Used to be, when Karen Masterson wanted to take a pottery class, she had to head from her northern Brunswick County home down to Southport or up U.S. 17 into Wilmington, and sometimes as far as Kure Beach.
These days, a pottery studio is right in her backyard.
Masterson is one of a growing number of residents taking advantage of the Town of Leland Cultural Arts Center.
Although it launched its soft opening in March, the center is gearing up for its first open house this Saturday so would-be artists can check out the space, meet instructors and sign up for classes.
“It’s so close to me, which is wonderful,” Masterson said of the center.
It was that kind of enthusiasm and hunger for a close-by creative space that got the town-owned center up and running in the first place.
Originally intended as a Leland community center, the building remained unfinished and unused at the entrance to Magnolia Greens when the economy took a dip several years back.
Moving forward, town officials considered keeping the focus recreational, but the cultural arts center’s Jill Brown said a dedicated group of residents had a different idea.
“The public really pushed and argued for an arts center,” Brown noted.
Brown made her way to Leland via the Sertoma Arts Center in Raleigh. Coming from the thriving Triangle metropolitan hub, she admits being surprised that a small town like Leland would be the site of an arts education and performance space.
“This is such a developing area. It is very forward-thinking,” she said. “People here are moving from all over the place, and a lot of people who come here are used to having these kinds of programs. I think it’s brilliant.”
Pottery instructor Jacob Hermann would agree. What the arts can offer, he said, is much more than creative expression.
“I think it’s crucial to have art in the community. The direction we’re going in society, we’re so disconnected. This gives an interaction with your neighbors that you might not have otherwise,” he said.
Brown said the center continues to grow in enrollment, and people are coming in from as close as Magnolia Greens and as far away as Pender County. In fact, the class Masterson had hoped to take this fall–independent pottery–is already filled up. So instead, she bought a monthly pass so she can have access to the studio and its tools.
The cultural arts center’s upcoming offerings include photography, jewelry-making and painting, as well as acting courses in its theater that is fully equipped with sound and lighting. The center also has a yoga and dance studio, and offers arts classes for children and teens. Classes pick back up Sept. 14
The open house will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the center, 1212 Magnolia Way. Visitors can also stop at Crafted, an onsite gift shop featuring handmade wares from students and instructors.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.