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Celebrating 2023 at
Wilkes Art Gallery

It’s that time of year when we cast off fears, reflect and embrace the goodness this year has brought! We can’t help but celebrate the impact of the Gallery in our community—it has brought people together this year in many ways providing resources and enrichment to so many! Celebrate with us!

We have held seven different exhibitions in our gallery space in 2023. Those exhibitions include:

  • The 42nd Blue Ridge Overview Photography Competition and Exhibition with Bryan Rierson

  •  Youth Art Month with Wilkes County Students (Kindergarten-12th Grade)

  • Gonzo and John’s Blues and Bluegrass Jam featuring Rob Wolverton, Jr. aka Rob Gonzo, John Maddocks, and Wilkes Heritage Museum

  • Of Wit and Wisdom featuring Collage work by Ward Nichols, Tom Acosta, Keegan Watson, and Adam Kahn

  • The 44th Annual Northwest Artists’ Exhibition with Tonya Bottomley

  • Sojourner featuring Samuel and Ashly Burr, Bill Johnston, Crystal Hurt with Lucas Hundley, Dawn Wicklow and Wilkes Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection

  • Betty and Friends featuring Betty Powell, Bob Powell, Jr., Charles Kesler, Cindy Breden, Kim Abernethy, Margaret Martine, Pegge DeLaney Laine, Patricia Leonard, Teresa Cerda, and Lori Hill.

Thank you to all of the artists for exhibiting in the Wilkes Art Gallery and supporting the arts in Wilkes County. Thank you to those who came out to support these artists. We averaged 125 visitors per opening, totaling 875 visitors during all seven of the exhibition openings this year! 

We value our volunteers! Community members help gallery staff prepare for and carry out many different events throughout the year. We have had many new and returning volunteers this year. Thank you to all of our volunteers for lending a hand in 2023. 

This year we finished out one grant season and started another. Last grant season we awarded subgrants to Wilkes Playmakers, Wilkes Heritage Museum, and Bleu Moon Productions. This grant season we awarded grants to Wilkes Playmakers, Wilkes Heritage Museum, Bleu Moon Productions, and Wilkes Chamber Singers with more grants to be given out in the new year!

We awarded grants to St. John de LaSalle Catholic Church to support the artists of Fiesta Mexicana in both 2022-23 and 2023-24 grant seasons. Grants were also awarded to the Wilkes County Public Library and Wilkes Heritage Museum partnership for their annual concert series in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 grant seasons. 

There have been so many new additions to Wilkes Art Gallery made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council! This year, we were able to add four new pottery wheels to the WAG Studio, as well as new computers for our office space and new accessible benches for the gallery space. These new equipment upgrades have enabled us to grow and work more efficiently, while meeting the needs of our community. 

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WAG Studio has grown this year! Now offering six clay classes, our studio is busy 6 days a week.  All this growth in our pottery classes, led to the need for a glazing room and 4 new wheels in the studio! Throughout the year, our monthly workshops and six week fine art class sessions offered basket weaving, textile dyeing, glass and ceramic mosaics, collage and techniques in various painting mediums to further the skills of local hobbyists and artists! We are so thankful for our members as they sponsored 5 adults this year to continue their studies in various classes.

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Youth Art Month is a nationwide celebration of youth creatives. Wilkes Art Gallery reserves the month of March for Wilkes County Schools and youth art clubs to showcase their work. Youth Art Month made it’s way back to the main gallery this year, where we housed over 200 pieces of youth artwork. With a huge opening night with 200 visitors, many art sales for the students and schools, and many donations for the students made by visitors: Youth Art Month was ARTRAGEOUS!


The Gallery was invited to speak at the West Wilkes High School’s World of Opportunity this year. Brooke Horn and Marina Baxley spoke with many high schoolers about opportunities in the art world and how art can be a full time career with many different outlets.


Along with teaching future high school graduates about careers in the arts, the Gallery also awarded two scholarships for visual and graphic arts majors to Zachary Smith and ______________ .

We were very excited to sponsor the Wilkes Early College as 58 students joined us for a day at the Gallery learning about the founders and history of the Gallery, the current exhibition and its artists, discussions about art careers and the future of the arts in Wilkes County. Each student was given the opportunity to learn how to create a collage self portrait piece based on the past, present and future of Wilkes and how it shapes who they are. Thank you to our members who sponsored this opportunity for these students through membership to the Gallery.

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At the beginning of this year, we were able to kickstart a new program called Creative Cafe. Every Thursday local creatives would meet in the Gallery to demonstrate their craft, to learn about new mediums, listen to artist talks,  and to make new friends and connections. Creative Cafe has been able to bring together many artistic individuals over the last year with 16 different demonstrations or artist talks, and 41 meeting days overall. 

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Being a hub for the arts in Wilkes County, Wilkes Art Gallery wanted a new way to reach out to literary and performing artists. We kicked off Open Mic Nights at the Gallery in April of this year. Open Mic Nights are open to all ages for poetry and musical performances. We held four Open Mic Nights this year and plan for more in 2024. 

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In honor of all the support Ward has provided the Gallery, C Street was co-named Ward Nichols Way. A reception was held during the opening reception of "Of Wit and Wisdom", which Ward showcased his 1960s collage work that has never been exhibited. The Town of North Wilkesboro made it official by reading the proclamation for the official co-naming.


Thank you Ward for everything you have done for Wilkes Art Gallery and Wilkes County. You truly are a treasure to our community. 

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This summer was a blast as students elementary through college ages came together for a fun-filled and educational summer of art! Students learned various clay, weaving, painting, collage, photography, and jewelry making techniques.  Because of our members, seven students in need had the opportunity to study art mediums of interest to help further their goals and for some find healing from difficult situations.

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Phillip Shabazz, a poet and artist in residence from the Raleigh area, visited Wilkes County from June 12th to June 16th to conduct a free poetry workshop tour. Shabazz visited six different organizations throughout Wilkes County and held eight different workshops. He later revisited Wilkes Art Gallery on June 30th for a full day poetry workshop and hosted a poetry based open mic night. We are so thankful to have partnered up with Phillip Shabazz and we are grateful for the positive impact he has had on many individuals in our local community. We look forward to welcoming him back in 2024!

The Artists Thrive summit out of Winston-Salem enabled attendees to go on field trips to local arts councils and galleries. Wilkes Art Gallery welcomed a small group of artists and arts managers for a talk on the arts in Wilkes County and the history of Wilkes Art Gallery. Later, the group split up to help with the studio stairwell mural and exhibition prep for the NAE. 

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Each year, Wilkes County, along with Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany, conduct an Artist Support Grant made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council. Artists in all four counties submit applications for projects and programs that will not only expand their knowledge in their medium, but also further their careers. Carol Patton was the 2022-2023 recipient for Wilkes County. An exhibition for Artist Support Grant winners over the last three years was held at the Watauga Arts Council and Turchin Center in Boone, NC. Carol Patton and Hope Jordan (2021 recipient) were featured. Awards for the 2023-2024 year were recently announced as well. Tammy Desiderio was the recipient from Wilkes County. 

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We held a Murder Mystery Dinner Fundraiser in October with the help of The Murder Mystery Co. and local community members who were chosen to be a part of the show! Between dinner, dessert, silent auctions, and invesigations; the Murder Mystery was a success. We hope for more fundraisers in the new year!  Thank you to those who came out to support the Gallery and a big thank you to the sponsors of this event.


The Gallery has helped with other organization's community events this year! We helped The Health Foundation by providing a bike decorating station at Cyclovia and clay therapy at their annual Address the Stress Conference.  We also teamed up with Harvest Time's 5th grade students to provide buttons for all of the veterans at the Annual Veterans Day Ceremony in North Wilkesboro. 

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During the Light Up Downtown event, Wilkes Art Gallery turns into Reindeer Land. This year there were four “reindeer training” stations for kids of all ages to complete to earn their antlers and red noses including snow globe ornament making, christmas tree decorating, antler aligning and decorating, and red nose painting. 

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The Annual Holly Jolly Holiday Party was a huge success with 93 tickets sold! Our guests enjoyed dinner, drinks, and dancing throughout the night. We enjoyed seeing both new and familiar faces!


Thank you to Can Do Catering for providing the menu for this event, Tin Can Alley for rocking the night away, Kim Reid for decorating our tree and making decorations for both the tree and tables, Bryan Pyke for providing support during the set up process, Beverly Story for being our wonderful bartender, and WAG Board and Spouses for helping with set up before the event and cleaning up after the event. 

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The Holiday Market in the main gallery space housed 25 different artists and artisans! Our highlighted artists and artisans included both new and familiar creatives. Thank you to those who provided such amazing and festive pieces and to the community members for supporting these creatives with their purchases! 

Along with the Holiday Market, Northwest North Carolina Visitor Center invited the Gallery to curate a small show for the months of November and December. There were a total of 12 artists showcased with many sales and a lot of support from traveling individuals. 


Thank you to everyone who has made Wilkes Art Gallery a part of their year! We hope to see you all in 2024 with more events, new exhibitions, new classes, and much more! 

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