Elizabeth City has History, Art and Science; it H.A.S. It! That’s the marketing push for downtown Elizabeth City and it’s something that’s been taking hold for the past two years.
Looking ahead at 2013, the H.A.S. It! crowd says they’re excited about just how much is happening downtown.
The main source of history downtown is Museum of the Albemarle. They’re coming off of a stellar year with record attendance numbers and a whole lot of excited historians inside the halls of MOA.
Museum curator Wanda Stiles says one of the big reasons that 2012 was so successful was the diversity of the programming. The other reason is that more and more people are learning about what the museum has to offer.
While the exhibits and the opportunities to learn more about the history of this region will reign supreme this year, MOA is kicking off the season with a concert by North Carolina singer/songwriter Jeanne Jolly.
“We’re trying to use our auditorium more and more,” says Stiles.
She says to look for a more diverse offering inside the Gaither Auditorium. Free movies such as “The Polar Express” last month have been popular and lectures are always something history buffs tend to enjoy.
And the History For Lunch program will continue to bring brown baggers every first Wednesday of the month.
But there are a couple of big happenings at the museum this year. Stiles says to be on the lookout Jan. 25 for an exhibit displaying a copy of the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Ratified in 1865, the 13th amendment outlawed slavery. This copy of the amendment was an original copy, likely circulated during that time period, says Stiles. The display will be open until June 1 and will reside in the “Under Two Flags” exhibit, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Another big January happening will be an exhibit on loan from the Museum of History in Raleigh. The Scotty McCreery Exhibit will open Jan. 19 witha bit of fanfare that will include members of the American Idol winner’s family — you might recall that his grandmother lives here in Elizabeth City.
Stiles says while there’s no word one or another, yet, the museum is trying to secure an appearance by McCreery.
Perhaps the biggest exhibit of the year comes in February when the museum explores “Memorable Sands: African American Beaches in the Region.” Stiles says the exhibit will talk about the formation of the beaches in the region and the popularity of places such as Chowan Beach where big name acts working the “Chitlin Circuit” like James Brown and Sam Cooke performed. The exhibit opens Feb. 16.
To keep up with the museum’s happenings, go to www.museumoftheablemarle.com,
Arts of the Albemarle’s Center will celebrate its fourth anniversary in March, says director Rhonda Twiddy. The non-profit arts organization will of course celebrate but more importantly, says Twiddy, AOA will move forward through the new year bringing in more entertainment and continuing to elevate the case of fine arts in the region.
One of the big boons for AOA has been a recent string of art workshops. Most recently, renowned landscape painter John Poon held a wildly successful workshop that not only brought out locals interested in learning under the master painter, but out-of-state attendees as well.
Twiddy says that Elizabeth City is the ideal location for destination workshops. We have, she says, a picturesque waterfront, bed and breakfast inns, places to eat and sites to see. All of that, she says, is driving an effort to see how AOA can build upon what appears to be a growing interest in painting workshops.
“We want to be a destination for eastern North Carolina workshops,” says Twiddy.
For the visual arts, AOA is also launching a new program that will provide local painters a weekly opportunity to work together. The Painting Place studio program will open the Twiford Room to painters each
Wednesday except the last Wednesday of the month. For a $10 fee, painters will come together in an unstructured studio environment to work and collaborate.
Of course AOA is also known for bringing the performing arts to the region. In the Maguire Theatre, AOA is moving forward with its season, including upcoming shows from popular North Carolina playwright Mike Wiley.
Wiley will bring “The Parchman Hour” to the stage Jan. 18. This show focuses on the history of the Freedom Ride.
“We brought Mike Wiley back because of the audience reaction last year,” says Twiddy. She says Wiley’s one-man show “Blood Done Sign My Name” created a great deal of buzz in the region and brought about a whole lot of conversation.
And of course AOA’s School of Performing Arts has The Center Players and these kids will continue to perform throughout the year. And Twiddy says the arts organization is considering bringing in more summer camps that could include stagecraft, as well as performance.
There’s a whole lot more on the plate for AOA this coming year. Check out their website www.artsaoa.com.
Science rounds out H.A.S. It! and Port Discover, the hands-on science center for kids knows how to excite and educate, all at the same time. Port Discover is in its seventh year now and with each year, the center for science and kids just seems to grow in popularity and creativity.
Board of directors chairwoman Kathryn Melton says 2013 promises to be another big year.
“We’re really excited,” says Melton. “A big thing that is coming up will be our second annual Science of Beer fundraiser which was a huge success last year. … That will be at the beginning of June again.”
Of course it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Science of Beer is a program for adults. And although the science center is dedicated to educating the kids, it has been reaching out to more adults of late, especially with the new Science Café program.
Each month Port Discover invites an expert in a particular field to talk about topics that have ranged from the science of moonshining to aviation. The public is invited to this free event that is held in a local eatery.
This month Science Café will feature the science of bees and beekeeping. Beekeepers Paul and Cheryl Newbold will be at La Fogatas on Hughes Boulevard Thursday, 7 p.m.
This is a free program, open to the public.
But of course Port Discover is all about the kids so it might go without saying that even the adult programs are designed to raise awareness for the benefit of the kids.
One of the ways Melton says Port Discover hopes to raise more awareness for the many free programs provided by the science center is to increase its membership roster.
“We want to see the membership increase,” she says. “Only members are able to have a birthday party on site with paid staff. You get 10 percent off the science store, early registration for programs, …”
New this year is an added benefit to membership, the ASTC, or Association of Science and Tech Centers membership. For an additional fee of $10, members will receive an ASTC membership that will grant them free admission to science museums and center around the country.
“So if you go to Raleigh, or to Washington D.C., the museums are free,” explains Melton.
For more information about Port Discover’s programs, its membership privileges and more, go to www.portdiscover.org.