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This Year In Arts and Entertainment: Expansions, music and art thrive

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The Avett Brothers hosts a benefit concert at Minges Coliseum at East Carolina University to raise money for hurricane victims and communities affected.


The Daily Reflector

Friday, December 28, 2018

It was a good year for the downtown Greenville area, as many businesses expanded their already-successful spaces, new businesses emerged and new artwork and opportunities were displayed in the district. 

As well, Grammy-award winning musicians and Greenville natives returned to the city for a concert to raise money for Hurricane Florence survivors.

And local artists, musicians and models received nationwide recognition. 

1. The Avett Brothers return

The Avett Brothers played a concert at Minges Colliseum in November to benefit those who were affected by Hurrcane Florence. The Grammy-award-winning band played alongside fellow musicians Future Islands and Valient Thorr, and more than 4,000 tickets were sold. Members from all three bands have ties to Greenville. All of the tickets sales, plus a donation of $25,000 from the Carolina Panthers, were donated to five local charities, including the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. The concert made $325,000, surpassing the original fundraising goal of $250,000. 

2. Rooftop bars emerge

StillLife Night Club in downtown Greenville led the way this year by creating the city’s first ever rooftop bar. The state-of-the-art facility debuted in April, but it was something Still Life owners Travis Hixon and Sharif Hatoum have been pushing for since 2008. 

“We felt that Greenville deserves to have a world-class establishment,” Hatoum said. “Greenville has changed over the years. By bringing this downtown, it goes to show a lot of great things are happening to Uptown.

Popular restaurant and bar Sup Dogs was not far behind, as owner Bret Oliverio worked tirelessly to expand his restaurant and keep alive  the energy that his late brother Derek created at Sup Dogs. The rooftop bar has a full bar and kitchen and added 1,200 square feet of rooftop dining. 

“To me, there is nothing cooler than having a grapefruit Sup Crush and eating cheesy tots while overlooking the university,” Oliverio said. “I mean that's just awesome to me.” 

3. Dickinson Avenue facelift continues

Dickinson Avenue’s growth showed no signs of slowing down in 2018 as many new businesses opened their doors for the first time, including Luna Pizza and Cafe, Smashed Waffles, Ford + Shep, Whirligig Stage and Stumpy’s Hatchet House. New housing complexes University Edge and Dickinson Lofts also opened.

Whirligig Stage, a performing arts center on Pitt Street, is a 4,600-square-foot building to include a performance space with seating for about 100. Owner Jason Coale said he overcame many obstacles before opening the door to a black box theatre — a journey that’s been nearly two years in the making.

“In the time we've been here it went from empty shop fronts to everything being filled with new businesses,” Coale said.

4. Artists’ work spans far and wide 

Local artist Richard Wilson has been making history for quite some time, and 2018 was no different. He became the first African-American to have a portrait displayed in a North Carolina courthouse in 2005, and he did it again in 2018 when his portrait of the late Attorney Earl T. Brown was unveiled in the Pitt County Courthouse.

Just last month, Wilson won top prize at 20th Annual Pastel 100 Competition in memory of Maggie Price with his painting of Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. His piece was chosen out of 2,000 entries.  He also will be featured in one of the leading pastel artists publications, The Pastel Journal which sponsored the Pastel 100 contest. The award comes right after Wilson unveiled his portrait of Mary Frances Early, the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia.  

“There’s no need for me to keep this to myself. I need to share this with the world,” Wilson said. 

Greenville musician Mikele Buck took The Voice by storm earlier this year by wowing the judges with his version of “She Used to Be Mine” by Brooks and Dunn. Country superstar and judge Blake Shelton wanted Buck, but he picked Kelly Clarkson. Buck plays often around Greenville with his band, The Mikele Buck Band. 

This year’s Miss America, Nia Franklin, may have represented New York in the competition, but she also represents East Carolina University. The 24-year-old is from Winston-Salem and is a ECU music composition graduate. She won the 92nd Miss America competition with a platform of advocating for the arts. 

5. New mural debuts downtown 

“Hurry,” a giant bunny plastered on the archway at the intersection of Fifth and Evans Street in downtown Greenville, has been a familiar sight for most since 2015, but it hopped away in 2018 to make way for a new piece of public art.

The Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge put out a call for entries for the Five Points Archway Public Art Project to find a new mural. Local artist Vincent Li’s “Winter Wanderers” was chosen out of hundreds of entries. His mural was installed at the end of October. 

“It's sort of the new facade of uptown in a way,” said Holly Garriott, executive director of Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge.

6. Chess board sets up

District 4 Councilman Rick Smiley led an initiative partnered with Sheppard Memorial Library, the Friends of Sheppard Library, the Pitt County Arts Council, and Uptown Greenville  to bring a designated chess area to the downtown area. 

The city of Greenville formally opened the chess park in in October.The two 12-foot by 12-foot concrete playing surfaces will be open to the public during the library's hours of operation.

“The way to create a neat place and to create a community that everybody wants to be in is for everyone to write a love note to your city, which I interpret as to do something which you think is cool, you think is interesting, and try to make that happen," Smiley said. 

7. Golden Dragon Acrobats visit

In March, An award-winning group  offered vision into the world of Chinese acrobats, dance and music in Wright Auditorium Sunday.

The show, part of the S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series, featured the world-traveled Golden Dragon Acrobats as they celebrated Chinese tradition with acts of contortion and dance — and make the audience wonder how it’s possible.

The crew of about 35 performers hit the stage in creative costumes and brought high-energy theatrical techniques. Each move proves an obvious athleticism through extreme balance, flexibility and talent — the performers do the seemingly impossible as they climb poles, balance on chairs, perform tricks on bicycles and juggle multiple objects.

The acrobats had about a five-week run on Broadway and are spending 2018 touring the country, offering more than 200 performances annually. They had never performed at East Carolina University before, and the show followed two shows in Boone and one in Greensboro before they traveled east to wrap up their North Carolina tour. 


The Daily Reflector is looking back on the biggest stories of the year today through Jan. 2. This Series is divided into categories, as follows:

Wednesday: ECU sports

Thursday: Education

Today: Arts & Entertainment

Saturday: Business & Industry

Sunday: Pitt County

Monday: ECU & PCC

Tuesday: City of Greenville

Wednesday: Crime & Rescue

Coming tomorrow

The opening of a new cancer center, expansion at Mayne Pharma and Wells Fargo’s decision to close it’s Winterville dealer services branch were among the top business stories in Pitt County this year.

Follow the series online at reflector.com.