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We were formed in 1949 by the Junior League of Winston-Salem as the first arts council in the country, with $7,200 of seed money.


From that modest, but visionary, beginning, we became a leading model for how to support arts and culture to maximize benefits for the community.


We have expanded The Arts Council’s mission over the ensuing years to reflect changes in the community and its needs. Our mission and work now focus broadly on providing  multi-faceted support services to numerous diverse partner organizations and individual artists. We are an integral part of our community being a“City of Arts & Innovation”.

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The Arts Council’s first 70 years include numerous milestones that advanced our legacy and formed the foundation for our future.


  • 1958 — First “ United Arts Fund” campaign, with a goal of $40,000. 

  • 1971 / 2004 — Milton Rhodes leads The Arts Council (1971 to 1985, and 2004 to 2013). 

  • 1988 — Created “Arts-in-Education” grants program in partnership with the Forsyth County School system.

  • 1984 / 2000 — Annual fundraising campaign tops $1 million (in 1984) and $2 million (in 2000).

  • 1994 — Established a program to identify and support projects that explore links between the arts and healing.

  • 1995 —Created “Artiva” as a summer arts apprenticeship and job training program.

  • 1999 — Initiated “Summer on Trade” as a free 12-week music and arts series in the heart of downtown.

  • 2010 — Completed $27 million comprehensive campaign; constructed the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts and the Hanesbrands Theatre; renovated the historic Sawtooth Building.

  • 2019 — Transformational renovations of the Rhodes Center that augment the Theatre District.

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