WILMINGTON — The Port City has a vibrant arts scene. Now there’s a way to know which “arts friendly” businesses are helping to support it, thanks to a new initiative.
The initiative grew out of Arts in Wilmington, an organization founded in 2014 to connect artists to the broader Cape Fear community. Earlier this year, AIW creator Craig Stinson ran an inaugural awards ceremony to celebrate local artists and artists organization.
According to Stinson, AIW has about 1,600 people who read its newsletter; the group’s monthly meet-ups draw good crowds as well. But Stinson has planned for a while to take things a step further.
“I’ve had a number of conversations about this, wondering, ‘there has to be a way to certify businesses that are friendly to the arts,” Stinson said. “Essentially, we wanted to create a Better Business Bureau for the arts.”
That BBB for the arts is Arts Friendly. According to Stinson, Arts Friendly plans to certify businesses that are actively involved in supporting the local art scene.
“There’s a lot of ways businesses support local art, it goes beyond just a cash donation. We see coffee shops that provide space for performances or act as galleries for local artists, we see people who volunteer on boards,” Stinson said.
Stinson said Luna Caffé, on Castle Street, and Hell’s Kitchen are good examples.
“Luna hosts local groups and they hang artists’ work. Hell’s Kitchen’s relationship with the film industry goes way back. It hosts Cucalorus’ wrap party, and they’ve been involved with ‘Good Behavior,’ ‘Six,’ all the way back to ‘Dawson’s Creek.’”
Arts Friendly recognizes everything from cash and in-kind donations to volunteering for and patronizing local arts organizations. Stinson added that, if need be, the requirements could be amended.
In addition what Arts Friendly calls “evidence of support” for local arts groups, Stinson said the organization will look for certain core values, including “creativity, vision, discipline, bravery and friendliness.”
Stinson said, “I know those are hard to quantify, but we believe that good artists and businesses have these things in common. You’ve got to be creative, and have a long term vision. But you’ve got to have the discipline, the short-term day to day work that makes it happen.
“Or, take something that’s a little different, like bravery. You have to be brave to get up on stage and perform, or to put your art up on the walls in public, that’s you on display. I think entrepreneurs. You’re putting yourself out there and you don’t know how people are going to react.”
Stinson hopes that effect of being certified will reached beyond Wilmington.
“The hope is that you’re building up a reputation,” Stinson said “If you’re coming to visit from Raleigh and you imagine yourself as kind of a cultural tourist, you can see the kinds of places that support the arts.”
The hope, Stinson said, is that tourists and locals alike vote with their dollars, supporting businesses that, in turn, support the arts.
The next step, according to Stinson, would be to help support the arts in Port City more directly. To that end, he is launching the Arts Friendly Foundation. The Foundation would be a 501(3)c non-profit that could fundraise and distribute directly from certified businesses.
“We could essentially distribute funds directly to arts organizations through the Foundation,” Stinson said. “Local art groups wouldn’t have to jump through the hoops of a grant program. We could just cut them a check and let them do what they do best.”
There are currently about 20 businesses certified by Arts Friendly, but Stinson hopes to certify more businesses as he gets the Foundation up and running. More information about the Arts Friendly initiative is available here, including a list of certified businesses and information for businesses interested in getting certified.
On the map: Arts Friendly has already certified shops and restaurants from downtown to Ogden, click on a location mark for more info, or check out a complete list here.
Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.