A rendering of the potential new Carrboro ArtsCenter building. Courtesy of David A. Gange Architecture PLLC

Despite previously approved plans to move into a building on Jones Ferry Road, the Carrboro ArtsCenter may take its makeover in a different direction this year.

This week, the ArtsCenter will submit a special-use permit application to the Town of Carrboro for a new, one-story building on 400 Roberson Street located in downtown Carrboro. The Carrboro ArtsCenter, a non-profit organization that offers classes, performances, and art exhibits all year round, has been in its home at 300 E. Main Street for over 35 years. A move has been in the works since early 2015 in order to provide adequate programs and classes for the growing Carrboro community. 

“If you walk through the ArtsCenter today it’s very apparent that we are in need of a new space. The layout is outdated … and the building is beyond its wear,” says Mark Bettger, deputy director for the ArtsCenter. “This fresh, new space will give us new opportunities for our community and it’s really exciting.”

A change in location is not the only significant modification that the ArtsCenter will face this year. Dan Meyer, the center’s current executive director of six years, is leaving for a new position at ​​Chapman Cultural Center in South Carolina at the end of this month. Bettger will serve as interim director following Mayer’s departure and will oversee the expansion of the ArtsCenter until the national search for a new executive director is finalized, expected to be no later than June. 

The logistics for users of the new space on 400 Roberson Street are better than in the previous Jones Ferry Road location as the office building is already built, there aren’t any water issues, and there is plenty of parking. With the new space in the heart of Carrboro, the ArtsCenter will be able to offer new programs, a theatre space that would not have been possible at the Jones Ferry Road location, new labs, and technologies. 

“We’re thinking about doing some green screens, virtual reality, and 3D printing,” Bettger says about using technology to help move the ArtsCenter forward artistically. “We’ll have a little bit of green space and we can take our classes outside for some painting … or outside projects, which is something we can’t really do here.” Bettger adds that the new parking lot space allows for art fairs and community-based art exhibitions in the future.

Another highlight of the Roberson Street location is that it is in an up-and-coming area that’s within walking distance from the current ArtsCenter building. 

“It’s right behind us. Say that we had a theatre production, people can still go get a nice dinner before they come to the show,” says Bettger. “There’s no commute. It’s a one-stop shop for everything. If you’re spending a day in Carrboro, you can park or you can walk in.”

“[This new location] will still be in the heart of the community and Roberson is going to turn into a much more communal, open space,”  Bettger says. 

Carrboro is partnering with Orange County to build a new facility, known as the 203 Project, that will include the town’s parks and recreation offices, the new Orange County Southern Branch Library, a skills development center, a center for teens, a WCOM radio, and more. 

The ArtsCenter was originally going to be a part of this development, but officials pulled out of the project in 2018 so that the ArtsCenter could build its own facility. Following the move, the ArtsCenter will only be a short walk away from the 203 Project’s location on 203 South Greensboro Street. Construction on the 203 Project should begin this spring and it should open to the public in the summer of 2023.

ArtsCenter officials hope to get a decision from the town of Carrboro within the next two months regarding the move. Bettger says that if everything runs smoothly, the ArtsCenter could begin renovations inside the new building around May or June of this year and potentially be open to the public by April of 2023.

“The ArtsCenter exists in order to educate and inspire artistic creativity for the people in the community,”  Bettger says. “It’s a place where you can come and explore art, whether that’s painting, ceramics or theatre. Our goal is that we continue to partner with organizations in the community to help enrich our programs for youths and adults.” 

It doesn’t matter who you are, your background, or where you come from,” Bettger says.“Just come on in and join us.”

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.