This success enhances Wilson's status as an oasis for artists and bolsters Lindsey de Guehery's suggestion that Wilson promote itself as the "City of the Arts." If Durham can transform its image from rough-and-tumble Tobacco Town to City of Medicine, Wilson can effect a similar transition.
Saturday's tour truly did validate the art proponents' claim that Wilson is an art-friendly and art-supportive community. From Studio One, an artists cooperative in the Walston Center, to world-renown photographer Burk Uzzle's studio home on Vance Street to celebrated whirligig artist Vollis Simpson's whimsical creations near Lucama and in downtown Wilson and to the numerous other painting, sculpture, pottery, woodworking and fabric artists around town, local artists give Wilson a distinctive patina. One of the delights of last weekend's tour was that most studios were not crowded, giving patrons an opportunity to talk to the artists about their art. The Wilson Arts Council's holiday art reception is often so jam-packed that it's difficult to see all the art on display and for sale.
Wilson can leverage this acknowledgment among the arts community of the town's receptiveness toward artists by continuing to support the Arts Council (an object of frequent criticism among the angry philistines) and by promoting art on the city's, county's and Tourism Authority's Web sites.
Next month, the Theater of the American South makes its third run in Wilson, bringing top-rated professional theater, along with cooking demonstrations and lectures on Southern culture and literature, to Wilson. By the fall, Barton College should be ready to dedicate its Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre, giving a decisive boost to the college's drama program.
Promoting Wilson's artistic potential could pay big dividends for the city, but that promotion has been largely limited to local artists, such as Uzzle, who have been acclaiming this community to artist friends in places such as New York. Local organizations, such as the Arts Council, Downtown Development Corporation and the city need to take up the banner. The local Tourism Authority would ordinarily be a key promoter, but the tax-supported agency is ridiculously ensconced in a nondescript storefront next to a tobacco retailer off Interstate 95, miles from the artists who give Wilson a distinctive persona.