Published: Feb 05, 2013 06:00 PM
Modified: Feb 04, 2013 02:26 PM
FUQUAY-VARINA - When Shirley Hunsberger opened Magnolia House Custom Framing on Main Street eight years ago, the town’s arts scene consisted of the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club annual arts festival.
Fast forward to 2013, and Fuquay-Varina is gaining a reputation for cultivating the arts. The town is now home to an almost monthly art-show crawl, an artist co-operative, a Plein Air paint-off, public art displays and art auctions.
There’s even talk of Fuquay-Varina possibly building a $5 million cultural arts center.
Leading the charge is the Fuquay-Varina Arts Council.
In the past two years, the success of Art After Dark, a monthly art showcase from April through December at businesses around town, led the organization to hire its first part-time employee, Denise Fuehrer-Burnette.
The exposure of the event has brought in new arts council members, spurred interest in the group’s Gallery Around Town program and spawned a monthly arts newsletter which reaches about 1,000 people via email and Facebook, Fuehrer-Burnette said.
“I feel it’s grown slowly,” she said of Art After Dark. “I can see it growing one person at a time. Every community has artists. The idea was to create space for local artists to come and share their work with the community.”
The arts council isn’t resting on its current accomplishments – it’s looking toward the future. This year the group will ask for more grant money from the Fuquay-Varina Board of Commissioners.
It hosted a visioning meeting Jan. 30 and asked the public for ideas on how to improve arts programming.
Suggestions included offering art classes, asking businesses to stay open later for Art After Dark, organizing art walks, buying gallery space and hosting a weekend-long arts festival.
Hunsberger, a painter and board member on the arts council, suggested getting artists to decorate and personalize the street signs advertising Art After Dark. She recommended getting businesses to stay open later by offering them donations of free cheese and wine, a lure for potential patrons. The event could feel more like a gala., she said.
“There are thousands of artists here, and they are keeping it to themselves,” Hunsberger said. “Recently, in my window I had the work of a dentist’s wife, who had never displayed her work in public. There’s wonderful artists in Fuquay-Varina. You wouldn’t believe. I plan on digging them out.”
Hunsberger’s store is part of the Gallery Around Town program, in which artists get the chance to show and sell their art for free in local businesses. In return, the businesses get free art on their walls or in their windows.
Strafe Gaming Lounge, Cooley’s Restaurant and Pub, Mutt and Tabby pet boutique and Electric Beanz Coffee Bar are also a part of the program. The artists’ works are rotated between the businesses.
Artist Steve Jahn of Fuquay-Varina has about 20 of his photographs hanging at Cooley’s. He found out about the program during his first Art After Dark experience.
“This is my first two months, and I haven’t sold anything but people are noticing. It’s just good to get it out there,” Jahn said.
Arts council President Dave Morris was one of the group’s founding members in 2008. It was launched with a $1,000 donation from the Fuquay-Varina Rotary Club, he said.
Now the group has an annual budget of about $5,000.
“Art is in everything, and it’s not just something that is set on a wall,” Morris said. “ It adds arts and texture to the world..”