Welcome Home DCAC

By Molly Harrison | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Eight months after Hurricane Irene flooded downtown Manteo, another of the storm's victims has finished repairs and reopened its doors. The Dare County Arts Council, housed in the historic Dare County Courthouse on Queen Elizabeth Street, is reopening its office and galleries on Friday, May 4.

"We've got a fresh, clean start in a fresh new gallery," says Dawn Church, president of the Dare County Arts Council (DCAC). "We are really happy to be coming home."

Dare County Arts Council moved into the courthouse about a year before Hurricane Irene struck the Outer Banks in August 2011. The storm brought 3 feet of water into the building. Luckily, prior to the storm DCAC staff, board members and volunteers, knowing that the 1904 courthouse had a long history of flooding, had moved all of the artwork off the first floor, so they didn't lose any artwork in the flood. But DCAC did lose display cases, desks and office equipment, and they were forced to vacate the courthouse and find temporary digs.

Within three days, DCAC had found interim space in Kitty Hawk and set up their office and gallery there. Dare County, which still owns the courthouse building and leases it to DCAC, dealt with the repairs to the courthouse over the past several months. The county replaced the drywall and floors and did more mold remediation than had ever been done in the courthouse in the past. DCAC had to make some renovations themselves as well. Obviously, the storm gave a definite blow to the nonprofit arts organization.

"It really cut us off at the knees," says Church. "The gallery was really thriving in downtown Manteo. Then we lost our revenue source. And our home. And a lot of equipment."

But Church was able to point out some silver linings in the situation.

"We felt really welcome in Kitty Hawk," says Church. "We'll always stay in Manteo where we belong, but we learned that someday it might be good to also have space on the northern beaches. People responded really well and were really welcoming."

Church also said that workers found some really amazing things during the renovation, including a stained glass window above the front door. The beautiful window now gleams above the courthouse's wooden doors.

"We can't wait to reopen on Friday," says Church. "We can't wait to be back to what we've been doing. We're back on track and looking forward to a really great season in the gallery."

Unfortunately for DCAC with this good news comes some sad news. DCAC Director Laura Martier recently announced she is leaving her position with DCAC, so the organization is on the lookout for a new director. But in the meantime, Friday there will be cause for celebration.

The renovated DCAC will be open to the public for a grand reopening celebration on Friday, May 4 during Manteo's First Friday celebration. DCAC's First Friday events are always a favorite part of the monthly Manteo event, which includes live music all over town, shops and restaurants open late, entertainment and crowds of friendly people in the streets. DCAC traditionally opens exhibits of one or two local artists during First Friday. The grand reopening reception is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Debuting exhibits this month are painter Carol Trotman, mixed-media artist Betty Lease and multi-media artist Fred Vallade. All of these works will be on display in the gallery through the end of the month. DCAC's regular summer hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

DCAC in the courthouse is such a welcome addition to downtown Manteo. Who out there remembers when the courthouse was actually a courthouse? When every parking space and every lunch seat downtown was filled with jurors, attorneys, police officers, defendants, witness and court staff. The post office was downtown then too, on the corner of Queen Elizabeth and Ananias Dare streets. Manteo was all business then.

But the post office moved to the main highway, and the courthouse followed later. Manteo seemed less like a business town and more like a fun place to visit. The courthouse actually sat empty for a few years, until DCAC moved in. DCAC was the perfect fit, able to keep the historical integrity of the courthouse while at the same time preserving the building as a community center -- a more positive one at that.

In the midst of moving back into the courthouse this week, hanging the works in the galleries, opening the May exhibits and planning the music for first Friday, DCAC is also hanging one of its biggest shows of the year - the Mollie Fearing Memorial Art Show at Roanoke Island Festival Park. Entries for the show (from ages 18 and older) still are being accepted on May 2 until 5 p.m. at Festival Park. The opening reception will be on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., with announcements of winners from Judge David J. Brown of Winston-Salem. The show will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through May 30.

So that's three reasons to head to Manteo this weekend: First Friday, the new DCAC gallery space and the Mollie Fearing Art Show. Here's another: the Manteo Farmers Market starts on Saturday. From 8 a.m. to noon, you can wander around the Creef Memorial Park on the waterfront shopping for produce, herbs and flowers, sweets, handmade soaps, arts and crafts, jewelry and much more. It's always a good time. I haven't gotten a whole lot of lowdown on who's going to be there this year, but I'll report back after Saturday. I love taking my kids over there and doing a little outdoor shopping with them. They always find a dog to pet and something sweet to eat and then we play on the playground for a while, and I'm happy because I have veggies to take home.

If you need one more reason to visit Manteo, Roanoke Island Festival Park has a children's show on Saturday at 1 p.m. -- Storybook Theatre Tales from Around the World.

A couple more things to tell the music lovers about and then you can be on your way.

The Cape Hatteras Music Festival is on Saturday in Buxton. A fundraiser for the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (opposing NPS beach access restrictions and fees), the festival features music, local artists, food and beverages. They're requesting at least $5 donation per person. Hours are 1:30 to 11 p.m. - that's a lot of music!

On Sunday in Duck, it's the Illuminating Hope Affair at Aqua Restaurant. The name doesn't really tell you what that is, but it's an outdoor festival with lots of music, beer and wine, food from several local restaurants and a great silent auction. Tickets are $25 apiece. Hours are 3 to 9 p.m.

Also on Sunday, the Virginia Symphony is playing, thanks to the Outer Banks Forum for the Lively Arts. They'll perform at First Flight High School at 2:30 p.m.

Keep looking around our By Day and Nightlife sections. From Pet Mega Adoptions with the SPCA to fund-raising runs and walks to a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band, there is a lot going on here this week. Get out and have some fun before the masses come!


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About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of OuterBanksThisWeek.com. She moved to Nags Head in 1994 and since then has made her living writing articles and creating publications about the people, places and culture of the Outer Banks. When not working she practices and teaches yoga and spends as much time as possible outside and in or on the water with her husband and two children.