An Art Evolution
Tucked into the Pirate’s Quay Shopping Center in Nags Head is Cloud Nine, a magical place brimming with a kaleidoscope of beads, baubles, and glass pieces tumbled smooth by the sea. It’s a make-your-own jewelry shop that beckons you to get down to the business of beading. Owner Ginny Flowers is passionate about her art and eagerly shares her talent with others.
Recently, Flowers hosted a workshop with GEM (Gentle Expert Memorycare) Day Services, Inc. – a local nonprofit group that provides support for adults with memory loss and physical and mental disabilities. Gathered around the table, the group created necklaces and bracelets.
“Seeing the joy on their faces touched my heart,” says Flowers, who also serves as president of the Dare County Arts Council (DCAC). “I believe art has the capacity to heal.”
DCAC Executive Director Chris Sawin had a similar experience while working with individuals from the Monarch Beach Club, a non-profit organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse disorders. While sharing some musical techniques, he was heartened by the positive response.
“I believe music helps unblock creativity,” Sawin says.
These experiences reflect a tenet of the DCAC – that art transforms lives and builds strong communities. The Council’s mission is to encourage the arts through advocacy, enrichment, and opportunity.
Art in the park. Art after dark. Art by the shore. Art in the store. Whether you are interested in metal etching, painting, pottery or poetry, there’s likely a workshop for it somewhere on the Outer Banks – either at DCAC’s home in the 1904 courthouse in downtown Manteo or at one of the local shops or galleries.
Rescued from disrepair, the courthouse serves as the hub of the local arts community. The first-floor gallery showcases local established and emerging artists’ works. The second floor is utilized for hosting art workshops.
Today, in this artist community we call home, enthusiasts can do everything from gaze upon an original Renoir painting and enjoy a four-hand piano recital to participate in a poetry reading and attend an international surf film festival.
But it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that there’s been such a notable proliferation of the arts on the Outer Banks over the past half century. Inspiring natural surroundings. Supportive community. Toss in a laid-back vibe and you have the perfect formula for nurturing the creative spirit.
“The arts scene on the Outer Banks has just exploded in the last several years,” Sawin said. “A lot of that growth tracks directly to our growing reputation nationally as a first-class vacation destination, but there are other factors, too.”
Sawin says that digital technology, social media and new models for arts and performance have made it easier for people to create and express themselves.
“I’m continually amazed at how many young people consider themselves artists, so I don’t expect this growth to slow down anytime soon.”
The Early Years
The evolution of the arts in Dare County spans many decades. In 1968, the North Carolina Symphony held its first performance here, leading to the formation of the Dare County Chapter of the NC Symphony Society. Seven years later, in 1975, a group of residents formed an arts council that would continue to sponsor the Symphony concerts but expand its scope.
That newly formed group was the Sea and Sounds Arts Council, precursor of the DCAC. Local artist Mollie Fearing, a vital supporter and advocate of the arts until she died in 1997, initially led the group. In her honor, the annual Mollie Fearing Memorial Art Show has been held every spring for the past 20 years.
In the early years of Sea and Sounds, the Council sponsored events such as the NC Symphony Chamber Orchestra; Graciela, a mime who studied under the famous Marcel Marceau; and a Southern Folk Heritage Festival with music, dance, and storytelling. Events were always offered free to students.
Enter Glenn Eure
Around the time the art movement was taking root, an event of epic proportions also occurred on the Outer Banks. Ocean waves paused in mid break, the sun refused to set, and pelicans sang sea shanties heralding the arrival of Glenn Eure. Pardon the hyperbole, but Eure would appreciate it, as anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him knows he has a penchant for tall tales. Besides, the description pays homage to his larger than life persona.
A retired U.S. Army major with an East Carolina University Fine Arts degree under his belt and a mind bursting with extraordinary imagination and ideas, Eure quickly established himself not only as a talented artist but also as a caring member of the community.
By 1983, Eure opened the doors to the iconic Ghost Fleet Gallery on Driftwood Street in Nags Head. There, he joined other established artists and galleries such as Jewelry by Gail, Morales Gallery, and Seaside Art Gallery.
Jesse Morales initiated the idea of zoning the area as an art district, and this little Outer Banks arts community soon became known as Gallery Row. Seaside Gallery, founded by Chester Smith in 1961, is the oldest art gallery on the Outer Banks and is the proud home of the Renoir painting.
Through the years, Ghost Fleet Gallery became a favorite neighborhood hangout. Not only does the gallery showcase Eure’s remarkable woodcuts, collagraphs and watercolors, but the space has also been generously shared to support other artists in creative camaraderie. There are artist-of-the-month exhibits and annual artist self-portrait exhibitions, literary readings, and lectures.
“My favorite event is the countywide school art show,” says Eure.
For 32 years, until this year, Eure also hosted the Frank Stick Memorial Art Show at his gallery. Stick, a nationally acclaimed wildlife artist who arrived on the Outer Banks in the 1930s, painted seascapes and lifelike watercolors of locally caught fish. The show, sponsored by the DCAC, was held at the courthouse this year and featured a “Glenn Eure Best in Show” award, which will surely become a yearly tradition.
Eure, now 85, remembers fondly a Hospice Paint-In held yearly on Gallery Row to benefit the Dare Hospice program. The whole community was invited to paint, he said. Later the artwork was auctioned with proceeds benefiting the hospice program. This event eventually evolved into the popular, youth-oriented Artrageous Art Extravaganza that will coincide with the grand opening of Dowdy Park on May 13.
Eure undertook two phenomenally challenging projects over the years. Providing the original design concept, he worked collaboratively with sculptors Hanna and Jodi Jubran to create a memorial to the 100th anniversary of man’s first powered flight. The Monument to a Century of Flight was dedicated in 2003 in Kitty Hawk and is stunning in its beauty and eloquence.
Eure also spent four years, beginning in 2005, absorbed in carving the 14 Stations of the Cross for Holy Redeemer by the Sea Catholic Parish. The stations, dedicated in January of 2010, depict Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion. Eure describes that project as an emotional and spiritual endeavor and the end result was a magnificent portrayal of the sacred symbols.
“I feel like we were here during the heyday,” says Glenn’s wife, Pat, of the couple’s role in the local arts movement. “It was extraordinary to have been in the midst of it all. The environment was ripe – all that was needed was someone to be the catalyst, to light the fire.”
No doubt, Glenn Eure ignited and fanned the flame. Others continue to keep it burning as the thriving local art scene makes this place we call home, picture-perfect. ♦
Kimberly Armstrong’s artistic talents are limited to drawing conclusions. However, she can perform a rollicking rendition of “The Skater’s Waltz” on the piano.