Dare County is 150 years old and the local arts council is celebrating the anniversary by breaking ground on an innovative art space called the Courtyard.
Located in the heart of the county seat, the group is transforming the yard behind its leased gallery into a multi-functional, community accessible art space. The aptly named Courtyard is intended for a variety of public and private uses and is designed to encourage daily interactions and artful engagements.
The innovative project, initiated and led by Dare County Arts Council (DCAC), is expected to open this fall in the open-air space behind the historic 1904 County Courthouse, in downtown Manteo. The county-owned building at the intersection of Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh streets currently serves as the home base and show-and-sell gallery for the nonprofit arts group.
“As Dare County celebrates its 150th anniversary, we are proud to launch a major effort to improve one of our area's most iconic buildings,” said Chris Sawin the group’s executive director. “Once completed, the Courtyard will offer our community an arts space on par with other great cultural facilities in the state of North Carolina.”
Outdoor art spaces designed to bring people together are globally popular, and the arts council, the Dare County Tourism Board and several local donors recognized the community need and co-funded development of this underutilized space. Programming is being developed, and the council welcomes suggestions for uses.
The Courtyard project is the second phase of the renovation for the art council’s space. The first phase, an update and makeover to the interior of the building, took place in 2014-15. Cost of both phases is approximately $1.2 million.
Designed by local resident Ben Cahoon, of Cahoon and Kasten Architects, the renovated Courtyard will feature a pergola for shade and displaying artwork, permanent seating, infrastructure for natural and kinetic works, improved lighting, and an accessible ramp to the art council’s indoor gallery.
“It’s rare, and really wonderful, to have a client like the arts council,” said Cahoon. “They set high standards for making the space multi-functional. I look forward to all of the cool ways they will find to utilize it.”
Groundbreaking for the Courtyard project was to be held March 3 at the gallery. Work will take place throughout the spring and summer but is not expected to affect the gallery’s hours or exhibits. Officials tentatively aim for a “soft” opening in September or October, with a grand opening in early November.
“The Courtyard project will allow for expanded arts programming, serve additional segments of the community and showcase a broader range of creative endeavors, including outdoor artwork, workshops and artist demonstrations,” Sawin said. “We are looking forward to all the new opportunities.”