UNCSA announces program to expand offerings at the Stevens Center

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts has launched a new initiative to revitalize and expand programming at the historic Stevens Center in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, Chancellor Lindsay Bierman has announced. UNCSA Presents will offer top-notch entertainment by professional touring artists, beginning this summer with a music series, Americana Summer Nights.

Located at 405 West Fourth St., the Stevens Center serves as a classroom and learning lab for conservatory students who are training to perform onstage or work backstage at the world’s finest venues. It is the location each year for several student dance, music, and opera productions, and for performances by community arts presenters including the Winston-Salem Symphony, Piedmont Opera and National Black Theatre Festival.

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman has announced a new initiative to revitalize and expand programming at the Stevens Center.

“The Stevens Center has enriched the cultural life of our community for nearly a century,” Bierman said. “It defines our great city as much as it serves the university. We are excited by this opportunity to expand its cultural and economic impact on our community.”

Bierman cited an Americans for the Arts study that showed patrons at local arts events spend an average of $31, in addition to the ticket price, for dinner, parking and other expenses. “That benefits restaurant owners and servers, shopkeepers, and the city through parking and tax revenues. More activity at the Stevens Center translates to greater prosperity for downtown merchants.”

Performing arts presenting is one of the fastest-growing segments of the economy, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts. “Along with our fine student performances and the outstanding offerings of local organizations, our new program will ensure that Winston-Salem increases its impact on our state’s $13.8 billion arts economy.”

Beyond economics, Bierman said UNCSA Presents will drive a more vibrant and robust arts scene. “That can’t be monetized,” he said. “The arts improve the quality of life, transforming communities from merely livable to truly lovable.”

Wiley Hausam

Wiley Hausam will curate UNCSA Presents.

Wiley Hausam, managing director for performance facilities, will curate several series of performances for UNCSA Presents. “We see this as an opportunity for the School of the Arts to expand what we offer into different performance genre, which will appeal to a broader segment of the community,” he said.

The first series, Americana Summer Nights, will focus on a broad range of popular music, but future series could include dance, Broadway shows that are on tour, or comedy, and will likely be spread throughout the year.

“We want the series to be diverse and eclectic, but also economically viable,” Hausam said, adding the university has hired Webb Management, a leading national consultant in cultural facilities and program planning, to conduct a market survey that will provide direction for future series. Webb Management conducted a study which ultimately resulted in building the enormously successful Durham Performing Arts Center.

“The Stevens Center has a long and distinguished history as a presenter of professional works. We’re excited to serve the community by offering the kind of entertainment they’ve enjoyed throughout the years,” Hausam said.

The first performance for Americana Summer Nights features Grammy Award-winner Steve Earle, whose Gold Records include the 1988 hit “Copperhead Road.” He will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23.

Rhythm and Blues and gospel singer Mavis Staples will be the second performance at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 7. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame, Staples performs as a soloist and with her family band, The Staple Singers.

Tickets for both concerts are on sale online or by calling the Stevens Center Box Office at 336-721-1945.

Hausman said the complete series will be announced in April, with details about a subscription package offering discounted tickets.

UNCSA Presents is being launched as the university moves forward with plans to renovate the 1929 neoclassic theater. Bierman recently unveiled a concept master plan developed by world renowned Robert A.M. Stern Architects to restore the original charm and character of the 10-story building while improving backstage areas and enhancing front-of-house spaces like seating, lobby and event areas.

Bierman said the estimated cost of the renovation is $39 million. “It will take us a while to secure all of the funding, but in the meantime, we want the community to have a glimpse of the full potential of the Stevens Center,” Bierman said. “The Stevens Center should and will be the anchor for Winston-Salem’s vibrant arts scene. It will be a beacon for what it means to be the City of Arts and Innovation.”

About Steve Earle

Three-time Grammy Award recipient and 11-time Grammy nominee Steve Earle is a cornerstone artist of Americana music. One of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of his generation, he has released 20 albums – some as Steve Earle and the Dukes, Colvin and Earle, or Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band. Earle’s songs have been recorded by such music legends as Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Carl Perkins, Waylon Jennings, Vince Gill and Joan Baez. He has created such country successes as “When You Fall in Love,” “Guitar Town,” “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left,” “A Far Cry From You” and “Nowhere Road.” During his four-decade career, Earle has also become a novelist; a film, TV and stage actor; a playwright; a short story author; a record producer; and a radio host. Always musically adventurous, Steve Earle has crafted folk, blues, rock, country, rockabilly and bluegrass recordings. His diverse collaborators on disc have included such notables as the Pogues, Lucinda Williams, Patti Smith, the Fairfield Four, the Indigo Girls, Chris Hillman, Sheryl Crow and Shawn Colvin. His 2017 Warner Bros. Records album “So You Wannabe an Outlaw” explores his country songwriting roots and includes collaborations with Willie Nelson, Johnny Bush and Miranda Lambert.

About Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples is an American rhythm and blues and gospel singer, actress, and civil rights activist. She has recorded and performed with her family's band The Staple Singers, and also as a solo artist.Staples was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.Staples was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 10, 1939. She began her career with her family group in 1950. Initially singing locally at churches and appearing on a weekly radio show, the Staples scored a hit in 1956 with "Uncloudy Day" for the Vee-Jay label. When Mavis graduated from what is now Paul Robeson High School in 1957, The Staple Singers took their music on the road. Led by family patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples on guitar and including the voices of Mavis and her siblings Cleotha, Yvonne, and Pervis, the Staples were called "God's Greatest Hitmakers." Staples' sixteenth album “If All I Was Was Black” was released on November 17, 2017. Following the release, Staples toured with Bob Dylan. She also appeared on the 2017/18 televised concert “Hootenanny.”

by Lauren Whitaker

March 09, 2018