There's a lot that's screwed up about the world right now. No getting around that. Our president, after all, is basically a YouTube comment in corporeal form. And there's plenty amiss about this state, too. No getting around that, either. For example, HB 2 is still a thing. But that's not what we want to talk about now. This week, with Valentine's Day nigh, we wanted to compose a love letter to this place we call home, a list of reasons we wouldn't want to live anywhere else. So pour yourself a brandy, have a seat by the fire, and enjoy. —Jeffrey C. Billman
1. Because we bring the world to North Carolina
We love the landscape, and some of the culture, of rural North Carolina. But there's a reason we live here in the Triangle rather than out among those bucolic fields: we also love the rest of the world, and the Triangle, aside from places like Charlotte and Asheville, is the main portal through which the world comes in and out of our state. The arts are key in this exchange: Full Frame brings international documentarians to Durham and gives local filmmakers a point of pride to sell to the rest of the world. The American Dance Festival does the same thing for the dance community. Hopscotch and Moogfest keep us in the rotation in the national music scene. Duke Performances and Carolina Performing Arts frequently put us on world-class tour schedules that include venues like the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Carnegie Hall. (How many midsize markets do you think get two weeks of Philip Glass?) Top it off with the high concentration of universities here, which draw people from around the globe, and it's plain to see what's so great about the Triangle: the Southern comforts of home in a rich, improving dialogue with the big, wide world. —Brian Howe
2. Because our activists are loud and proud
Last March, responding to the nonexistent threat of cross-dressing creeps hanging out in the women's restroom to assault little girls (or something), the legislature passed, and then-governor Pat McCrory signed, the infamous HB 2, a law that overrode local antidiscrimination ordinances and barred transgender individuals from using public restrooms that conform to their gender identity. It was an act of cruelty that embarrassed North Carolina on the national stage, costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity. But we didn't just sit back and take it. That law gave rise to a wave of activism—including dozens, sometimes hundreds of protesters who, every Wednesday, gathered in front of the Executive Mansion to blow air horns at the governor—that built off the Moral Monday movement, which itself was a response to reactionary measures taken by the newly unified Republican government in 2013. The best part? Even though fellow Republican Donald Trump won North Carolina with relative ease in November, McCrory lost. —Jeffrey C. Billman
3. Because we get three cities (actually more) in one
The Triangle isn't one thing; it's a lot of things, many of them contradictory. Raleigh is the big city waiting to break out—think Austin Jr.—but still beholden to small-town charms. Durham is more like Little Oakland, grittier and more aggressively progressive in its politics, but arguably the cultural hub of the region. Chapel Hill is the kind of college town you'd find in bucolic New England, but quaint and Southern in its own right (adjacent Carrboro is its grungy little sister). Even the Cary-Morrisville-Apex axis, about as suburban as suburban gets, has its own virtues, if you know where to look (see, for example, number 9). These are all very different places, but that's one of the unique pleasures of living here. Within a thirty-minute drive of wherever you are lies several distinct microcultures, each with its own tempos and peculiarities to explore. Not many metros in the country can offer that. —JCB
4. Because our restaurants are making national noise
Our food scene is no secret—not to us and not to the countless admirers (tourists, restaurant critics, television producers) from afar. Restaurant culture is a draw here, and we're lucky enough to eat it up every day if we choose. Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and their environs offer you anything: our comfort food is diverse and beautiful, rooted in both historic tradition and a new South. We know how to do down-home (whether it's collard greens, tamales, or dosas), and we can get deliciously bougie, too. (With stand-out places like Chapel Hill's Lantern, Hillsborough's Panciuto, and Raleigh's Poole's Diner, it's a comforting sort of classy.) —Victoria Bouloubasis
5. Because our dramatic artists know theater is politics
In the fifth century BCE, the theater was already giving citizens of ancient Greece a place to gather and deliberate their culture's most intractable problems. What happens when duties to faith, family, and country conflict? See Antigone. How much hubris is appropriate for elected officials? Ask Oedipus Rex. So as inauguration day approached this year, it was gratifying to see regional theater rise up in response. Jospeh Megel and Dreaming America reprised their staged reading of Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, a political drama in which a democratically elected president ushers in a fascist takeover of the United States. Elsewhere, artists and citizens gathered at dusk at Raleigh's Sonorous Road and Chapel Hill's PlayMakers Rep to join the nationwide Ghostlight Project, pledging to keep a light on for all people regardless of race, class, religion, immigration status, gender idenity, or country of origin. And three women contemplated a makeover of our constitutional government when Bare Theatre staged a political farce, The Taming, to benefit the ACLU. These weren't isolated gestures: this week, Sonorous Road probes the separation of church and state in The God Game, while UNC's Process Series hosts a festival of social-justice-themed spoken word. Why do I love regional theater? Because it's thoughtful, resilient, and responsive to the challenges and needs of our time. It's looking out for neighbors down the block and around the globe. And it's not afraid to speak and act on their behalf. —Byron Woods
6. Because our visual artists are collaborative, not competitive
My pickup truck just moved to Philadelphia.
Well, not mine per se. For years, whenever I've needed to haul a sheet of plywood or a curb-found piano, I knew I could borrow my friend's truck at a moment's notice. But she just moved to Philly. We all have friends like this in the Triangle arts community. It's like a message-in-a-bottle system but sped way up. If you need some device, service, or expertise to make your work, just mention it in public and someone will say, "I just saw one of those at the Scrap Exchange" or "My friend just got one, let me text her real quick." Around here, we aren't out for domination—we share our stuff, spaces, and time. Because this isn't an infinite city like New York or Los Angeles, where the arts infrastructure is well established, we've had to be resourceful and cooperative, which fosters community. We don't go home at five. We make dinner and work together. We sit in someone's yard around a fire pit at 1:11 a.m., talking art. When friends from New York or the Bay Area visit, they're jealous of this.
I value our arts institutions and organizations, and I love so much of the work made by artists here. But most of all I love the artists themselves and their uncommon generosity of spirit. Speaking of which, anyone want to loan me their truck? —Chris Vitiello