About Us

North Carolina had long been recognized for rich traditions in crafts, literature, historical drama and music when, by executive order in 1964, Governor Terry Sanford created the North Carolina Arts Council to strengthen North Carolina’s creativity, invention and prosperity.

Under Governor Dan K. Moore, the Arts Council became a statutory state agency in 1967. It operates today as an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources, the nation’s first cabinet level state agency for the arts, history, and libraries.

The N.C. Arts Council is governed by a 24-member board appointed by the Governor, a 26-member staff, and serves as the steward of state and federal funds appropriated for the arts. Arts Council Board meetings are open to the public.

Our Mission

To utilize the arts for the benefit of North Carolina citizens and communities.

Our Funding

The N.C. Arts Council receives an annual appropriation from the state Legislature and from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Our Vision

North Carolina’s arts industry is robust and fuels the state’s creative economy. Artists are an integral part of civic life as they stimulate creativity, innovation and dialogue. Our cities vibrate with the energy of the arts; and our rural communities reach deep into their roots and celebrate their unique traditions. Residents in every corner of N.C. have the chance to engage their artistic aspirations. The arts help children flourish through a complete education that prepares them for the workforce with 21st century skills. The arts build bridges where diverse communities reach across boundaries to celebrate and share their cultures. The arts are an essential ingredient in state policy, practice and pride.

Our Core Functions

Create a Strong and Efficient Arts Infrastructure across North Carolina

  • Improve capacity of arts organizations to contribute to quality of life and to community vitality, livability and economic development. Organizations are assisted by staff and consultants in the areas of strategic planning, staff and board training, fundraising, arts tourism development and marketing.
  • Improve accessibility to arts and to artists. A web-based artist directory and the planning and presentation of conferences, workshops and meetings that bring together artists, arts organizations and arts presenters improve the quality of arts in the state and provide avenues for both rural and urban counties to access arts resources.
  • Manage a grants program that distributes state and federal funds to local arts councils and community arts organizations in all 100 counties. The $5,590,748 state allocation to the NC Arts Council for grants funding in FY 12-13 represents just .03% of the total state budget appropriation. These funds are distributed to grantees across the state and are matched many times over with funds raised from the private sector. The $2.3 million Grassroots Arts Program allows communities to determine and support local priorities by ceding decision-making on funding to each of the counties in the state.

 Plan and Implement Economic Development Initiatives Using the Arts

  • Develop and oversee cultural tourism trails program for North Carolina that focuses on arts and cultural assets. Trails projects planned and implemented by the Arts Council have positioned North Carolina as a leading arts tourism destination and draw visitors to sites and venues in counties across the state. Staff is responsible for all aspects of development including planning, fundraising, and production of resource inventories, guidebooks, web sites and other tourism products used by visitors to North Carolina. In addition, staff markets and promotes the trails both statewide and nationally.Tourism trails created by the Arts Council include Blue Ridge Music Trails; Literary Trails in the western, piedmont, and eastern regions; Cherokee Heritage Trails; and African American Music Trails, among others.
  • Revitalize downtowns and neighborhoods through the SmART Initiative, which provides intensive assistance to cities and towns that use the arts to spur private development and economic growth. The SmART Initiative requires the collaboration of local government, private sector partners and arts and cultural organizations as a requirement of participation. NCAC staff assembles and manages resource teams to develop plans and then assists in project planning and implementation, oversight and evaluation. Wilson, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Burnsville are currently part of the program and 15-20 other cities and towns have applied or indicated strong interest.


  • Utilize the arts as an effective way to teach the public school curriculum. Staff manages the A+ Schools Program, recognized as the most successful, longest lasting, arts-based whole school reform model in the nation. While the majority of our A+ Schools are designated Title I, they continue to demonstrate scholastic achievement at or above the state average while teaching a fuller curriculum than many other schools. Years of evaluations also show that in A+ Schools teachers are more effective, students are more engaged, there is more parental involvement and fewer disciplinary referrals. NC Arts Council staff provides professional development and training for the 45 schools that are currently participating. In order to expand the program the Arts Council has raised $600,000 from the private sector program with a long-term goal of 1.1 million.        
  • Preserve our state’s cultural heritage. The Arts Council is the only agency in state government that documents and sustains North Carolina’s folk cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations. Documentation is used for the content in guidebooks and web sites created for the agency’s cultural tourism trails program. In addition, the Traditional Arts Program for Students (TAPS) enables traditional musicians, dancers, and crafts artists to teach students in after-school programs. Students in western North Carolina that learned to play music through the TAPS program are now performing at music venues that are featured on Blue Ridge Music Trails.
  • Provide arts experiences to youth. The NC Arts Councils plans and administers the cARTwheels program, which tours music, dance, opera and theater companies to schools throughout the state. The program began in 2005 and the past five years 178,091 students from 1,447 schools located in almost every county in the state have benefited from cARTwheels performances.


  • Provide data models and conduct research that documents the impact of the state’s arts industry on North Carolina’s economy. Staff evaluates and analyzes the North Carolina results of the Creative Vitality Index and the Arts and Economic Prosperity Study. The Arts Council raises public awareness about the value and benefits of the arts and brands North Carolina as the Creative State, which has proven successful in attracting creative industries and visitors.

Use the links to the left to read about our board, list yourself or your organization in our database or sign up for e-mail news and updates.