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DUKE ILLUMINATIONS – Support for Artists Builds Community

 

Abstract landscape painter Jessica Singerman doesn’t live in a major art market like New York or London, so taking advantage of the digital universe helps bring her work to a wide audience.

She is developing her website to include digital video components to help demystify the creation process by sharing her approach and inspiration behind her art. That project got a boost with a 2018 Duke Energy Regional Artist Grant. The company, through the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, awarded nearly $25,000 to 14 area artists.

“Receiving the grant and seeing the support for artists, especially in smaller communities, demonstrate that our work is valued,” said Singerman of Winston-Salem, N.C. “Artists, especially in smaller communities, don’t have many opportunities like this, it means a lot.”

For artists working in music, film, literature, dance, visual art and craft and living in Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin counties in North Carolina, the regional artist grant program is making an impact. The company has given grants to arts councils in a number of other counties in the state, often supporting arts in schools.

“Investments in the arts are what make living in our communities more interesting and are a wonderful expression of the people that live in those communities,” said Amy Strecker of the Duke Energy Foundation. “One of the things that is great about funding arts programs in smaller communities is that there are not as many funding options as in some of our urban centers. This is a great way for us to continue to support artists who might have fewer opportunities available to them.”

The entire community benefits from a thriving arts culture, said Catherine Heitz New, deputy director of the Arts Council. Economic development, tourism and educational rewards are byproducts of creative entrepreneurs contributing to the fabric of cultural life in the region.

“These grants give artists the space, time and resources to experiment and develop ideas that become great art,” she said. “This is so important for artists and creative entrepreneurs and essential for us in fulfilling our reputation because they are the lifeblood of the cultural ecosystem.

“A vibrant arts culture is a significant driver behind the ability to recruit and retain talent into the community. From the standpoint of education, arts programing is an essential part of what sets Forsyth County schools apart and has allowed them to become a leader in many ways with regards to arts education.”

Jimmy Flythe, Duke Energy’s west region community relations manager, sees the difference the support can make.

“When companies look to move here and are evaluating our community,” Flythe said, “it’s important to show them the vibrancy and strong quality of life in our area. The arts are definitely a large part of that.”

For Singerman, “Art helps build community connectedness. The process of creation is not linear. Without a defined end goal of getting something done, art gives people the opportunity to dream and experience the joy associated with that. Through exploration and conversation, art can help create empathy and understanding of others. It’s wonderful to be part of that broader discussion.”

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