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The arts 

A feast of fine art

Shakespeare. Pre-Colombian art. Tap dancing. Booty-Shaking. Welcome to the Triangle. Whether your interest in the arts takes the form of dance, drama, visual art or all of the above, here you will find a feast for your fancy with a whole lot of bang for your buck. The Triangle boasts more than 50 theater companies, 30 dance companies and 80 art galleries and museums, each with unique missions, productions, and events, and each worthy of a closer look. Before we go any further, however, a note to all reading this guide: The following is merely an overview of Triangle arts and by no means covers every active company or gallery in the community.

All the world's a stage
When searching for quality theater, a good rule of thumb is to look in your own backyard. All major Triangle universities host theater companies which put on a variety of productions, ranging from the activist to the Shakespearean.

Playmakers Repertory Theater Company ( at UNC-Chapel Hill for example, is an on-campus group whose productions are accessible not only to UNC students but to the outside community as well.

"Our company has no particular genre of theater," says artistic director David Hammond. "We choose original theatrical productions that use the stage in new and creative ways. We don't want the audience ever to anticipate what their experience will be when they come to our shows. So actually, in a sense, a specific genre is contrary to our mission."

At $9 a show with the aptly titled Incredible Student Pass, Playmakers offers a range of live productions, both classic and original. "Students come to our shows because they find meaningful experiences in them," Hammond says. "We've got two American premieres this year and a classic as well as two more traditional plays. We've also got the lowest student rates in the Triangle."

For backstage junkies, the Playmakers perks are even better. The company offers volunteer opportunities for those interested in working behind the scenes, and does grant free admission to all volunteers.

If Durham's your stomping ground, the Bull City Players ( are a good cure for Saturday night boredom. The company's major focus is providing high quality mainstream plays for non-theatergoers in a community where niche theater prevails.

"We look for plays that get folks into the theater who normally wouldn't go," says Anthony Caporale, managing director for the Players. "The audience is likely to see a lot of work that they have studied in a classics or literature class. What we want to provide is edgy theater relevant to current issues, based on movies, and that people recognize from their school curriculum."

Student tickets to see the Players generally run from $10-12 and, as with Playmakers, volunteer opportunities are available.

The Bull City Players are also the main participants in the Triangle Theatre Festival ( , where several area theater companies are booked for venues across the Triangle to gain support for a future Trianglewide theater festival. Companies perform at events such as the Jimmy V Golf Classic and the Carolina Hurricanes Homecoming Celebration. Main stage productions for the TTF occur at the Durham Arts Council, downtown.

Social activism is the hallmark of Raleigh's Burning Coal Theatre ( . For future playwrights, the socially conscious, or just plain theater buffs, this group is the epitome of niche theater, as its works constantly broadcast original ideas and new interpretations on old themes.

"We produce off-beat, socially conscious plays that deal with issues of primary concern," says artistic director Jerome Davis. "We perform works that are abstract, avant-garde, and that stretch the limits of theater as an art. We also do unique interpretations of existing classics. We kick ass."

When attending Burning Coal productions, don't just come prepared for fierce originality--come with at least nine friends. This way you'll be seeing good theater for $5 off each ticket. If you can't round up the homies, you'll still get $2 off with your student ID. Volunteers? Absolutely.

Other Triangle theater companies include Durham's Manbites Dog Theater (, a 17-year-old theater ensemble that performs original works by playwrights from the company, community, and region. Annually, Manbites Dog hosts the Don't Ask Don't Tell festival of queer theater and the Spring Puzzle Hunt, a free, interactive outdoor performance at downtown Durham's Central Park.

Forest Theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus, presents many area theater ensembles and hosts the annual Forest Theatre Festival ( in September, at which various Triangle companies present their works.

Finally, Dorosindicate, a new comedy group dedicated specifically to showcasing and creating original plays, presents its work at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. The productions are very accessible to the community and full of razor-sharp wit--last February's Match Wits with Lord Tweedsmuir starred a who's who of the local music scene and kept audiences in stitches.

"Students who come to our shows can expect to see an original work and to laugh loudly and repeatedly," says co-founder Mark Dorosin.

Shake your groove thang...
Among other things, the Triangle is an oasis for dancers. Dance companies here range from tap to African, and if you're not busy gettin' down yourself, there's probably some local show you can attend, if not for free then or a small fee. Our dance community has something for everyone.

The summer American Dance Festival ( is one of the biggest modern dance events in the state. Hosting local, national, and international dance companies from Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan to the Triangle's own Independent Dancemakers, ADF runs for a month (June through July), complete with dance classes and performances on Duke's campus. You can volunteer to usher and get free seats for performances.

Another annual dance event is the N.C. Dance Festival( This three-day fest at Meredith College in Raleigh in late January and early February features eight selected North Carolina choreographers who teach workshops in modern dance. Each day ends with a performance of works by the choreographers and by other area dance ensembles, including Meredith Dance Theatre and N.C. State Dance Company ( All festival performances are located in Meredith's Jones Auditorium and admission is $10.

If you love African dance, Chuck Davis' African-American Dance Ensemble is a must-see.

"Our mission is to preserve traditional dance from the African Diaspora, and to heighten cross cultural understanding between all people through our performances," says Davis, founder and artistic director of the group.

The ensemble, based in Durham, is an international unit that performs across the country and makes annual trips to Africa. They do 25 local performances a year, including Durham's Bimbe and Kwanzaa festivals and First Night Raleigh (on New Year's Eve). Admission fees vary. For more info, see ( .

If modern dance and live music are your thing, Chapel Hill's Choreo Collective ( may make for a great evening of entertainment.

"What's interesting about us is that we build on collaborations", says co-director Alyssa Ghiradelli. "Lots of times we work with musicians, and we even incorporate short films into our work. A lot of our stuff is cutting edge and hip, and our choreographers put stuff out there that's new, fresh, and on the forefront."

The company produces three different types of shows: Choreo Shorts, which are collaborations of different types of performing arts (short films, live music, and dance), performing arts showcases, in which dancers from across the state come and present their works, and full productions, which occur at Chapel Hill High School and are presentations of works that choreographers have created all year.

"We bring lots of different styles and dance groups together that usually would not collaborate," Ghiradelli says. "Last year, during our showcase, we had Indian, African and modern dancers performing together. We also had rap artists from the community splice together random movie clips and they rapped to those images during our Choreo Shorts. You never know what you're going to get when you come to our performances."

Though fees for Choreo Collective depend on the venue, students won't pay more than $10 for a seat.

If there's nothing you like better than a good rond de jambe or plie, Raleigh's Carolina Ballet ( is sure to suit your fancy. The six-year-old company is rapidly becoming one of the country's premier arts organizations and is making a name for itself both nationally and internationally as it ventures outside the realm of the Triangle. And if their moves aren't enough to reel you in, surely $5 for student tickets will. Carolina Ballet performs six shows a year, including the classic Nutcracker in November and December, and Messiah in April. Performances occur at both the BTI Center's AJ Fletcher Opera Theatre or Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.

Other noteworthy ensembles:

Nationally and internationally renowned North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (, which performs each April at Durham's Carolina Theatre, and Durham's Independent Dancemakers (, a modern dance company that presents the original works of independent choreographers and dancers lacking the venues to display their talents.

2 Near the Edge. L.D. Burris and Carol Childs make up this duo dedicated to demonstrating the power of communicative dance as a force for social change and healing. They perform at various venues across the state, some in collaboration with other area artists like poet and activist Jaki Shelton Green. (

Anima Dance ( , a three-year-old modern dance company based in Durham. Formerly Brookerdance, Anima Dance performs in various venues across the Triangle and hosts other area dance companies in Woven, a showcase of local dance. Call 560-2787.

Even Exchange Dance Theater ( is a Raleigh-based modern dance company committed to sharing and exchanging choreography and creative ideas with artists and audiences. The company also hosts an annual Improvisation festival every spring, complete with workshops and performances. Tickets range from $10-$15.

Five Chick Posse (http: // is a group of seven (yes, seven) female modern dance choreographers who collaborate and present their works to the community. They perform at several venues across the state, including Enloe High School in Raleigh.

Art is contemplation
With more than 80 art galleries museums, no Triangle resident lacks options to see fine art. And like theater companies, you don't have to leave campus grounds to find quality exhibitions.

The Duke University Museum of Art, for instance, holds one of the premier university collections of renaissance and medieval art.

The museum boasts about a dozen permanent collections, including a pre-Columbian exhibition, Latin American art, and, of course, the Brummer Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Art. Museum visitors may also view exhibitions of student work, which is displayed periodically throughout the year. Duke's new museum, the Nasher Museum of Art, is scheduled to open in fall 2004, and will house the DUMA collection in a state-of-the-art building now under construction. Meanwhile, guests may visit the DUMA for free, but when the Nasher opens, a small fee will be charged for admission. Check it out at (

For African-American art, the N.C. Central University Art Museum ( offers a veritable smorgasbord of works dating back to the 19th century, as well as selected works from African artists. One of the state's leading museums of African-American art, NCCU's museum holds collections from the Harlem Renaissance as well as contemporary works by artists like Minnie Evans and Sam Gillam. Students' works are also displayed at the museum, and admission is free, though there may be a small fee for special programs.

The Hayti Heritage Center /Lydia Moore Merrick Gallery ( displays works depicting the lives and rich history of African-Americans. Art ranges from intricately-designed quilts to photography. Admission is free.

For the most significant collection of Asian art in the state, look no further than the Ackland Art Museum ( at UNC-Chapel Hill. With one of the largest collections of works on paper in the Southeast and an extensive selection of European paintings and sculpture, this museum offers the combination of top-notch permanent collections, ambitions for improved exhibitions, and, of course, free admission. For photography lovers, the museum also possesses a collection of over 1,500 photos and holds exhibitions throughout the year. As for new ambitions, the Ackland is now placing specific emphasis on expanding their collection of 20th Century and contemporary art.

N.C. State University's Gallery of Art and Design ( , houses collections of ceramics, metal art, furniture, textiles, glass, and photography, as well as conventional paintings and sculpture. Admission to this gallery is free. The gallery was also one of the first institutions to display collections of outsider or self-taught art.

The N.C. Museum of Art (, with 10 galleries filled with works from American contemporary to oceanic art, and a park that holds frequent concerts, is the ultimate in Triangle museums. Admission is free for viewing the permanent collections; small fees are charged for park concerts and other special events.

The Chapel Hill Museum ( displays art by North Carolinians, including sculpture, architecture, photography, and paintings, all with historical significance to the state. Admission is free.

Other arts venues:
Located in the heart of downtown, The Durham Arts Council ( specializes not only in showcasing fine arts, but performing arts as well. Frequent performances by area dance/theatre companies occur in the PSI Theatre. The council operates three arts galleries: Allenton, Semans, and the CCB Gallery. They are venues for N.C. artists and students and faculty of the Arts Council School to display their works. Exhibitions for the CCB Gallery arranged mostly by the Durham Arts Guild. Admission is free.

First Fridays in Raleigh are a great way to explore the exploding art scene in Raleigh. As its name indicates, on the first Friday of every month downtown galleries host opening ceremonies, allowing folks to peruse the large number of sculptures, paintings, installations, and photography on display around town.

Artspace ( is a Raleigh-based museum dedicated to presenting high-quality exhibitions from sculpture to paintings to photography. The museum contains three galleries with works displayed by artists from across the world. Admission is free.

Antfarm ( is an artist's collective located in an old warehouse in Raleigh's Boylan Heights neighborhood of Raleigh. It features 10 studios where local artists can work with many different materials.

Bickett Galleryin Raleigh is currently hosting 23 Hours, a monthlong festival celebrating local and music, with films curated by locals. This gallery often features live music events, so keep up with their schedule at

An artist-run space in Raleigh, Lump Gallery ( describes itself as committed to showcasing local, national and international emerging artists. "With a seven-year history, we remain dedicated to exhibiting the most thought-provoking, contemporary art available without commercial compromise."

The Scrap Exchange on Foster Street in Durham is more than an arts-supply store. The nonprofit offers recycled materials suitable for all kinds of arts projects and has space for kids to create artworks on the site. 688-6960

If you're looking for arts information in cyberspace, Carrboro has a Web site at that showcases not only galleries but individual artists and areas where you can go to wander around and view artwork. The city of Durham's has a visitors' section that will lead you to places to shop and luckily, Durham is full of art galleries under the "Things to See and Do" category, including places to view artwork (including restaurants) as well as public art.

The Chapel Hill-Orange County Visitor's Bureau at has extensive information about Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, including art displays, ceramics and crafts, commercial galleries, performing arts and public galleries, as well as a link to the Orange County Arts Commission at The OCAC can be reached at 245-2665. Raleigh's Vistor's Bureau Web site says "Take a close look at our downtown area, you'll see an abundance of galleries and art centers. Whether you want to stroll around and see art in progress at Artspace, peruse one of the many galleries in downtown Raleigh, or even try your hand at the creation of a masterpiece, Raleigh is the place to be." For more info, visit

Galleries galore
These commercial galleries are only a sampling of what's out there for the intrepid art lover:

Ambitious Yankee Art Gallery --Located inside Dick Purvis Antiques at Raleigh's Cameron Village, the Ambitious Yankee Art Gallery holds a collection of old Southern paintings by artists like Joe Jackson as well as rural Southern acrylic images. Call 834-7250.

Animation and Fine Arts Gallery ( This gallery, located inside University Mall in Chapel Hill displays and sells original artwork and media from artists worldwide. From Pissaro to Disney drawings to works on paper by Dali, the gallery offers a wide range of art for viewing or purchasing.

Arete Frame Gallery near Ninth Street in Durham offers custom framing and a gallery of prints and original art. 286-7607.

Art Craft Framing Company, another frame shop on Ninth Street with original art prints for sale. 286-4831.

Artful Greetings ( On South Miami Boulevard in Durham, has art prints, original paintings, cards and gift items. 598-7599.

Claymakers Studios ( This downtown Durham retail store offers pottery and ceramic art produced by area artists. 530-8355.

Craven Allen Gallery/House of Frames on Broad Street in Durham has original art and antique prints. 286-4837.

Creative Metalsmiths ( on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill offers one-of-a-kind, custom-made jewelry by master artists. The gallery holds special exhibitions each year to showcase works.

Grace Li Wang Art Gallery ( is a Raleigh-based gallery with various exhibitions from sculpture to landscapes. Also on display are the works of Grace Li Wang herself.

Green Tara Gallery ( in Chapel Hill displays and sells art from artists from across the country. Ceramics, Latin exhibits, paintings, pottery.

Horizon Gallery ( in Brightleaf Square in Durham, has ontemporary American crafts, including pottery, wood works and jewelry. 688-0313.

Ironwork ( you'll find a list of Artisans of the Ironwork Guild that include metalsmith artists from the Triangle area.

Nancy Tuttle May Studio ( a Durham gallery dedicated to displaying and selling the works of owner Nancy Tuttle May including modern abstract art on paper and canvas.

N.C. Crafts/N.C. Arts Gallery ( /nccraftsgallery.html) on Main Street in Carrboro has a comprehensive display of reasonably-priced artwork including ceramics and paintings, cards, and a variety of other North Carolina crafts. 942-4048

Peacock Collections on Highway 55 in Durham specializes in African-American art. Custom framing, original artwork and prints, art consultation by appointment. 382-9695.

Sankofa Fine Art, also on Highway 55, is a fine art gallery and frame shop with unique figurines and collectibles. 361-9813.

Somerhill Gallery ( a 30-year-old gallery in Chapel Hill's Eastgate Shopping Center. Contains five art galleries with contemporary paintings and sculpture and specializes in fine glass art and jewelry.

Womancraft (, a Chapel Hill-based art gallery displaying and selling original creations by local women artists from florals to glass art.

Zola Craft Gallery in Durham is a definite stop on your stroll around Ninth Street. You'll find a funky shop filled with handcrafted jewelry, art and fine crafts. 286-5112.

Arts suppliers
Whether you need supplies to create your artwork, or advice or information about the area art scene, these locally-owned shops have friendly folk who can help you out:

Amano Paperie & Fine Art Materials, 329 West Main St., Durham, 680-3222

Askew-Taylor Paints, Inc., 110 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, 834-4497

CameraWorks, 2611 W. Carver St., Durham, 477-1189

Southeastern Camera (two locations), 205 West Main St., Carrboro, 933-7757; and 421 West Peace Street, Raleigh, 836-2222

Studio Supply, 421 West Franklin St., Chapel Hill, 929-5637

Amelia Burch contributed to these listings.

More by Danielle Purifoy


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