If you are looking to immerse yourself in an art experience, the Dare County Arts Council is the place to be.
For 40 years, the local nonprofit has been serving the community through programming that covers multiple creative fields including visual, literary and performing arts.
At the heart of the downtown Manteo center, located in the old courthouse, is a multi-room gallery that features the work of emerging and established artists.
Six alcoves or rooms are filled with a wide range of art including paintings, metal and fiber art, pottery, and jewelry. Two-dimensional art ranges from oil paintings and watercolors to encaustics, photography and collages. Three-dimensional work includes fanciful fiber or welded metal creatures, wood collages, wearable art and an abundance of clay expressions from the functional to decorative.
The art changes as artists add new work and new artists are added to the mix. Currently, the work is across the board featuring a little of everything from an intimate traditional scene in oil to a gigantic abstract acrylic painting.
It’s an eye-popping stroll moving from space to space that changes around every bend. The atmospheric photographs by George Wood — a textural, fading staircase, vibrant orange and blue-green sunset and violet New Inlet landscape — beckon from one corner. Gayly colored fish with bold personalities by Harry Meraklis call from another wall. Summer is celebrated through paintings of ripe watermelon slices, calming sand dunes, and a vintage Volkswagen bus prepped for a surfing trip.
Windows come to life with light pouring through stained glass that includes a butterfly, sailboat, dragonfly and handcrafted lamp.
There’s a case dedicated to the works of students from the College of the Albemarle Professional Crafts: Jewelry program. It features necklaces, rings, earrings, cuffs and chokers, such as a surfglass pendant — the glass is the leftover resin used in the glassing process of making surfboards, plus vibrant, dangling red earrings that resemble puzzle pieces and textural copper cuffs.
Of note is the work of the head of the jewelry program that’s featured in a case in the entry gallery. Kathryn Osgood has a passion for nature and handcrafts arresting works of wearable art such as “Yellow Urchin,” that can be worn as a brooch or a pendant and is made of sterling, copper, enamel, paint, and powder coat. Her one-of-a-kind pieces including “Tidepool Hidden,” “Tidepool Flowers, and earrings resembling crab claws are intricately fashioned odes to marine life that demand study.
Robin York, who was a longtime Manteo High School art teacher of renown, teaches batik art through the arts council. She has three bigger than life blossom batiks on display: a gigantic sunflower head, a water lily and a poppy. Her color choices are vibrant, and the petals curve in such a way to add movement, a sense of life, to the flower portraits.
Singer/songwriter Mojo Collins showcases folk art beach landscapes on vintage wood. They are gentle, simple little pieces distilled down to the essence — a sense of peace one feels when viewing a sunrise over the sea.
Viewers will find fiber art such as hats, hand-painted silk scarves, felted blue goats, mermaids and roosters.
The list of materials the artists use is abundant including pine needles to weave lidded baskets, cloth mâché to fashion “Creatures of Imaginations” by Carol Willett, and wood for turned bowls.
To get the full DCAC gallery experience, visit the first Friday of the month for their art openings when the gallery space, referred to as The Vault, as it was in another life, features the work of a new artist or artists. To see the monthly line-up and all other creative goings on such as workshops, classes, and initiatives, go to their website at darearts.org. They also have an upstairs space used for larger shows that you won’t want to miss.
Coming up for DCAC: The 37th New World Festival of the Arts featuring 75 artists and crafts folk showcasing work downtown Manteo from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, Aug. 15-16.