Local Colleges Invest in Rowan Arts Community

Local Colleges Invest in Rowan Arts Community

Rowan County is home to four nationally accredited colleges who each play an integral role in the growth of the local arts community. These include the prestigious Catawba College and the constantly evolving Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. These institutions offer a wide assortment of art-based programs and are paving the way for creatives throughout the Rowan community. From high school students and adult learners who are investing in a creative future, to local theaters, small businesses and community organizations, these institutions of learning are the catalyst for growth and change in Rowan’s creative economy.


Catawba College


Catawba College is one of the nation’s top ranked private colleges. It was founded in 1851 in Newton, North Carolina and relocated to Rowan County in 1925. Since that time, Catawba College has strived to serve the community through a wide range of programs and services. For about 40 years, the Shuford School of Performing Arts has showcased musical and theater productions for both the college and the community. 

With a strong dedication to performing arts, Catawba offers undergraduate programs in Music, Musical Theatre, Theatre Arts and Theatre Arts Administration. They have direct connections to the community driven Lee Street Theatre where students can prepare for life outside of college by participating in creative and self-driven internships. 


Catawba’s New Title – Super Bowl of Theatre


As we moved into November, Catawba, also known as the “Super Bowl of Theatre,” hosted the 2019 North Carolina Theatre Conference. During this event, Catawba welcomes high school theatre troupes from across the state. The troupes each prepared 45-minute productions that they performed for their peers in order to get valuable feedback and support.

According to an article by student Michaela Jimson, “The adjudicators provide valuable feedback to the students, encouraging them to further mold their crafts into something wonderful.”  Jimson goes on to explain that, “The NCTC adjudicator panel rewards every aspect of theatre, from the sets to the directing to those on stage, a few of which are voted on by the students. Scholarships to the NCTC College Discovery Day are also given, helping students come one step closer to finding the collegiate theatre program of their dreams. With so many opportunities to make new friends, meet new people, and allowing high school students to get their foot in the door, NCTC is a wonderful experience.”


Rowan-Cabarrus Community College


RCCC in one of Rowan’s newest and fastest growing institutions. Founded in 1963, the community college boasts five separate campuses that span two counties, and has an incredibly diverse student body. They offer rigorous programs in Visual Arts and Graphic Design and have worked tirelessly to establish a streamlined transfer process through the North Carolina school system that allows their students to transfer directly into a four-year institution with Junior standing. With all of their professors holding terminal degrees, students at RCCC gain an incredible knowledge of the visual arts and have the opportunity to develop strong foundational knowledge of nearly any area they choose.


Elizabeth Perez posing with her work at RCCC’s Autumn Exhibition.


Rowan-Cabarrus offer programs in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, and Graphic Design in addition to Music and Drama, and their engagement in the local community cannot go unnoticed. The Visual Arts program hosts two student exhibitions and one faculty exhibition each year at local galleries. Most recently, they hosted the Autumn Exhibition which occurs each fall at the Rail Walk Studios and Gallery in Downtown Salisbury.

“We love hosting the RCCC student exhibit,” said Rail Walk Artist and owner, Marietta Foster Smith. “It encourages the students and lets them know what is expected in terms of putting art in a professional gallery. Many of them have never exhibited their art in public before but we love seeing the pride in their faces as visitors ask them about their art. We also like that the show brings in people who have never been to Rail Walk Studios & Gallery before. Many don’t normally go to art galleries at all.”


RCCC’s New Edition – The Bridge Gallery 


This year, RCCC also established The Bridge Gallery, which is located in the Art & Design Building on RCCC’s North Campus and is open to the public daily Monday through Friday. This gallery has included works not only from students in the Visual Arts program, but also the works of students enrolled in the S.O.A.R. program, a program designed specifically for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Additionally, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has developed learning opportunities for residents at Trinity Oaks Senior Living Community and has offered support to the Carolina Artists Art Guild, an organization dedicated to providing opportunities for local artists to gain recognition.


Exciting Partnerships – Pottery 101


This fall, the college has partnered with the reputable gallery, Pottery 101 to provide students with the unique opportunity to study ceramics in a real-world environment. In a blog on the college’s website, Pottery 101 owner, Cheryl Goins, and President of Rowan-Cabarrus, Dr. Carol S. Spalding, express their excitement for the new venture.

“We are fortunate to operate in a community that is so eager to share its talent and resources to help our students grow and move forward with their interests and careers,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding. “By joining forces with Cheryl Goins, we are able to expose our students to a talented, local business owner who can take their education to the next level.” A ribbon cutting ceremony was held in late August and students are already underway making their next, great piece.


Sophia Calderon, Winner of the “President’s Choice Award” posing with Jenn Selby, Director of Philanthropy, Transfer and the Arts.


Growing through Education


With so many amazing new partnerships popping up each year, artists of all types are surrounded by opportunities in Rowan County.  As the Creative Economy continues to grow, learning institutions in Rowan are recognizing the importance of embracing the arts and helping to develop innovative thinkers and problem solvers both within the classroom and in a real-world environment.  Students and creative organizations are beginning to carve new paths and develop life-long connections that will serve this community for decades to come.

To learn more about the available programs at Catawba College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please follow the links https://www.rccc.edu/finearts/ and https://catawba.edu/.






About The Author

Bailey Wingler

I have a passion for all things local! As an artist, mother, and self proclaimed foodie, I love seeking and finding fun and creative opportunities throughout Rowan County for myself and my family to enjoy. From theater productions and live music, to art exhibitions and family friendly festivals, I’ll show you the way!