Arts Council of Wilson hires a new director

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The Arts Council of Wilson has chosen a Wilson County native to lead the organization.

Cathy Brown Hardison, programs and finance director at Emerge Gallery and Art Center in Greenville, has been named executive director.

Hardison, who lives in Walstonburg, will begin work here in the middle of a very busy season with big concerts planned, the N.C. Whirligig Festival at the end of her first week, and holiday festivities on the horizon.

“We look to Cathy, not only to step right in and get her feet wet, but lead the ACW and help strengthen partnerships with the amazing things going on in downtown Wilson — from the Whirligig Park to downtown development to the Playhouse to the Freeman Roundhouse. We are thrilled to welcome Cathy to our family,” said Jim Fitzgerald, Arts Council of Wilson president.

Hardison is a 2010 graduate of East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing with minors in business and English.

She started work at Emerge, home of the Pitt County Arts Council, as an intern and was office manager before taking the role of programs and finance director in 2013. In her roles there, she has worked with donor development, fundraising, marketing, financial management and staff and volunteer management.

Hardison said she wasn’t really looking for a job, but when she heard of the opening here, she knew it would be a great opportunity.

A Hunt High School class of 2005 graduate, Hardison grew up in Lucama. She said she rode by Vollis Simpson’s shop and whirligigs every day on her way to Springfield Middle School.

And although she had an interest in drawing and painting, she never went to Arts Council of Wilson events when she was growing up here. She will take her own missed opportunities as a lesson, she said, in creating routes for people to have access to the arts.

Hardison looks forward to stretching and honing her skills as an administrator, she said, and working in an arts council that emphasizes both visual and performing arts. In Pitt County, the arts council is primarily based on the visual arts, she said.

She is also excited to be downtown and starting her new job the same week the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park is opening.

“The climate in Wilson is very exciting right now,” she said.

Hardison’s husband, Andrew, also grew up in Wilson. The Hardisons live in Walstonburg with their two dogs. Cathy Hardison said they will eventually move to Wilson.

Fitzgerald said Hardison will walk in the door on Nov. 1 facing a full plate, including the $1 million renovation to the Wilson Arts Center. “But we are confident she will take this organization where we want to go,” he said.

Hardison will be taking over the role held by Barry Page since 2006. Page has been serving as interim director until his replacement was been hired.

“I want to thank Barry Page for the time, devotion and integrity that he has brought to the Arts Council of Wilson for more than a decade. He is a true friend, both to me and to the arts community of Wilson,” Fitzgerald said.