Winston-Salem: A Place To Create, A Place To Learn, A Place to Be Inspired

Winston-Salem: A Place To Create, A Place To Learn, A Place to Be Inspired

Core Facts


When it comes to art and innovation, Winston-Salem is indeed a city of cultural “firsts.” From the first pieces of Moravian pottery crafted here in the mid 1700s to 1949’s launch of the first local arts council in the country, Winston-Salem is an arts leader and innovator.

In 1963, Winston-Salem was chosen as the home of the North Carolina School of the Arts, a unique high school conservatory program. It was the first state-supported school of its kind in the country. In the early 1970s, the school became part of the 16-member University of North Carolina, and in 2008, its name changed to University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Throughout the school’s evolution, the mission remained the same: to train talented young people for professional careers in dance, drama, music, filmmaking, and theatrical design and production. Administrators, professors and from Juilliard, Yale, the Joffrey Ballet, and Grammy, Tony, Emmy and Drama Desk Award-winning talent have permanently infused the institution and this workable, livable, uncrowded city with a dynamic cultural scene unlike no other. The city’s commitment to art is palpable in the air and in the vibe in downtown as individuals depart from restaurants to make show times.

Another crown jewel of the city’s art family is Reynolda House Museum of American Art. The historic 1917 estate of Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband, Richard Joshua Reynolds, founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, houses masterpieces from Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, Frederic Church, John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Grant Wood. Just across the street on the “Reynolda Mile,” the home of textile industrialist James G. Hanes has been transformed into the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA). SECCA explores the best in contemporary art with challenging, thought provoking exhibits that challenge the viewer to contemplate their role in today’s society.

Despite the economy, new bricks and mortar art venues have opened in Winston-Salem. In September, 2010, Tony Bennett headlined the opening of the the new Milton Rhodes Arts Center and kicked off more than 100 events throughout the opening weekend. In downtown, the complex houses the Sawtooth School for Visual Art, the Womble Carlyle Gallery, the Arts Center Café, and Hanesbrands Theatre.

From its proud beginnings as a hard-working, resourceful Moravian community to its evolution into the City of Arts and Innovation, Winston-Salem has painted itself as an inspiring home for creative talent. This year, the city will proudly hosts more than 1500 art and cultural events. And here’s the fun part: the city’s cultural dreamers and doers continue to muse, “What if?”



Visual art in Winston-Salem:

Fun on Friday: The Downtown Art District Association hosts a First Friday Gallery Hop on the first Friday of every month. Each hop is different.

  • Reynolda House Museum of American Art, is one of the nation's premier American art museums housed in the 1917 estate of Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband, Richard Joshua Reynolds, founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
  • Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) is a dynamic center for exploring the best in contemporary art with the goal of re-visioning society as a more creative, open-minded and dynamic place.
  • Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University offers a world-class collection of public art by artists such as John Biggers, Mel Edwards, Beverly Buchanan and Tyrone Mitchell. In 2007, the gallery was identified as one of the top 10 African American galleries in the nation and was identified by the Smithsonian as one of the nation’s best regional facilities for exploring contemporary African art.
  • Art-O-Mat machines epitomize art linked to innovation. Winston-Salem based entrepreneurs decided to convert retired cigarette vending machines into art vending machines.  More than 90 active machines are located throughout the country. Pull the knob and walk away with an original work of art; 400 contributing artists from 10 different countries are currently involved.
  • Visit galleries that showcase multiple artists: Artworks Gallery, an artist-run cooperative gallery; Associated Artists of Winston-Salem; or the Delta Fine Arts Center, a gallery focusing on the contributions of African-American artists.
  • The Sawtooth School for Visual Art has been teaching and inspiring young and old alike through the creation of visual art for 65 years. Come for classes in all types of mediums. All classes are open to the public; part of the Milton Rhodes Center for Art.

Artisan craft traditions

  • Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (part of Old Salem Museum & Gardens) invites guests to travel through history, using pottery, furniture and other handmade decorative objects as your guide. It’s one of the most comprehensive repositories of such work in the country. Experience a wide range of early southern artistry (even walls of old barns and interior pieces of significant architectural structures), craftsmanship and stories found in the world-class collection of decorative arts from the early American South, 1660 – 1860. While at Old Salem, see the decorative arts of the period and shop for pottery and period pieces made by their craftspeople.
  • Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery showcases 350 fine craft artists from across the southeast. At any given time you can find work by about 200 of our Exhibiting Members in the shop and gallery.


  • Piedmont Opera
  • Winston-Salem Symphony
  • Numerous choral groups and music societies, from the Fiddle & Bow Society to Piedmont Blues Preservation Society and more
  • Carolina Music Ways (CMW) is a non profit organization based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, dedicated to educating and inspiring youth living in our state’s northwest Piedmont region about the diverse musical heritage of where they live. The musical heritage of this region, a mix of three musical cultures (Appalachian, African American, and Moravian), is one of the most unique and influential in the nation.


  • Winston-Salem Festival Ballet and Festival Dance Center (school)
  • Alban Elved Dance Company—begun in Germany with the company now in residence at Salem College

Fine Art Performance Venues

  • The Stevens Center was originally a 1929 silent movie theatre. Today, the magnificently restored neoclassical theatre is located downtown and is the primary performance space for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts as well as the Winston-Salem Symphony, Piedmont Opera Theatre, and several other local and state arts organizations.
  • Hanesbrands Theatre at Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts anchors the Center and is a 300-seat black-box theatre, affording a variety of stage and seating configurations for dance, theatre, music and film productions. The Theatre has a dramatic lobby that features a mirrored cymatic paint exploration by noted international painter, Jimmy O'Neal, of Madison County, NC.

Theatre and Film

  • Winston-Salem Theater Alliance
  • Twin City Stage is the longest-running theatre in Winston-Salem
  • The Children’s Theater
  • RiverRun International Film Festival (April 13-22, 2012) is one of the fastest-growing regional film festivals in the United States. RiverRun showcases a variety of feature-length and short films from all genres. The festival annually features an in-person Master of Cinema tribute to an outstanding actor of filmmaker. Previous recipients include Peter Bogdanovich, Andie MacDowell, Ned Beatty and Pam Grier.
  • National Black Theatre Festival (Aug. 2013) This biennial event attracts over 65,000 attendees who come to see more than 70 world-class celebrities performing in 100 theatrical productions.
  • Unique film offerings are available at Hanesbrands Theatre as well as a/perture cinema an independent, locally-owned screening a mix of independent, foreign, documentary, local, and festival films in two 80-seat theaters. In addition to the popcorn and soft drinks, they also offer beer, wine and healthy snacks from local bakeries.

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Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Please provide photo courtesy to Reynolda House Museum of American Art.


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Winston-Salem is centrally located in North Carolina between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean beaches. It is easily accessible by car via Interstate 40, Business Interstate 40, Interstate 77, Interstate 85 and U.S. Highway 52. Scheduled air service is available through Piedmont Triad International Airport just 20 minutes east of Winston-Salem. Accommodations range from bed and breakfasts to luxury hotel rooms. For more information on Winston-Salem, call toll free 866.728.4200; go to; or stop by the Winston-Salem Visitor Center, 200 Brookstown Avenue in the historic Brookstown Mill area just south of downtown Winston-Salem.

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Marcheta Keefer
Director of Marketing & Communications
Visit Winston-Salem

Casey Hough
Marketing & Media Manager
Visit Winston-Salem

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