Groundbreaking for the new Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) is set for Tuesday, May 11 at 5 p.m. All I can say is — how do you spell S-wheat?

One of the first stories I did as a freelancer for the Indy was about Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer and his band of “Annie” fans on the City Council, who’d killed funding for the old CAM (back then, it was a gallery on Moore Square). ’97 or so. (Pre-web days; it’s not online.) They didn’t like contemporary, obviously. They preferred tried-and-true — with Jesse Helm the last word on true.

Not long before, Fetzer, aided and abetted by then-Councilor Paul Coble, Helms’ kin, had so frightened the arts community here that sponsors “voluntarily” cancelled a touring company’s performances of “La Cage Aux Folles.” Too gay.

Re-runs of “Annie” were quickly substituted.

Kids, those were dark daze in Raleigh back then.

Mayor Fetzer has gone on to greater fame, of course, as the state Republican Party’s chairman. Councilor Coble, later Mayor Coble, is now Wake County Commissioner Coble.

Meantime, CAM soldiered on as a “virtual” organization and never gave up. Now, it’s back, thanks in major part to Mayor Charles Meeker’s support along with virtually every other City Council member since Meeker ousted Coble in the 2001 election.

Meeker brags on the CAM some in this press release, as he should:

Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) will officially break ground at its future home, 409 W. Martin Street, on Tuesday, May 11, 2010, at 5:00 p.m. The renovated 20,000 sq. ft. historic warehouse-turned-museum will serve as the only non-collecting museum of contemporary art + design in North Carolina.

Jay Gates, CAM Interim Director, City of Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and Dean Marvin Malecha, NC State College of Design, will lead the ceremony. Predicts Mayor Meeker: “The opening of the Contemporary Art Museum will be key to the revitalization of Raleigh’s Warehouse District. Its location near the City’s Convention Center and planned Union Station Transit Center, in addition to its innovative art and design exhibitions, will make the new museum an important cultural destination for our region.”

More from CAM is below:

It continues:

The movement of the project from concept to reality has been made possible by many individuals, foundations and a special initiative launched last year to obtain valuable Historic and New Market Tax Credits for the museum’s redevelopment. The tax credit programs will provide a direct subsidy of more than $2 million for CAM, or about one half of the cost of the museum’s redevelopment. 
The new museum will house three galleries as well as dedicated educational spaces. Additionally, it will host changing exhibitions and the critically acclaimed Design Camp for high school students, while expanding the existing, community-wide adult and youth art and design programming.

News Facts:

The Contemporary Art Museum was established in 1983 in Raleigh as the City Gallery of Contemporary Art.
In 2006, the museum merged with the NC State University College of Design, becoming an extension of the College’s “Art and Design in the Community” Initiative. The merger expands the College’s K-12 outreach and introduces students and the larger community to a broad range of new creative and learning opportunities.

CAM is a non-collecting museum of contemporary art and design. Its exhibitions reflect the leading edge of visual arts and design practice, while its educational programs offer a unique perspective on the role of contemporary art and design in our everyday lives.

The museum is eleigible for Historic and New Market tax credits based on the historic nature of the warehouse building being rebuilt and on the demographics of the census tract in Raleigh where CAM is located. The same programs have been used in North Carolina recently at the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro and at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham.

The architectural team of Clearscapes and Pugh + Scarpa has overseen the design of the new museum. Raleigh-based Clearscapes is well known for its local projects, including the historically sensitive Marbles Kids Museum, the new Raleigh Convention Center, and the mixed-used revitalization of Pine State Creamery. The 2010 American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Firm Award winner, Pugh + Scarpa has offices in Santa Monica, CA, and Charlotte, NC.