Certainly, Marlene True invites arts supporters to come out and enjoy “An Evening on the Scuppernong” on Saturday, Sept. 22. But more importantly, the executive director of Pocosin Arts in Columbia wants lifelong learners from everywhere to take advantage of the studio, gallery, and lodge complex that has been in operation since 1994.

“Our mission has evolved from simply ‘connecting culture to the arts,’” True says. “It is now expanded ‘to enrich the lives of those in our local communities and beyond by providing opportunities for discovery, creativity and lifelong learning through the arts.’”

Pocosin Arts accomplishes that ambitious goal by offering an ever-growing menu of classes, workshops, and camps, designed to reach people of all ages and interests.

Their core offerings are the multi-day art workshops and retreats. These feature nationally-recognized artists and instructors in the fields of painting and drawing, wood, textiles and fiber, basketry, ceramics, metalsmithing, jewelry, and mixed media.

Making it even more of a “destination” is the fact that Pocosin Arts boasts Riverside Studios and Lodge, where visiting artists and students can stay during the workshops. This has a ripple effect beyond the walls of the buildings.

“Our appeal is more regional than just local, reaching into surrounding areas,” True says, noting they offered three weeks of youth art classes in Chowan County this summer that “went really well. We work with all local communities, and draw students from surrounding counties. It is a great resource that also creates a lot of vibrancy on Main Street here in Columbia.”

In addition to the traditional courses, the staff always likes to find a few more “unusual” offerings such as silk painting and papermaking using cattails. They are also embracing newer technologies in the Smith Lab, now outfitted with 3-D printers, a CNC ShopBot, and laser vinyl cutters. Outer Banks artist and designer Lee Griggs used the 3-D printer to design and print a drink tumbler, from which he will cast 100 mugs with unique designs. Guests at the fundraiser will be able to purchase these at the auction.

“That is just one example of the things we can do with the Smith Lab,” True says. “Artists can use that equipment to create art in new and different ways.”

Pocosin Arts has also become a draw for those looking for artist residencies. Artists can apply for a one-year residence or more, according to True.

“We give them studio space, a place to live, the opportunity to sell work in the gallery, and to teach adult and youth after school and in our summer art camps. This brings artists to this community we normally wouldn’t have.”

Some who came as residents ended up staying in the area, buying homes and setting up studios. Many former students have gone on to studies and careers in the arts.

The nonprofit organization is funded primarily through grants from foundations. Fees are charged to cover a program’s real cost, but True notes they never want financial capacity to be a barrier to participation.

“If families are unable to pay the full price, we invite them to pay the amount that is affordable for them,” she says, adding that no one is turned away from their youth programs based on what they can pay. “For our adult programs we offer a number of scholarships for all workshops and classes.”

Funds from the Scholarship Auction are used to support those scholarships. The fundraiser traditionally raises enough to cover about one month’s operating expenses, an amount True hopes to increase.

She invites everyone to come out for the food, fellowship, and the opportunity to bid on creative art.

“This fundraiser is important to us,” True says. “It really is a quite beautiful evening.”

More than that, True hopes people will be inspired to enroll in a class or workshop.

“I would love for people to know they don’t need to have any artistic experience to participate in our workshops,” she says. “Most are designed for beginners. So come out and give it a shot. You never know what might create a spark that will provide lots of joy going forward.”

As a teaser, True noted that next year will be the 25th anniversary of Pocosin Arts.

“There will be a lot going on to celebrate this milestone,” she says. “It is so exciting to see the growth that is happening and positive impact our programs create for individuals and our community.”

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