United Arts Council

About United Arts

Our Mission

To build a better Wake County through the support of and advocacy for the arts.

Our Vision

We envision a future where creativity and innovation are nurtured, where art and artists flourish, and where the arts are celebrated as an integral part of our cultural fabric.

Our Core Values

Community: We engage and collaborate with diverse partners to be responsive to the needs of Wake County.

Equity: We ensure that every individual is treated with respect and has access to participate in all dimensions of our work.

Integrity: We demonstrate honesty, transparency, and accountability in our work.

Stewardship: We manage resources responsibly while actively pursuing increased funds to adapt, innovate, and expand our positive impact.

About Us

United Arts, a nonprofit organization, has worked for more than 50 years to grow the cultural offerings across Wake County through grant programs to artists, arts organizations, and municipalities and through our robust education programs for Wake County students. We work daily to serve all 1.2 million residents of Wake County through the arts.

United Arts is honored to continue our strong partnership with the Wake County Board of Commissioners, Wake County Public Schools System, and the North Carolina Arts Council, as well as private funders and supporters, to create a community where the arts and culture are available and accessible to everyone in Wake County.

Because, together, WE MAKE ART HAPPEN across Wake County!

Economic Impact

The nonprofit arts and culture industry in Wake County generated $543.3 million in economic activity in 2022, according to the newly released Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6), an economic and social impact study conducted by Americans for the Arts.

More highlights from the study include:

  • $192 million in spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations 

  • $351.3 million in event-related spending by their audiences 

  • 8,858 jobs providing $365.2 million in personal income

  • $99 million in local, state, and federal government revenue  

Wake County contributed to $2.23 billion in statewide economic impact (approximately 40%). The North Carolina arts and culture sector was a bright spot in the nation, which saw a decline of more than seven percent in overall economic impact.

Read the Full Report

History of United Arts

United Arts began in 1962 with the formation of the Raleigh Cultural Center which later became known as the Wake County Arts Council. In 1990, the organization merged with the Capital Area Arts Foundation to become United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, the official arts agency of Wake County.

In 1990-1991, Henry Bowers served as the first Executive Director of the merged arts organization. Bowers, along with G. Smedes York, the first Chairman of the Board of the new United Arts, is credited with uniting the two groups and facilitating a smooth transition.

From 1991-1997 Robert Bush, Jr. was Executive Director. During his tenure, the arts education programs received state and national attention for bringing teaching artists into Wake County schools. In addition, United Arts began working with smaller municipalities to develop cultural plans and fund grassroots groups throughout the county. 

In 1991 United Arts received its first grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to create more diverse arts programming by launching Heritage Arts, an African American organization that put on an annual street Fair in Moore Square and ran arts programs in Wake schools.  

From 1998-2001 Margot H. Knight took over as President and CEO. She is credited with changing the way United Arts worked by creating an atmosphere of transparency and restoring the trust in United Arts as an advocate for the arts and artists. She said, “Our problems are your problems, your problems are our problems. We are too small a group to be at competition and at odds with one another.” 

In 2001 Eleanor Jordan Oakley was selected as the next President and CEO and served for 18 years. While at United Arts, she expanded the Artists in Schools program, began master classes for high school arts, created the Wheels on the Bus fund, and launched the Wake Murals program. 

United Arts continues to operate and grow in a fiscally responsible manner and values community collaboration and diverse representation of artists and arts organizations through its programs and grant making initiatives and building a better Wake County through the arts.

Jul 15

WTF Town Hall

7:30 pm–9:00 pm

A series of weekly Town Hall forums curated by The National Women's Theatre Festival about, for, and with theatremakers.

Wake County Arts & Cultural
Events Calendar

Artists in Schools

The Arts Mean

Cultural Equity


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