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Group Trying to Brand Wilmington as Arts Destination

Bridge to Bridge hopes to market the arts throughout the Wilmington area

By Megan V. Williams

Wilmington, NC – Local arts patrons want to replace 'beach' with 'Bach' when potential tourists think of Wilmington. And not just Bach; they're also hoping to conjure up images of art galleries, theatre performances, museum exhibits and more.

Under an initiative calling itself Bridge to Bridge and Beyond the committee has selected May 4th through 13th for its pilot offering. The group isn't planning any specific programming beyond a kick-off ceremony at City Hall, but founder Andrew Hayes says there's enough already going on that would attract out-of-town visitors.

"It's not a matter of doing anything differently," Hayes said, or "telling anybody that they have to do things differently. It's just a matter of letting everybody know what's there."

Hayes highlights two main events that week - the Cameron Art Museum opens a retrospective exhibit of Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long and Wall's Gallery hosts a group of painters for the second annual Paint Wilmington plein air workshop. Both of those events have already attracted some state and national media attention.

David Leadman, the owner of Walls Gallery, helped encourage the founding of Bridge to Bridge.

Although the initiative has the backing of the city government, it's received no funding and Hayes says it's operating without a budget. The group is producing a poster and is encouraging local arts groups with events in early May to include the Bridge to Bridge brand in their own advertisements.

The group hopes this event might serve as a test run for a more coordinated arts celebration and branding effort in future years.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo has thrown his support behind the effort, saying he believes branding the city as a cultural destination can only help with job recruitment and the region's overall growth.

"This is another venue for us to use to bring people into our community," Saffo said, "and to make them feel that Wilmington is a 52-week-a-year destination, and not just a 10-week-a-year destination."