Students find a lot to love at Winston-Salem
Every August, hundreds of budding artists pursue their dreams at Winston-Salem, the City of Arts and Innovation. Many of them probably know little about the city beyond the fact that it is home to UNCSA, the famous conservatory where they will hone their skills and fuel their creativity. They may not be aware of the city’s abundant cultural, entertainment and leisure resources, and its promise of inspiration for creative minds who yearn to tell stories through their artistic expression or art forms.
“For many of our students, the city is a new and unfamiliar place,” said Joseph Mills, professor of writing and humanities in the Liberal Arts Division. “And sometimes they can quickly fall into a cycle of dorm, studio, classroom, cafeteria, dorm, literally never leaving campus. So just going to Washington Park with its dinosaur playground or along the Strollway can be refreshing and even eye-opening for them. Many have a stereotype of what a “small town” Winston-Salem is, but realize that it has a rich and multi-faceted history. »
In a rut? To take a walk.
Mills and his colleague Michael Wakeford, who teaches history and humanities, offer an elective course designed to break up the typical student routine by taking weekly walks to points of interest and inspiration. Wakeford says that throughout history artists and philosophers have gathered inspiration and imagery by walking and observing. “Every time you walk around you create a story,” he said. “Our campus is in the middle of an interesting city. It is the ideal setting for artists to find their muse and discover their stories.
Back in class, students discuss and write about the places they saw, making connections to the city’s history and its current challenges with social justice, equity, inclusive community design, and environmental sustainability. . “These are issues that deeply concern students and issues that will inform the stories they tell as artists,” Wakeford said.
Mills, who has published seven volumes of poetry, said, “I’m often asked where my ideas come from, and I say, ‘Walk around the block and you’ll get half a dozen. There are stories and history all around; just go slow and look for them.
During a course evaluation, one student said the course “changed the way I see my environment and my view of Winston-Salem as a community. I can’t say that I saw the city other than as a crossing point in my journey. However, during our walks around the city, I felt more part of the community, and the story we talked about helped me ingrain the value of Winston on a personal level.
Like many students, Erin Edge (Dance HS ’97) found her own calling in the city and came to appreciate it so much that after dancing professionally and teaching dance, she returned to raise her family in the City of Arts and Innovation. “Winston-Salem has a wonderful community of artists of all kinds, both within the UNCSA community and in the city at large. It was (and is!) very inspiring to be in a city that welcomes and supports artists of all kinds,” said Edge, who now administers the Artpreneur Fellowship program at UNCSA, among others. .
“One of the things I love about Winston-Salem is that it’s big enough that there’s always something to do, but also small enough that it’s very easy to get around and live in,” added Edge.
Cameron MacManus (PAC Music ’11), director of the UNCSA community music school, says the cost of living is a major advantage that drew him to Winston-Salem for postgraduate study. “I didn’t want to live in a big metropolitan area, and it felt like home,” he said. “There are opportunities to do the things you want to do as a musician, and a community of established professional musicians who are ready to lend a hand.”
Where to go and what to see
Not all students can take Humanities 2918: Walking Practitioners and Practices, but they can still explore Winston-Salem. The following is a curated list of recommendations from Edge, Mills and Wakeford.
Old Salem, just off Main Street, is one of America’s most comprehensive historic sites, telling the stories of the Moravian, Black, and Indigenous peoples of the American South. “My friends and I have always loved walking from campus to Old Salem to treat ourselves or see the historic buildings,” Edge said. The village, with museums, shops, a restaurant and open green space, is also a Mills favourite.
Reynolda Gardens offers abundant acres to stroll and inviting places to lay down on a blanket to read. Over a century old, the 134-acre landscape forms part of the original footprint of the Reynolda Estate, the country home of tobacco baron RJ Reynolds. “Just enjoy its beauty and consider the history of the Reynolds family and Wake Forest University,” Wakeford said. Reynolda also offers the shops and restaurants of Reynolda Village and the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.
Downtown Winston-Salem is a great place to explore. “Unlike so many cities, Winston-Salem has managed to keep its downtown alive,” Mills said. “So you can take a nice urban walk along Fourth Street from Hanes Park or the West End past the Reynolds Building, the prototype Empire State Building.” Edge appreciates the city center for its “galleries, theatres, a great art house cinema, a fantastic independent bookstore, cafes and restaurants”.
Innovation district at the north end of downtown is a diverse mixed-use community and arts ecosystem designed to stimulate creativity and collaboration, set against a vintage urban industrial backdrop. The community is anchored in Bailey Park, a 1.6-acre oasis that hosts concerts, food truck events, and regular outdoor yoga classes, all surrounded by sculptures and murals. Long Branch Trail, a 1.7 mile paved trail for biking and walking, runs along the Innovation District. Long Branch Trail empties into the Salem Creek Greenway, giving users access to a 20-mile loop from the north end of the Innovation District to Lake Salem and back. Long Branch Trail encompasses an abandoned railroad bed that historically separated East Winston and its predominantly black residents from downtown, where they made their living, Wakeford says.
“Innovation Quarter and Bailey Park exemplify a radical transformation of Reynolds Tobacco’s facilities into one of the most fun and vibrant parts of town,” he added.
Southeast Contemporary Art Center is another favorite of Edge and his classmates. SECCA gives pride of place to the art of our time through exhibitions, experiences and educational programs focused on regional artists. A subsidiary of the North Carolina Museum of Art, SECCA offers unique, large-scale indoor and outdoor settings to explore the intersections of contemporary art and culture.
Choose a park. “Winston-Salem has nearly 80 city parks, and there are all benches,” Mills said. Lake Salem is one of his favorites, with a seven-mile trail for walking, running, or biking, as well as fishing, boating, and places to relax and picnic.
Vintage shell station on Sprague Street is a must for students, says Wakeford. Built in the 1930s by Quality Oil Company, a Shell Oil distributor based in Winston-Salem, the shell-shaped gas station is “a straight-line walk from the campus that perfectly illustrates the size of this city”, Wakeford said. “You’ll hear languages and see Latinx businesses and learn how a city with a deep history changes in a big way.”
More resources on Winston-Salem
by Lauren Whitaker
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