift shop where we display over 50 artists, but the arts and crafts show has gathered so much momentum and quality that it’s phenomenal really.”
Stutzer said the event draws crowds not only to the show itself but to surrounding businesses as well.
“When we do an event such as this we contact other organizations and businesses telling them what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it so they can join hands and promote themselves because there will be a lot of people coming in,” Stutzer said. “It also introduces Hillsborough as an arts destination by not just seeing the artists at the arts and craft show but going in gallery’s that are open at that time, also.”
Another event the Arts Council holds is the Handmade Parade, where participants create their own creatures and huge artworks that they carry throughout the city.
“The Handmade Parade is just magical,” Stutzer said. “People come from all over the state to participate in the Handmade Parades and it incorporates school so it’s a lot of children and it’s just really a good regional event.”
Tinka Jordy, former Chairperson of the Arts Council, started the Handmade Parade, as well as several other events.
“It’s very cool and a lot of fun,” Jordy said. “That’s been going on for a while now, about ten years, but we switched it to a biannual event, so it will be this year.”
Jordy said the idea behind many of these events is to bring the community together in a nonpolitical way based on the arts. She said the Arts Council’s events help keep the artist community together, too.
“We wanted to show the community that it’s really easy to get involved that way and by teaching workshops a lot of parents can work with their kids when they wouldn’t normally get the chance to and then people get to see each other,” Jordy said. “It’s just a really fun way to get the community out around an artistic project.”
Though Jordy is no longer on the council, she still brings artist communities together as the owner of Eno Gallery in downtown Hillsborough.
“I’m a sculptor and I’ve been in the area since 1986,” Jordy said. “I organize a sculpture show called the Garden Art Show once a year during the first week of May in my own garden and I invite different sculptors to come and it’s a cooperative event.”
Jordy said everyone pitches in on the expenses and is able to sell their sculptures at this event.
“Sculptures are kind of hard to display and most galleries don’t have a place for it,” Jordy said. “I started (the Garden Art Show) with an idea of a place for us to exhibit our work in an environment that was more conducive to where you could see what a sculpture looks like in your own home as opposed to a museum or something like that.”