Last spring saw a successful partnership between local arts councils, with the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County joining forces with the Chatham Arts Council, the Durham Arts Council, and the Orange County Arts Commission, alongside WRAL for the fundraising initiative Big Night In for the Arts. The evening of live-streamed performances brought in 35,000 viewers, 600 corporate sponsors and individual donors, and $350,000 in funds for Triangle artist and arts organizations. 

As we round the corner into year three of a pandemic, the evening of performances is coming back. This next evening is set for March 10 at 7 p.m. on WRAL-TV, with performances by musicians Ben Folds, Nnenna Freelon, and Hiss Golden Messenger, alongside poetry from Jaki Shelton Green, tap dancing from Jabu Graybeal, and a look at the process of potter Mark Hewitt. 

Ragen Carlile, interim president of the United Arts Council, says that support for the arts is more necessary than ever. 

“We all know that the arts are the first to close and the last to open,” Carlile tells the INDY. “I feel like what’s happened with the arts without programming is that organizations are getting it geared up, and then they have to be flexible at the last minute and then decide to postpone the show, or make that festival go virtual, or postpone it for several months. There’s this stop and start feeling.” 

As the INDY has previously reported, with live performances limited, numerous local arts organizations have struggled to keep afloat. 

Carlile says that the funds from last year’s event were split up between participating arts organizations, with proceeds going toward arts programming, grants, and individual artists. 

Last year’s event included performances by Watchhouse (then performing as Mandolin Orange), Branford Marsalis, Scott McCreery, and Ariana DeBose, who was recently nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in West Side Story

“We live in such a rich community here,” Carlile says. “I want people to be excited and proud, not just that we live in a community that not only supports and creates artists as amazing and eclectic as this business, but that has art for everybody.”

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