Council still advocating for the arts: COVID-19 brings changes

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Yholima Vargas- Aleem's artwork is featured in the exhibit "Color and Life." See it online now.
Yholima Vargas- Aleem's artwork is featured in the exhibit "Color and Life." See it online now.
Contributed photo

Under normal circumstances, the Edna Boykin Cultural Center would be filled with sounds. The sounds of friends conversing over artwork in an exhibit, the sounds of children rehearsing for an upcoming musical production, the sounds of an audience clapping or cheering for a performer, the sounds of artists of all ages washing their brushes in the sink, and the sound of the door opening to visitors of all types throughout the day.  

The Arts Council of Wilson is a non-profit organization, and our mission is to improve quality of life for all by being a hub for artistic experiences that enrich, educate and entertain the citizens of Wilson County and beyond. The sights and sounds of artistic experiences look much different during COVID-19.  

Our doors may be locked, our venue quiet, dark and empty, but we are continuing to serve you in unique ways, by thinking “outside of the box” and experimenting with new approaches to creativity. 

Our staff members are embracing the fact that difficult times bring us closer together and are encouraging innovation in how we interact with you. We believe that the arts are essential during this time where people need to feel connected more than ever to the community around them. We believe the arts are the perfect medium to strengthen our community and bring us together to emotionally connect during these times where we must physically stay apart and prioritize our physical well-being.  

Our staff and volunteers are working harder than ever behind the scenes. We are asking ourselves constantly how we can pivot to best serve our artists, students, art teachers and the community at large during these strange times. With every plan we make, we must look ahead for a Plan B and a Plan C because of the future unknowns of how COVID-19 will progress and continue to affect our Wilson community, our state, our country and our world.  In some cases, we are already on Plan C and coming up with Plan D – and I’m sure many of you can relate.  


A mixture of advocacy, partnerships and leveraging our technological and creative resources resulted in some beautiful initiatives that we’d like to share with you.

Yholima Vargas-Aleem’s painting exhibit “Color and Life” was open only one day before the dominoes started falling, and social distancing mandates started going into effect in various phases here in Wilson County. Working closely with the artist, we have created a virtual experience of Yholima’s work, now available at www.wilsonarts.com/exhibits. The visual beauty of this “virtual gallery” is enhanced with audio commentary, giving insight on how the work was created and what the artist was thinking while creating these complex and intriguing pieces.

We have launched an online gift shop selling the work of local artists at wilsonarts.com/galleryshop. Many artisans are suffering from lost income that they cannot earn in physical galleries, markets and festivals because of COVID-19. Buying art from local artists is the best way to support them during this time.  It is a win/win for everyone. It helps artists to keep creating, it helps the Arts Council of Wilson to remain viable, it supports your local economy, it will make you feel good to help someone else, and it will help your home become a more relaxing and creative space as you shelter in place.    

There are a lot of meetings on Zoom in our new life. Our ACT! for Youth rehearsals for "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" are continuing on Zoom. It has meant a lot to our kids to continue rehearsing for the show and have the opportunity to be together and connect with one other.  

We have also met “virtually” with our art teachers to help prepare them for their upcoming exhibit and support them with prompts and resources to share with their students as they transition to online teaching and learning.

My heart has been warmed by the many amazing contributions of individual artists in Wilson County generously donating their time and talents by doing live performances on social media, sharing their process and their work, selling their artwork to help other sectors of the community and creating coloring books to help young ones process the changing world around them. 

We are all working hard to heal our community and soothe anxieties, and we are stronger together for it. We have been using social media to share these generous offerings, as well as creating some art prompts of our own to support parents at home with their children.

Connect with us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/artscouncilofwilson/ and Instagram @ArtsCouncilofWilson. And of course we are keeping our web page up to date with all of the current news at www.wilsonarts.com.

Stay tuned as we have new opportunities and platforms coming down the pipeline to serve you during these challenging times. The Arts Council of Wilson is active, we miss you, and we are here for you! We are also working hard planning for a bright future when we can be together again.

We’re already thinking ahead to our annual Summer Community Musical (the iconic musical “Cinderella” by Rodgers and Hammerstein) and an amazing line-up of entertainers for Boykin Series 24. We are also working closely with our state and country advocacy organizations to measure the economic impact of COVID-19 on the arts and advocate for artists, arts businesses, and non-profit arts organizations at state and national levels.  

If you want to help and don’t know how, don’t hesitate to reach out at 252-291-4329 or contact our staff at www.wilsonarts.com. 

I know we are all hurting, but if you find yourself a little more economically fortunate and believe in the work that we are doing, please consider donating to keep us going strong at www.wilsonarts.com/give. 

It takes a village, and we are so thankful for ours!

Cathy Hardison is executive director of the Arts Council of Wilson.