As part of an ongoing series to highlight the contributions of North Carolinians, we would like to shine a spotlight on the Arts. In the past year, visual and performing arts and artists, institutions and individuals, suffered from the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. As we are finding new and creative ways to go about our day to day, from five star takeout celebrations to zoom happy hours, we can also support the arts in new ways. We will feature some ways to support artists throughout this blog, if they are living, and ways to support creators and arts institutions online. If you have any suggestions, please let us hear it and we will try to update this list!

Thelonius Monk 

American Jazz legend Thelonius Monk was born in Rocky Mount North Carolina. When Monk was four years old, he and two siblings moved to New York City where he went on to become a prolific composer and performer. Monk was largely self taught and learned at an extremely young age to accompany his mother in their baptist choir. Monk was an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance jazz scene at Minton’s Playhouse. “Round Midnight” is his most wellknown piece, but he was critically and popularly acclaimed. Donate North Carolina Arts Council Here

John Biggers 

John Biggers was also a member of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City, but was born in Gastonia North Carolina. Biggers was a muralist who created economic and racially driven works and was integral in establishing various arts departments across the United States. He received a Unesco Fellowship and was one of the first African American Artists to visit Africa. He has set records at auction and his work is seminal in defining southern and African American art.

Andy Griffith 

Andy Griffith is an American Actor, singer, comedian, producer, and was famous for The Andy Griffith Show, Matlock, and various off screen dramatic performances that earned him critical and popular acclaim. Griffith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, attended UNC Chapel Hill, a Tarheel, and much of his onscreen persona was developed around the perception and depiction of North Carolinians.

Minnie Evans 

Minnie Eva Evans was an African American artist working in wax, oils, graphite, and crayon. She is one of the most well known “outsider artists” in the US, perhaps one of the artists that defines the genre. The genres she is also associated with are surrealism and Southern Folk Art. She was born in Long Creek, North Carolina to a mother of only 13 years, and moved to Wilmington where she grew up paintings her dreams. Her works appear in the Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Museum, High Museum of Art and she is collected widely. Raleigh Artists Relief Fund, Donate Here! 

Beverly McIver

Beverly McIver is a contemporary artist born in Greensboro North Carolina. Her most critically acclaimed work are self portraits and she has received fellowships from Guggenheim, Louis Comfort Tiffany and her story was portrayed in Raising Renee on HBO. She is a Professor with distinction at Duke University.

Vollis Simpson 

Vollis Simpson uses found metal to create elaborate sculptures, called Whirligigs,  and pioneered the genre of found sculpture in outsider and folk art. He was born in Spring Hill North Carolina in 1919 to farmers and the abandoned or old parts of farming equipment were the original pieces of the Whirligigs. There is a Whirligig Museum in Wilson, North Carolina, that is worth a visit!

Eleanor Layfield Davis 

Eleanor Layfield Davis grew up in Raleigh and Durham and is an acclaimed American Painter with shows throughout the Southeast. She signed all works ELDA and did not start painting until age 47, making her very unusual in her story. Still, she received numerous scholarships and awards in her later life and was a critical part of the Winston Salem Arts community, the Wake Forest University Arts Department, and the North Carolina artists community. Want to help North Carolina Artists? Click Here! 

Paul Rousso 

Paul Rousso is a contemporary American artist born in Charlotte NC who is considered one of the top pop artists in the US. His work is shown around the world and in certain contemporary museum collections. Rousso focuses on artifacts of a culture that are rapidly disappearing into the past.


John Coltrane 

John Coltrane is another Harlem Renaissance musician hailing from North Carolina. Coltrane was born in Hamlet North Carolina in 1926 to musical parents who raised him in the Baptist Church, before moving to Philadelphia. He is probably the most famous saxophonist player and composer in history. He won a Pulitzer Prize among others and was a founder of free jazz.

Kenneth Noland 

Kenneth Noland was an abstract expressionist and one of the best known Color Field painters. He has been celebrated by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate in London, and Toledo Art Museums, among many others. Noland was born in Asheville, North Carolina in 1924, was a veteran of WWII and studied at Black Mountain in North Carolina. His style of staining a canvas with color and contrast with blank space are some of his hallmarks.

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