Rutherford County Arts Council began life in 1971 as the Performing Arts Guild with the stated purpose of "community development through the arts." The musical Camelot was the first smash-hit production of the fledgling arts agency, with Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel, and The King and I quickly following.
But spectacular musicals, though highly visible, were not the only successes of the young, broad-based organization. The very popular "School Volunteer Program" was organized to fill the need for arts education in the schools, and continued for several years, until such time as the schools themselves could take over the task. The "Spring Thing," an annual countywide outdoor arts/crafts/music/heritage festival was begun and continued until 2001, when Rutherford Towne Revitalization agreed to take on sponsorship of the event. Young Artists and Young Writers Competitions were begun and still continue. Summer Arts Camps and Orchestral String Workshops for children, productions touring the schools, concerts by premier artists such as the Polish choir Cappela Cracoviensis and the Strategic Air Command Band, monthly "Coffee Concerts," county and regional planning meetings, a regional events calendar, and more were the many and varied services provided by the Arts Council throughout the years. The name was changed to Rutherford County Arts Council in 1976 to reflect more accurately the multi-faceted role the agency was playing and would continue to play in the cultural life of the region.
While some of these functions have been gradually taken up by other groups in the county, the Arts Council continues working with other cultural and educational organizations to provide various programs and services to meet the county's changing cultural needs.
Today, the Arts Council maintains Art/CultureNet, an arts information clearinghouse. It also continues its long-held commitment both to arts in education and to the production of high-quality cultural events.
- Was incorporated in 1971 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, and all gifts are tax deductible.
- Produced two original historical dramas written by Diane McEnnerney to celebrate both Rutherford County's bicentennial and the Town of Rutherfordton's bicentennial.
- Received the Governor's Committee for the Arts and Humanities Award for conversion of old Farmer's Bank into a museum and arts center.
- Received Outstanding Creative Programming Award from the North Carolina Association of Arts Councils for H.M.S. Pinafore tour, with the operetta being presented on a 40-foot traveling stage in the form of a British Man-o'-War sailing ship.
- Represented North Carolina at the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.
- Represented North Carolina at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Pensacola, Florida.
- In the past 35 years the Arts Council has––
- Produced the first full-scale Broadway musical, Camelot, in Rutherford County.
- Put together the first countywide craft and music heritage festival, the "Spring Thing."
- Produced the first ballet using local talent, The Nutcracker.
- Received the first funding in North Carolina from the National Endowment Expansion Arts Program.
- Produced the first full-length Shakespeare in Rutherford County and founded the Globe Repertory Company.
- Created the first system-wide volunteer program for the arts in the county schools, which led to federal grants and ongoing programs in the schools.
- Spearheaded the formation of the North Carolina Association of Arts Councils, and presented the conceptual plan for what became the North Carolina Arts Council's primary funding program for local communities, the "Grassroots Arts Program."
- Established an Arts and Science Museum with permanent exhibits of local heritage artifacts, minerals, seashells, Indian artifacts, and traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian and other major museums.
- Sponsored residencies by major arts groups, such as Dan Wagonner Dancers of New York, and Capalla Cracoviensis of Krakow, Poland.
- Produced the folk heritage video, "Hand-Me-Downs," with the assistance of the Library of Congress, the South Carolina Arts Commission, and the North Carolina Arts Council.
- Carried out a comprehensive study of county architecture with the help of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, and published The Historic Architecture of Rutherford County.
- Produced the first YouthFilms featuring casts made up entirely of Rutherford County actors, both children and adults.
- Sponsored over 500 programs and events with over 20,000 participants and over 40,000 individuals attending with a cumulative audience of over 150,000.
- Sponsored the creation of over 70 original works, including plays, musicals, an opera, concerts, and a piano concerto.
- Attracted over 10,000 students, teachers and Shakespeare buffs from North and South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee to performances of Shakespeare and other classics at Globe Park.
Business Committee for the Arts
Religion and the Arts
Arts and Education
Director, Educational Foundation
Business Consultant/Dance Instructor
Arts Administrator/Theatrical Director/Actor
College English Professor
University Music Professor/Singer/Actor
Retired Teacher/Community Advocate/Singer
Film Maker, Actor, Musician
Vernon Hoyle, Chairman
Myra Cowan, Vice Chairman
Matthew McEnnerney, President
Barbara Peterson, Secretary
Jesse McKinney, Treasurer