Arts & Culture

Big Night in for the Arts features Ariana DeBose, Mandolin Orange, Mike Wiley, Scotty McCreery & Branford Marsalis

We are so accustomed to living in an area surrounded by art of every kind that we may forget what it would be like if the arts disappeared altogether. The pandemic has given the world a preview of life without live concerts, art openings, or book readings, and we do not like what we have seen. That’s why arts councils from Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties, in partnership with WRAL-TV, are joining forces to rally support around the arts through a live event – Big Night In for the Arts. The regional fundraising initiative will be broadcast live on WRAL-TV on March 11 at 7pm. It will also be closed captioned and audio described, which is quite unique for a locally produced program—all in an effort to increase accessibility for everyone interested in participating. Dollars raised will go toward arts programming, initiatives for equity in the arts, and artist/arts organizations’ relief – and with the lingering effects of the pandemic, the help comes not a moment too soon.

Scotty McCreery, ACM and CMT Award-winning country music singer and Garner native joins the superstar line-up of artists performing, including: Ariana DeBose, Tony-nominated actress/singer/dancer and Raleigh native, who will be starring as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film West Side Story; Mandolin Orange, nationally acclaimed folk music duo based in Chapel Hill, featuring singer-songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumentalist Emily Frantz; Branford Marsalis, three-time Grammy Award® winner and internationally renowned saxophonist based in Durham, who recently wrote the score for Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; and Mike Wiley, nationally acclaimed actor and playwright based in Chatham County, who shines the light on key figures in African-American history through his performances.

“Our local arts communities need support now more than ever. This pandemic has been challenging in so many ways,” expressed Ariana DeBose. “Millions of people have suffered, entire industries have been brought to their knees with no relief in sight. In times of trouble, people turn to the arts. Now is the time for us to show up for each other in a radical way. That is why I am so proud to lend my voice to this event in efforts to support the community that has given me so much.”

A stream of local artists will also be participating in Big Night in for the Arts to help support their arts communities. Chatham County artist, Marcelle Harwell Pachnowski, who is nationally and internationally collected and exhibited, visualizes color and rhythmic patterns when she listens to music, resulting in paintings with a spontaneous mix of color, rhythm, texture, and movement. She will be creating a mixed media piece, which will be utilized to help raise additional funds for the campaign.

Regional and local leaders across the four counties are posting videos on social media in support of this vital fundraising event. Their messages highlight the devastation the arts have experienced due to COVID-19, while reminding us of the widespread positive effect the arts have on our communities. They implore our region to stand up and support a field that impacts the young and the old, the down-trodden and the affluent, and people of all cultures.

“We all rely on the arts to connect with our humanity, to bring us joy, to remind us that we are not alone,” explained Cheryl Chamblee, Executive Director, Chatham Arts Council. “Big Night In for the Arts is a way for us to show how much we value the artists and arts organizations who lift us up and bring us together.”

 Supporting Big Night in for the Arts

Arts supporters can join the effort prior to the event as sponsors or donate live during the event. Audiences and arts enthusiasts who have enjoyed the arts across the Triangle for years can make a gift to benefit the four counties collectively or designate which specific county they would like to support. Every dollar helps ensure the arts in the Triangle will survive and thrive long after this pandemic has lifted.

The Chatham Arts Council, the Durham Arts Council, the Orange County Arts Commission, and the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County are grateful to the more than 70 generous corporate and individual sponsors who have already stepped up to support the arts through this event.

Join us on March 11 and lend a helping hand to the arts throughout the region! For more information on the talented artists headlining this event, sponsorship opportunities, or to donate prior to the event, go to