Artists need space.
They need space to rehearse, perform, build sets and costumes; space to paint, draw, sculpt and display their work.
So arts activity and the real estate it requires are never static in Winston-Salem. Something is constantly opening, closing, moving, expanding — from the Downtown Arts District in the area of Trade Street to the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts over on North Spruce Street.
Theater space in Winston-Salem shrank by nearly 1,200 seats last year when the Arts Council Theatre on Coliseum Drive (540) was sold to a church and Performance Place (647) on the UNC School of the Arts campus closed for renovations.
Now, performing arts space is about to expand again.
Twice, construction bids for a major remodeling project on Performance Place have come in over budget. UNC School of the Arts Chancellor Lindsay Bierman said they will have to be re-worked and sent out for a third time.
In the meantime, Performance Place recently reopened after getting a few minor improvements. Its largest theater space, the Freedman Theatre, seats 368; Catawba Theatre seats 179, and the Patrons Theatre holds up to 100.
Reynolds Place, 4,000 square feet in the Rhodes Arts Center, is currently undergoing a transformation from an underused meeting space into a 240-seat theater that is expected to open in time for the National Black Theatre Festival, which starts July 29.
Space is also being allocated for a box office, art gallery, lobby and gift shop. Sunnyside Millwork is creating natural-wood seating and other areas.
Christine Jones is senior vice president of facilities and chief operating officer of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, which owns the Rhodes Center.
“This is good work,” Jones said. “I like to show off the facilities and what’s happening here. I can see it, even though it’s not all in place yet.”
When it is all in place the Rhodes Center will house three performance spaces: Hanesbrands Theatre, which seats about 2016; Mountcastle Forum, a black box that seats about 120, and Reynolds Place, whose new name is up for grabs.
During the Black Theatre Festival, Jones plans to have three plays going at once. For that to happen effectively, the arts council is putting in five layers of acoustic dry wall and insulation between Mountcastle and Reynolds.
“Three p.m. on Day One of the National Black Theatre Festival will test the sound isolation issues between the two spaces,” Jones said.
The upfits to Reynolds Place will cost about $2.4 million.
The current seating capacity of the Stevens Center, which belongs to UNCSA, is 1,366. A plan to renovate it would reduce seating to 1,024 but increase two levels of seating to three, including a “necklace-style” mezzanine composed of modular boxes, providing more leg room and street-level access to orchestra-level seating.
Bierman said that the cost of the renovation will be about $42 million, plus private support for a major tech upgrade and a major gift to rename the building.
Chancellor since 2014, Bierman announced in May that he will step down July 31 to become chief executive of UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina in Raleigh on Aug. 12.
If you’re making artistic progress and seeking studio space, you need look no farther than the Downtown Arts District, according to Marilyn Ingram, president of the Downtown Arts District Association board.
The District comprises roughly Trade and Liberty streets from Fifth to Seventh streets.
Ted Hill, an artist who had occupied a spot in the district, most recently E.O. Hill Studio, 608-A N. Trade St., since the 1980s, died in May.
“That’s a change that nobody wanted to see,” Ingram said.
The Arts District is dynamic, with occupants coming and going in its array of small and large shops and communal studio areas. The best way to check it out is strolling along Trade, Liberty, Sixth and Seventh streets.
“We’ve had a lot of moving around and empty stores,” Ingram said. She described a number of openings and closings in the past 18 months or so.
Golden Flower Tai Chi at 612 Trade St. closed in September, and the owners prepared to welcome Gill Thornton and her grandmother Marsha Hierl to the space. They were going to move Alamance Repertory Theatre Company there from Burlington.
In a perfect example of chaos being a ladder, not a pit, Wildlight Wellness Collective got the building instead and opened for classes in November. ARTC moved around the corner to 110 W. Seventh St., the old Garage music venue, which had closed in January 2018.
“Wildlight is a fabulously beautiful space, and it’s just perfect, it worked out the way it should have,” Ingram said. “They did a beautiful yoga glass at the last Gallery Hop.” DADA holds an open house in the District the first Friday of every month.
Wildlight has a full menu of yoga, HIIT, Ayurveda and other wellness classes, workshops and events. ARTC presents plays, music, poetry readings and has a gallery space.
“ARTC just did ‘Stanley and Alice,’ Ingram said. “It was hilarious, every word was funny, so well written and so well-acted.” Their next show was “Carrie: the Musical” in May. It had up to 104 seats.
The next show on their bill will be the “Savannah Sipping Society,” set for Aug. 16-18 and 23-25.
Art for Art’s Sake on the ARTivity on the Green, 630 N. Liberty St., has added music, Music After Dark, on Fridays 7-9 p.m. through August to its roster of ongoing activities such as Arts Jams for kids on the first and third Saturdays 12:30-3 p.m. Visit www.theafasgroup.com.
Anne’s Books and Papers, on the second floor 629 N. Trade St., opened about a year ago.
Anne Murray, the owner, does custom book-bindings, book repair and classes in bookbinding, paper-making and paper marbling, a popular decorative technique for books.
“Recently somebody brought me his grandmother’s memoirs for custom bindings,” Murray said. “I did 20 copies for the family. People bring in stacks of papers, and I turn them into books. They are things that people would enjoy sitting on their bookshelves.”
Art Connections, owned by Audrey Linge, and Kara Hammond, an artist, share the first floor.
The Visual Index, 562 N. Trade St., replaced longtime store, The Other Half, in July 2017. Owner Toni Tronu sells handmade gifts and art objects.
Tattoo Revival at 631 N. Trade St. next to PAZ Studio moved over to 610 N. Liberty St. recently, and a Tasting Room is moving into the vacated tattoo space.
Joey Medaloni said that the Tasting Room is a retail wine bar and shop, specializing in tastings weekly and being able to try about 70 different wines by the glass. Medaloni is part-owner of the shop and is the wine-maker at Medaloni Cellars. It is expected to open soon.
Gabe Higgins opened Looking Glass Service, a virtual reality company, at 606 N. Trade St., in January 2018, but he has been in business for about four years.
Looking Glass does work all over the U.S.
Sue Poovey moved her Gallery VI from Reynolda Village to 717 N. Trade St. about 18 months ago. She carries work by locals such as photographer Bowman Gray IV and painter Steve Childs and N.C. artists like Beverly McIver.
“Gallery VI is great,” Ingram said. “They’ve got some really high-end art.”