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Artist uncovers unexpected beauty in the ordinary

May 3, 2022
(Originally printed in the Independent Tribune)

When I asked our curator months ago what kind of artwork Anne Pell Harkness would be exhibiting in her upcoming solo show in The Galleries, I was surprised when she said Anne painted everyday subjects like telephone poles and chairs. I'll admit I wondered how she could make them interesting to look at for longer than a glance.

I got my answer a few weeks later when a small van pulled up to the arts council and the petite driver flung open the side door and began doling out oil paintings of all sizes to the assembly line of staff leading into The Galleries.  I saw glimpses of telephone polls and chairs like I'd never seen them before - not as mundane everyday objects in life, but as captivating, imaginative and interesting creations.

Anne excels at finding the beauty in subjects others might find plain or ordinary. A North Carolina native, her work has appeared in national and international shows, galleries and museums, and she's been featured in American Art Collector Magazine, Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine, International Artist Magazine. Her use of lines, shapes and colors hint at her former career as a graphic design director in NYC, but she'll tell you there's more to her process than a practical and applied know-how. 

"Great art is more than just technical skill," said Harkness. "It has to draw the viewer in, tell a story, or emote a feeling we want to keep experiencing." 

We invite you to see this extraordinary exhibition, which runs May 4 - July 16 in The Galleries of the Cabarrus Arts Council, 65 Union Street S in downtown Concord. 

Anne Harkness

First time Art Walk vendor turns castaway books into art

March 7, 2022

A few months ago, LeAnn Ashley stared in silence at the mounds of books on her dining room table in Harrisburg and asked no one in particular, “What are we going to do with all of these books?”

When her daughter’s school had planned a book sale, LeAnn had volunteered her dining room to serve as a book storage site that quickly grew to rival any small branch library’s book collection.

Then the fundraiser book sale was shelved.

But that’s not the end of the story. When the book sale folded, LeAnn decided to fold too. The books.

Into hearts, tulips, horses and different words.

Now, she’s making her origami books available to the public during the Cabarrus Arts Council’s Art Walk on Union on April 2.

Art Walk on Union is an all-day arts festival for artists and makers to sell their handmade artwork. An extension of our past art walks, Art Walk on Union features live music, food trucks, local brews & wines, plus participation from local galleries and numerous shops and restaurants throughout downtown Concord. The day is sponsored by the City of Concord and WastePro.

It’s LeAnn’s first time as a vendor, but she won’t be alone. We’re expecting close to 80 artists and makers (first-timers and second- and third-timers) at the next Art Walk on Union - an event that’s continuing to grow by leaps and bounds with each new date.

Interested in becoming a vendor?
What: Art Walk on Union
When: Saturday, April 2, 2022, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Where: Union Street in downtown Concord
How: Register by March 18th at
Cost: $50

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Here are a few tips arrive on time for registration tents are great for shade but arent required hydrate have an eye catching display and ask any questions that you may have


10 facts about musician Jake Blount

March 4, 2022

Jake Blount performs in the Davis Theatre this Friday, March 4 at 8 pm. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at for $30. Want to learn more about him before seeing him live?

Here are 10 facts we thought you’d like to know:

10. Jake is an award-winning banjo player who earned the prestigious Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in 2020. He’s also a two-time winner of the Appalachian String Band Festival, better known as Clifftop.
9. Jake isn't only an award-winning musician. He’s also a scholar of ethnomusicology - the study of music from the cultural and social point of view of the people making it. Jake earned a B.A. in ethnomusicology from Hamilton College, and has since shared his research generously with institutions like the Smithsonian Institute and Yale University.

8. His performances focus on the old time, roots and bluegrass music of Black and indigenous communities in the southeastern United States. Songs like his newly released single, “The Man was Burning,” come from old spirituals he’s unearthed and changed lyrically and otherwise to give a modern turn.

7. Greatly affected by the fatal shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, Jake began studying spirituals while he was still in high school. A descendent of slaves himself, he sifted through old spiritual books that belonged to his grandparents, searching for clues as to how the enslaved might have dealt with the violence of modern times.

6. He’ll probably open your eyes about a few things. Maybe you didn’t know the banjo is a descendant of several African instruments, or that up until the 1830s only people of color played the instrument. Maybe you didn’t realize that the African-American community has provided one of the pillars for country music and bluegrass. Both the genre and subgenre truly are melting pots with contributions from many groups of people.

5. Jake is working to break down barriers and stereotypes about bluegrass music. He serves on the board for Bluegrass Pride, an organization that promotes bluegrass as music for all, regardless of race, age, gender or political views.

4. Jake played electric guitar in a rock/punk band in high school, but switched to acoustic instruments after hearing musicians play them in an Ethiopian restaurant in Washington, D.C.

3. The musician plays multiple instruments, including the fiddle.

 2. On the road, Jake has opened for Rhiannon Giddens of the GRAMMY-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. In 2018, the Carolina Chocolate Drops was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Read about them at Carolina Chocolate Drops - North Carolina Music Hall Of Fame.

1. Jake’s albums have been featured in Rolling Stone Country and Billboard Pride, and continue to make “Best of” lists created by NPR, The New Yorker and the Guardian.


Recording studio in works for Mt. Pleasant community

February 25, 2022
Come this summer, there’s a certain three acres in Mt. Pleasant that could grow something other than a field of corn or a few bushels of tomatoes. It could produce a local crop of professional musicians instead. That’s if Gabriel Bello’s dream comes true. And it looks like it’s getting closer to becoming a reality.

Bello, a professional musician himself, is working to complete a full scale recording studio that he plans to make accessible to others in the community.

"The goal is to get enough grants and private funding that I can make it available to local ministries, local music artists and the school systems, and not have to worry about charging anybody for any of the services,” said Bello.

The project is moving at a piecemeal pace as Bello receives funding – some through private donations and others through grants. The building’s concrete foundation and plumbing were completed from earlier funds, and just recently Bello received a $3,000 Artist Support Grant he’ll use for framing material for the inside. The North Carolina Arts Council provides funds for Artist Support grants, and those funds are allocated by the Cabarrus Arts Council and other arts councils throughout the state.

Bello estimates the entire project, including recording equipment, will cost around $100,000.

Bello outside

See a timelapse of the build.

New Executive Director Named

Cabarrus Arts Council Announces New Executive Director Liz Fitzgerald

Liz Fitzgerald

CONCORD, NC - (January 6, 2022)  – The Cabarrus Arts Council Board of Directors has named Liz Fitzgerald as the new Executive Director of the Cabarrus Arts Council.

Fitzgerald comes to Cabarrus with over 25 years of experience working in community service, higher education and community arts organizations. Her background, combined with a deep passion for fostering local arts initiatives will further advance the Cabarrus Arts Council’s mission to energize the community through arts excellence. 

“Liz is a positive and energetic leader. Her warm, collegial style and her lengthy, successful record of delivering innovative arts programming are an impressive combination,” said Arts Council Chairperson Karen Cobb. “We are fortunate to have Liz as our new executive director and confident that the Cabarrus Arts Council will be well positioned under her guidance to thrive in the years to come.”

Fitzgerald was selected from a pool of highly qualified and diverse candidates after a nationwide search conducted by Charlotte-based talent acquisition firm Coleman Lew Canny Bowen. 

She previously served as Director of Community and Artist Support at the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte, supporting creative individuals and non-profit arts organizations through grant opportunities, professional development and capacity building initiatives. She completed her BA at Luther College, and her MA at the University of Iowa, where her studies focused on community service-learning opportunities and higher education. In addition to a career in non-profit and higher education fields, she has served in multiple board leadership capacities with performing arts, LGBTQ+, and women’s advocacy organizations. She performs with One Voice Chorus of Charlotte, a community-based LGBTQ+ and ally choral ensemble.   

“I am excited to join such a dynamic team of staff, board members and community arts advocates,” said Fitzgerald. “I believe in the power of the arts to foster engagement and belonging in communities, and look forward to creating opportunities for neighbors across Cabarrus.”

Fitzgerald succeeds former Cabarrus Arts Council CEO and President Noelle Rhodes Scott, who retired December 31, 2021 after 21 years leading the organization.

The Cabarrus Arts Council thanks

Mariam & Robert Hayes Charitable Trust
Atrium Health
Embassy Suites
Corning Incorporated
Fifth Third
Hilton Garden Inn
Independent Tribune
Eli Lilly and Company
Explore Cabarrus
Market Street Studios
Billy Harrison Revocable Trust for Charity
Cabarrus Brewing Company
F&M Bank
Impact Technologies
Publix Super Markets Charities
Shoe Show
Uwharrie Bank
Younce & Co., P.A
City Of Concord
Kannapolis City
Midland Logo
Mt Pleasant Logo
Cabarrus County

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