Strengthening Community Through the Arts

BY:  Bill Carpenter, SECCA Executive Director

For sixty-four years, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem has joined artists and audiences in celebrating the wonders of human creativity. Over that time, this celebration has taken many forms—from world-class exhibitions by established artists to daring installation projects from emerging talents; from art auctions and awards to classic car shows and blues concerts; and from public lectures and conversations to hands-on workshops and school field trips. Today, SECCA stands poised to help strengthen our communities by delivering inclusive, revelatory, and educational experiences with the contemporary arts to children and adults of all ages. This is our mission, and it informs everything we do.

Our mission drives us to create and nurture partnerships with arts-based organizations, schools and universities, and a broad range of community groups. We believe collaboration among these entities increases the reach and effectiveness of all our initiatives and programs. Our talented staff has many decades of experience designing and leading interactive activities to meet a host of cultural and educational goals. And with our impressive buildings and grounds—including a 300-seat auditorium, 10,000 square feet of gallery space, and the historic James G. Hanes House—SECCA can accommodate many different-size groups and types of events. In the months and years to come, you’ll see new cross-promoted programs with many of your favorite non-profit organizations.

We recognize that SECCA’s relevance to the community depends on its breadth of scope and accessibility. Our mission compels us to reach all corners of our city and region, to listen for the voices so often silenced by historical inequality or drowned out by the din of commercial culture. The curatorial team takes this charge very seriously, as evidenced by the diversity of artists gathered for our Southern Idiom exhibitions series and throughout our other galleries. On the programming side, we are forging partnerships with schools and organizations that work with historically underserved communities to promote creativity and advanced literacy. We have committed ourselves to the work of increasing representation and fostering new paths toward leadership in the art world.

Our purpose is not solely to cultivate the next generation of art lovers—it is also to encourage everyone to hone the critical skills needed in a 21st-century democracy: curiosity, empathy, contextualization, and the ability to live with ambiguity and difference. Contemporary art challenges preconceived notions about what is possible and what is real; it promotes thoughtful reflection and encourages dialogue. Most importantly, contemporary art puts us all a little off balance, a little out of sorts. It is in these moments of disequilibrium that we come to see ourselves and others with greater compassion and respect.

SECCA’s mission to offer inclusive and revelatory experiences with contemporary art will be fully realized in July and August when we offer a full slate of all-new summer camps for rising fifth- through eighth-graders. Led by working artists and designed specifically for our grounds and buildings, these camps will engage students in the processes of making art—from outdoor murals and sculptures to fabric art, painting, and dance. Students will build confidence in their creative decisions as they communicate and collaborate with their peers. Along the way, they’ll experiment with multiple artistic techniques and experience the joy and satisfaction of working to bring a new thing into existence. Camp descriptions and registration details, as well as membership information, can be found at

SECCA has a long history in Forsyth County, but its best days are still ahead. With its focus on inclusion and education, SECCA looks to empower today’s and tomorrow’s creators to change the world.


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