Now appearing: A strong arts presence in Wilkes County that adds to the community’s quality of life. Here are some favorite activities for residents and tourists to enjoy:
Enjoy the View
While presenting a number of permanent and rotating exhibits, Wilkes Art Gallery also schedules classes in painting, sculpture and photography for people of all ages. The North Wilkesboro facility also hosts corporate events, weddings, birthday parties, Wine Nights and do-it-yourself workshops.
North Carolina artist Ben Long spent several years in Italy and has produced “The Frescoes of St. Paul’s” at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilkesboro. The church welcomes visitors to view the intricate wall paintings highlighted by works entitled Paul in Prison and The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle.
Beautiful outdoor murals painted by talented people now grace the downtown areas of both Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro. In Wilkesboro, Gregory Design Group painted a mural on the side of the Royall’s Custom Framing building on West Main Street, depicting musician Doc Watson, Merlefest, Stone Mountain State Park, W. Kerr Scott Reservoir and more. In North Wilkesboro, art students at Wilkes Community College painted a wall below the North Wilkesboro post office at C Street and Gordon Avenue, highlighting the county’s history from 1890-1916 with depictions of a charging locomotive, Blame Drugs, Giant Lumber Company, Smoak Furniture, Smoot Tannery, a 1916 flood and more.
Go Back – Way Back
A piece of Wilkes County history comes alive in Ferguson at Whippoorwill Academy and Village, a historic attraction that includes the restored 1880s Whippoorwill Academy schoolhouse, the restored 1864 Yadkin River Jail, Chapel of Peace, Smokehouse art gallery, a tavern, a blacksmith shop and a Daniel Boone cabin replica. Also notable is the Tom Dooley Museum, where an exhibit tells the legendary story of Wilkes County native Tom Dula (Dooley), who was hanged for the murder of his fiancée, Laura Foster. Also on-site are cattle and two farm dogs. An annual Daniel Boone Day every third Saturday in May celebrates with bands, food, hay rides, cloggers and arts and crafts.
Catch Their Acts
Long-time Wilkes County theater troupe Bleu Moon Productions takes the story of Tom Dooley to the stage with its annual production of Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend. The play is performed by a cast of about 50 local actors every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in July at Forest Edge Amphitheatre in Wilkesboro’s Fort Hamby Park.
Wilkes Playmakers has provided quality community theater for more than 25 years, with four or five productions annually staged in North Wilkesboro at Benton Hall. The 2016 lineup included productions of Cabaret, Peter Pan, Of Mice and Men and Cinderella Wore Combat Boots.
Enjoyment and Education
Children and their families can appreciate the magnificent art created by Mother Nature at the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir Environmental Education Center. In a wing of the visitor’s center, open to the public, guests can learn about water safety, local ecosystems and indigenous species. Interactive exhibits are entitled Aquatic, Energy, Forestry Resources, Habitat Conservation, Native Tree Trail and Wildlife. A model of a beaver dam shows how the dam-building process creates the wetlands habitat for other animals. Admission is free; the center is open Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. from April 1-October 31 and by appointment.