Residents moving to Cabarrus County will discover a vibrant arts and culture scene that features multiple art galleries, street art festivals, the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, free concerts and more.
The community features the Cabarrus Arts Council, Cabarrus Art Guild, both located in downtown Concord, the Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival series in Kannapolis, the HarrisburgARTwalk, and Concord includes several Friday art walk nights, including the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
“I love how art is growing in this area,” said Dawn Evans, owner of Editions Bookstore & Coffee Shop, 217 S. Main St., Kannapolis. “Area art shops, such as … ClearWater studios in Concord have added to the accessibility of local artists’ work. The Cabarrus Council has had a big presence in the promotion t and getting the community involved. In Kannapolis, the Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival has been a great addition to the local art market. Promoting ‘handmade’ and ‘homemade,’ you are sure to find original work at a great price. Kannapolis Arts has also partnered with the City of Kannapolis Parks and Recreation Department to offer small, one-on-one classes to the public.”
One partnership Kannapolis Arts has leveraged for a class features Concord’s own Queens of D’Nile Studio, which is offering belly dancing classes each week at their Concord studio and have offered classes at the Kannapolis Train Station on behalf of Kannapolis Arts. The classes are just a growing part of the arts and culture scene in Kannapolis that is a part of the Cabarrus County arts community.
“As a new business, Editions is excited to make new connections and be a partner to Kannapolis Arts in their efforts to promote art in Kannapolis,” Evans said. “We are mainly a bookstore and coffee shop, but I want our space to be a local hub for the community — meeting space, classes, etc.”
Cabarrus County’s growing tourist destinations
A good place to learn about many of the arts and culture experiences here can be found by visiting the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which was founded in 1989, and is located at 10099 Weddington Road, Concord. The organization drives visitation to Cabarrus County to help generate tax revenue with visitors shopping at local venues and staying in area hotels.
The Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau mobile visitor center can often be found at many special events in our area, including the Haulers on Union Parade in May, when NASCAR haulers come through the community for the May races; the Jiggy with the Piggy Barbecue Competition and Festival in Kannapolis; plus events at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and its area tracks, which feature NASCAR, NHRA and dirt track races.
The events help generate tourism dollars that offset the local tax base for residents. In 2015, tourism generated $411.58 million in spending, a $92.7 million payroll with 4,320 jobs and generated $30.73 million in state and local taxes.
“While motorsports play a significant role in attracting visitors to the area, we take pride in being able to share the larger story and send visitors to venues they may not have known to visit when coming in town for a race,” said Jule Hinson, with Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The arts play an important role in making our community a well-rounded destination, especially when combined with our motorsports heritage and small-town charm. Tourism is also economic development and enhances quality of life by providing opportunities to make memories and create unforgettable experiences with loved ones.”
Here are just a few of the experiences Hinson said residents and visitors can experience in in the different Cabarrus County municipalities:
- Concord – Located inside the breathtaking historic Cabarrus County Courthouse, vibrant exhibits at The Galleries paired with an impressive performance schedule at The Davis Theatre make Historic Downtown Concord a must-visit for arts and cultural experiences in Cabarrus County. While Downtown Concord is an epicenter for the arts, no art-focused visit to “Where Racing Lives” would be complete without spending time at the Sam Bass Arts Studios. As NASCAR’s first officially licensed artist, Sam Bass has filled the Gallery with one of a kind pieces that illustrate the history of stock car racing.
- Kannapolis – Now alongside the Curb Museum for Music and Motorsports, our state’s musical heritage culminates at The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis. Constantly evolving exhibits and annual Induction Ceremonies each October allow us to continually share the story of the musically talented individuals across the state and this special venue in our community.
- Harrisburg – In addition to their annual 4th of July Parade, Harrisburg offers several ways for the community to connect. The arts come alive in these community events including the Rockin the Burg Concert Series which brings groups like the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra together with their Community Art Initiative where all are invited to find their inner artist.
- Mount Pleasant – As home to Whiskey Prison, Mt. Pleasant is a place where visitors can see the story of our area’s motorsports roots come full circle. Not only does Southern Grace Distilleries offer a hands-on “Distilling Experience” tour, they’ve partnered with The Bead Lady to turn spent mash from the whiskey making process into beads. Head Distiller Thomas Thacker has even hosted a Whiskey Painting class for the Cabarrus Arts Council.
- Midland – When it comes to a cultural experience, panning for gold and roaming the only underground mine in North Carolina open to the public at the site of America’s first documented discovery of gold has to top the list! Reed Gold Mine is a must-see in Midland.
Those destinations are also joined by more “sip and paint” art classes, as well as events at Embassy Suites by Hilton Charlotte Concord Golf Resort & Spa at 5400 John Q. Hammons Dr NW, Concord which which have included TFCon — America’ largest fan-run Transformers convention — as well as the Charlotte Comicon.
“Our team is always excited to hear about new and expanded arts and culture offerings in Cabarrus County,” Hinson said. “The small business owners, craftsmen and women, artists, musicians and other creative individuals in our community have incredible stories and we are thrilled to be a part of exposing visitors to their talents.”
Pop culture fun
Hinson and others look to share those experiences, and Cabarrus County is only growing with its offerings. Not only does Embassy Suites provide unique pop culture conventions, but Concord has its own comic book shop.
“I am supportive of a venture growing out of Church Street Comics and More, Concord’s comic book shop which opened in 2016,” said local historian and comic book aficionado, Michael Eury.. “The shop’s goal is to create a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young artists develop their talents for fun and as a vocation.”
The shop is located at 10 St. Charles Ave NE, Concord, and Eury is a big supporter. He is an expert on the comic scene, working as a freelance writer and editor as well as being the editor-in-chief for the internationally distributed “Back Issue” magazine, which is a comic book history publication. He has also written books on comics and pop culture history, including the recently released “Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters, and Culture of the Swinging Sixties.” He has also worked as an editor and writer with DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics.
But Eury is not just an expert on comic book and pop culture history. He is also a local historian who has learned much of Cabarrus County’s roots and significant citizens. He has wrote local history books from Arcadia Publishing, including “Legendary Locals of Cabarrus County” and “Images of America: Concord. His wife, Rose Rummel-Eury, operates the company Yesterday Forever, which helps people write their memoirs.
As a local historian, Michael Eury also coordinates a Guided Historic Walking Tour of Downtown Concord on behalf of the Concord Downtown Development Corporation. The tours run the second Saturday of every month and can be booked through Concord Downtown Development Corporation.
“Concord is a marvelous hybrid of history and progressiveness, and those attributes, as well as its beauty, quality of life and close, but not too close, proximity to Charlotte has allowed it to explode as an art mecca,” Eury said. “Not only have creative artists been settling here during the past few years, but homegrown talent, from illustrators to musicians, have had more opportunities to shine at the galleries and venues peppering the city.”
Concord alone has a growing art gallery scene with the Cabarrus Arts Council and the Cabarrus Art Guild located in downtown Concord within a block or two of each other.
The Cabarrus Arts Council was founded in 1980 in response to the North Carolina Arts Council’s plan to establish a local arts council in every county. In 1982 the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners selected the arts council to serve as its Designated County Partner, receiving and distributing Grassroots funding from the state and the state arts council.
Today the arts council programs and operates the Davis Theatre and The Galleries, conducts one of North Carolina’s largest art-in-education programs for both the Cabarrus County and Kannapolis City school systems, supports arts organizations and artists through grants and workshops and serves as a catalyst and consultant for public and corporate art.
The Cabarrus Arts Council is located in the picturesque 1876 courthouse in downtown Concord.
The Davis Theatre occupies the former courtroom on the second floor. With 227 seats, the theatre provides an intimate environment that brings audience members close to the performers. The theatre is named for business and community leaders Roy and Sue Davis in tribute to their generous contribution to its renovation.
The art galleries often feature local artists, and the Cabarrus Arts Council helps coordinate a regular art walk night throughout the year, which the Cabarrus Art Guild also participates in.
The Cabarrus Art Guild is located in the lower portion of 11 Union St. S., suite LL-202, Concord and features more than 100 artist members.
“The art guild was established in 1970 with just a handful of members, and most of the members were water color artists and all women,” said Jutta Vest with the Cabarrus Art Guild. “ We are now a very diverse group of artists, ranging from potters, to fiber artists, oil and acrylic painters as well as watercolorists and mixed media artists.”
Vest said they also have wall space in their gallery dedicated to exhibits of high school students’ art from Cabarrus and neighboring counties.
The guild also offers “Open Studio” sessions every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, were members as well as non-members can bring the projects they are currently working on and share laughs, critiques (if wanted) and camaraderie.
Vest said about 40 of the guild’s members currently have their art on display, and everything is handmade, with pieces ranging from framed artwork like photography, digital art, paper cutting and quilling, paintings on silk and on canvas. We have several display tables with pottery, baskets, stained glass and mosaics.
“Our gift shop is well stocked with greeting cards and handmade jewelry as well as scarfs, small purses, glass cases and bookmarks,” Vest said. “When you enter the building, you will find our ‘Street level Gallery,’ where we change the art every two month. Twice a year we have a judged show, with six monetary awards; one in May and the other in November. In March we host the children’s art of the Cabarrus elementary schools. It is amazing how beautiful the children’s work is.”
Honoring local music
Cabarrus County’s love of arts and culture is not just limited to the visual arts. There are several local venues that offer open mic nights, stand-up comedy and live music on a regular basis, including Lil’ Robert’s Place, Cabarrus Brewing Co. and Twenty-Six Acres Brewing.
Cabarrus County is also home of the wildly popular The Avett Brothers, who were inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, in Kannapolis in 2016. The museum is located at 600 Dale Earnhardt Boulevard, Kannapolis and features hundreds of pieces of music memorabilia from North Carolina talent, including Ben Folds, Charlie Daniels, Tori Amos, Warren Haynes and others.
The hall of fame was first founded in 1994, but moved to Kannapolis in May 2009, with a mission statement, of “uniting the past, present and future of North Carolina’s great musical heritage.”
Each year, the hall of fame coordinates an induction ceremony bringing in some of the world’s greatest and most popular musical artists, creators and contributors, who were either born or lived a significant amount of time in North Carolina. The ceremony is usually held in October and is a highlight in the Cabarrus County community, bringing many people from outside the county to Kannapolis. The ceremony has often been held at the historic Gem Theatre, 111 West 1st Street, Kannapolis.
The Gem Theatre originally opened on Dec. 31, 1936. A few years later, in 1942, The Gem Theatre was gutted by fire and the theatre was reduced to ashes. But the theatre was rebuilt in 1948 and featured a beautiful lobby and 916 seats, including the balcony section. The Gem has been open ever since and is one of the oldest single-screen movie theatre in continuous operation today. The Gem is also one of only a few movie theatres that offers balcony seating.
The Gem Theatre screens new movies and is often used by local organizations for fundraisers and events, such as the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Eddie Ray, who heads up the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, says they average about 1,000 visitors a month at the hall of fame.
The hall of fame is just another draw to visitors and residents, according to Julie Hinson, with the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“From seeing a show inside the Davis and Gem Theatres, to participating in interactive classes offered by small businesses, like jewelry making at The Bead Lady and terrarium or calligraphy workshops at Hive, there are so many special ways to connect with the community and tap into your creativity in Cabarrus County,” Hinson said.
Helpful links for discovering arts and culture in Cabarrus County:
Cabarrus Arts Council: https://cabarrusartscouncil.org/
Cabarrus Art Guild: http://www.cabarrusartguild.org/
Cabarrus Brewing Co.: http://www.cabarrusbrewing.com/
Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.visitcabarrus.com/
Church Street Comics: www.facebook.com/Churchstreetcomics/
ClearWater Artist Studios: http://clearwaterartists.com/
Concord Downtown Development Corporation: http://www.concorddowntown.com/
Editions Bookstore & Coffee Shop: www.facebook.com/editionsbookstore/
Gem Theatre: https://gem-theatre.com/
Kannapolis Arts/Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival: www.facebook.com/KannapolisArts/
Lil’ Robert’s Place: www.facebook.com/LilRobertsPlace/
North Carolina Music Hall of Fame: www.facebook.com/NorthCarolinaMusicHallOfFame/
Old Courthouse Theatre: www.oldcourthousetheatre.org/
Queens of D’Nile Studio: www.facebook.com/QueensofDNileStudio/
Reed Gold Mine: www.nchistoricsites.org/reed/reed.htm
Southern Grace Distilleries at Mount Pleasant Prison: www.southerngracedistilleries.com/
The Bead Lady: www.thebeadladyinconcord.com/
Twenty-Six Acres Brewing Co: www.26acres.com/ .