LUMBERTON — Arts enthusiasts and artists alike have a new venue in which to indulge their passion in Robeson County.
Music, paintings, food, wood carvings, sculptures, and arts demonstrations marked the opening of the Robeson County Arts Council Center on Sept. 10 when the Arts Council celebrated its new location at 700 S. Roberts Ave.
Mary Ann Masters, president of the Robeson County Arts Council, said the opening exceeded her expectations. About 400 to 500 people visited during the day, she said.
“We showcased talented singers and musicians with excellent performances outdoors under a tent and indoors in Inner Peace Gallery,” Masters said. “Young dancers from the Southern Sapphires delighted spectators with their entertaining numbers on the back deck throughout the morning.”
Richard Monroe, a member of the Robeson County Arts Council, said the turnout made all the work worth it.
“I think one thing that helped is we had a variety of activities going on — various types of music, artwork and I think everyone was really interested in seeing what the arts council had to offer,” Monroe said. “The nice thing too about the new location for the arts center is having it next door to Melvin Morris’s art gallery. It’s such a lovely place and exhibits not only Melvin’s art, but the art of many artists in the county and beyond.”
Morris’s Inner Peace Gallery is in the same building as the arts center. Together, they make up the Rowan Center for the Arts, named for the family that owns it.
“Spectators were awed by the breadth of talent in the paintings and sculpture displayed in the Roberson County Arts Council galleries and at Inner Peace Gallery,” Masters said. “Attendees can look forward to future shows in both galleries.”
The Arts Council space is more than a venue for paintings, sculpture and other visual arts, Monroe said. It includes rooms for music, dance and art lessons.
“To have this one location where everybody can come to take part in these activities is really great,” Monroe said.
Jim Tripp, a pharmacist, potter and occasional cane chair repair artist, said he’s glad to have an arts venue with space for classes because he wants to pass along his knowledge of caning to the next generation. Tripp demonstrated caning chair bottoms at the opening.
His foray into caning began when he got married in 1967. He and his wife Katherine bought some chairs from an antique store but they had no bottoms. It was on-the-job training since hiring someone to fix it wasn’t an option.
“We had to learn fast so we’d have somewhere to sit,” Katherine said.
They have been caning chairs ever since.
Tripp said some people don’t know what to do so they throw away well-made, solid wood chairs. That’s a shame, he said, because many chairs now are commonly made of particle board. Making an antique chair functional again is possible.
“It’s not expensive. You can do a chair for $30,” he said.
The alternative is paying someone else to do it. Tripp said the chair he was working on at the time had 68 holes in it, referring to the holes around the seat through which cane is woven to make a bottom.
“You would pay $3 a hole,” Tripp said.
He hopes he can teach more people how it’s done, which is one of the reasons he’s happy to have a venue for teaching it.
Lumberton Councilman Burnis Wilkins said he is glad to have the center in his precinct.
“It’s great for the city and it’s great for the county as well,” Wilkins said.
During a walk through before the opening, Wilkins said he saw the excitement on the faces of those who were getting it ready.
“You could see the enthusiasm. There were students there from UNCP,” Wilkins said. “It seems to me that more folks are becoming interested in the arts.”
Arnold West, of the Village Station and Arnold’s, provided refreshments as part of the culinary arts programming while Will Rowan served snow cones to children and children at heart who attended, Masters said.
Lumberton artist Joy McGugan enlisted visitors to contribute to a zen tangles banner, Masters said. McGugan will teach drawing classes at the venue.
“I love the space. I especially love having the classrooms,” McGugan said.
McGugan said classes will start this week at the center.
“I like to say I’m not teaching people to draw. I’m teaching them how to look at things differently,” McGugan said.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.