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Carolina Color

Cities throughout North and South Carolina have art scenes woven into their identities that help mold and shape each community. Asheville has long been known as an arts community that buzzes with creative energy, and Greenville is home to hundreds of registered artists. In Beaufort, painters work en plein air, Chapel Hill is a music mecca, and Greensboro is the newest home of the National Folk Festival, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year.


Greenville, South Carolina

In Greenville, art is “very visible; you don’t have to go look for it like in some cities,” said Taryn Scher, spokeswoman for VisitGreenvilleSC.

Art galleries, studios, museums and public art pieces dot downtown and are prominent throughout the city. Greenville is home to 500 registered artists and nearly 50 museums and galleries, including the Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery, which houses one of the world’s largest religious art collections.

Downtown, not far from where Liberty Bridge arches over Reedy River Falls, is Art Crossing at Riverplace. There, the lower floor, space that was initially slated for parking, houses about 20 artist studios that are open Tuesday through Saturday. Anyone can drop by to chat with the artists, watch them create or buy their work.

Downtown visitors will also find the Greenville County Museum of Art and, across the river, the Peace Center for Performing Arts, where the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and the International Ballet perform. The center also brings in five Broadway shows every year.

About 130 artists within a 15-mile radius of downtown throw open their doors during a November weekend for the annual Open Studios event. Another annual favorite is Artisphere, a three-day festival of all things art. Artists clamor to get into the highly competitive juried show; nearly 1,000 applied to exhibit during this year’s Artisphere, May 8-10, but only 121 were selected, Scher said.


Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Of course, Chapel Hill is known as the home of University of North Carolina, and the school plays a major role in the town’s arts scene, but Chapel Hill is also renowned as the birthplace of several major bands.

The city’s music scene got its start in the 1950s, and a famous venue called the Cat’s Cradle kept things going through the ’60s. Although James Taylor grew up in Chapel Hill and several other bands came from there, the 1990s proved Chapel Hill a musical boomtown with the success of local bands such as Ben Folds Five, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Superchunk. Cat’s Cradle is still a popular stop for visitors and still brings in national acts, said Marlene Barbera, director of sales for Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

“Cat’s Cradle is an icon, but there are so many places to watch music in Chapel Hill,” she said.

UNC is also a hub for arts, both visual and performing. The school’s Ackland Art Museum has about 17,000 works in its permanent collection. Memorial Hall brings in plays and performances of all kinds, and PlayMaker’s Repertory Co. also calls the campus home.

UNC’s Forest Theatre is an outdoor amphitheater where visitors can watch Shakespeare or go to the Paperhand Puppet Intervention Festival every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 7-September 7. The pageant showcases giant puppets, two-story-tall marionettes and huge masks operated by a crew of people.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.