Setting the Stage

Cape Fear Community College, Wilson Center

Georgia O’Keefe once said, “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”  Her assessment was correct, if not comprehensive. To participate in the arts today, either as an artist or a patron, requires a good deal more than strength of character: years of training, rehearsal spaces, sheet music, darkrooms, ballet shoes, canvases, mentors, a supportive community, stages, footlights, and an audience.

The Wilmington community, always enthusiastic for cultural opportunities, had plenty of aspiring artists as well as arts patrons hungry for bigger, more diverse arts offerings. What the community did not have, however, was the right space to accommodate either group.

Cape Fear Community College had a strong performing arts program, but its diverse departments were scattered all over campus and lacked cohesion. The college had dreams of turning its fine arts programs into a top-tier curriculum with a leading-edge facility to support it. Eastern North Carolina also needed a performing arts center, one that could host world-class cultural events for citizens across the region and draw performers and patrons from far and wide.

Working together, the college and the community built this dream from the ground up, with New Hanover County voters supporting $41 million from a bond referendum in 2008, and the college raising an additional $4 million in a capital campaign effort. Design efforts with the LS3P team were underway by 2010, and ground broke on the building in 2013. The Wilson Center opened to students and the public in 2015.

Read more