The art councils of the Triangle joined forces earlier this month to help the area’s art industry begin a post-pandemic path to recovery.

Big Night In for the Arts was the first time the art councils and commissions from Orange, Chatham, Wake, and Durham Counties hosted a shared live event to raise support for the arts. Presented by WRAL and viewed by 35,000 people on TV or online, the March 11 event saw 600 corporate and individual donors contribute more than $350,000.

“Gigs have been cancelled for a year now,” Chatham Arts Council executive director Cheryl Chamblee told 97.9 The Hill’s Brighton McConnell. “When you lose your income for a year it’s no joke, especially for folks who didn’t have a lot of margin to begin with.”

Each of the counties’ art councils plan to use their share of the proceeds to fund art programs, initiatives for equity in the arts, and arts relief efforts. A portion of the donations allocated to Orange County will be put towards the Arts Support Fund, which provides grants to members of the local arts community that’ve been particularly impacted by the effects of the pandemic.

“We think this is the first time the entire Triangle has partnered on a fundraising event like this,” Orange County Arts Commission director Katie Murray told 97.9 The Hill.  “And with the pandemic and the impact on the arts economy and industry, there’s really been no better time for us all to combine the resources and connections we have and try to raise a whole bunch of money.”

The event featured live performances from a series of headliners as well as cameos from other local artists representing each of the four counties. The headliners included Orange County natives and folk duo Mandolin Orange, Chatham County-based actor and playwright Mike Wiley, Durham County resident and three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis, and Wake County natives Scotty McCreery and Ariana Debose. McCreery is a country music singer and Debose is an actress, singer, and dancer known for her work in film and theater.

Donations can still be made through the event’s online portal or by texting “ARTS” to (919)-860-1015. More information about Big Night In for the Arts can be found on the event’s web page.


Photo via the Orange County Arts Commission. does not charge subscription fees. You can support local journalism and our mission to serve the community. Contribute today – every single dollar matters.