Conference Center

Inaugural Arty Party Bus Tour

By Linda Gupton

Photo Credit: Charles Gupton

Twenty local art enthusiasts came together on June 1 at Holly Hill Mall in Burlington to set out on a three-hour exploration of four arts and culture sites in Alamance County.

They were taking part in the inaugural “Arty Party Bus” tour, sponsored by the Arts & Culture Team of For Alamance, a community initiative that aims to inspire folks to put their differences aside to work together for the betterment of all.

The tour, designed to provide an opportunity for participants to explore other arts organizations and connect with fellow artists, included stops at the Haw River Historical Museum in Haw River, The Riverside Collective and The Culture Mill in Saxapahaw, and Alamance Arts in Graham.

“Art and music are two things that bring people together,” said tour participant Chantel Kielty, an elementary school teacher in Alamance County. “We have this divide in Alamance County that has to do with religion, and it has to do with politics. But maybe two people who are on opposite ends of a spectrum can join together over music or over art. The arts build bridges that bring people together.”

Barb Young, along with other tour participants, listens to information about the next stop as the bus heads from Haw River to Saxapahaw.

Each location was allotted 20 minutes for a presentation to the tour participants. Kelly Allen, mayor of the Town of Haw River, led the tour of the Haw River Historical Museum and fascinated the group with stories of the town’s pivotal place in the history of the region. Three governors of North Carolina are natives of Haw River, Allen said, as well as the second wife of Washington Duke, founder of the American Tobacco Company in Durham.

At The Culture Mill and The Riverside Collective in Saxapahaw, participants were able to experience how both organizations are providing space for artists to create and explore together. The Culture Mill is a performing arts laboratory that sponsors a residency program, outreach programs, and immersive performance experiences. The Riverside Collective is an artists’ maker space that also includes a retail area where the artists’ work is on sale. On the day the tour group visited, wood turner Rohit Warrier was on hand to demonstrate his craft.

Woodturner Rohit Warrier explains his artistic process to Woody Pelton at the tour’s stop at Riverside Collective in Saxapahaw.

The fourth stop on the tour, Alamance Arts, is a community-supported arts council in Graham and has been an anchor of the local arts scene since 1956. Alamance Arts advocates, promotes, and funds a wide variety of programming and educational opportunities, in addition to providing gallery space for displaying the work of local and national artists.

Alamance Arts docent Shara Parin talks with the tour group in the arts organization’s gallery space. 

“I’m creative so I want to know what’s in my own backyard,” said Thomasine Spriggs, a local fashion designer who participated in the tour. “I’ve never been to any of these places! I want to meet other creative people and form a creative hub. I believe expression through creativity is an outlet for healing, it’s an outlet to let your imagination and curiosity just be free.”

The tour concluded back at Holly Hill Mall, where the group headed inside to visit Studio 1, a performing arts center located in the mall. The center provides opportunities to performers of all ages, interests, and experience levels, and also offers training through classes and outreach. A 100-seat black box theatre provides space for regular performances.

“As artists, we live in our own silos,” said Tami Kress, executive director of Studio 1. “We’re often just in survival mode, trying to figure out how to get that next grant or how to keep our members or clients happy. So, we stay in this tunnel.”

Kress, who is a member of the For Alamance Arts & Culture Team, hopes the Arty Party Bus is just the beginning of finding ways to encourage and inspire arts groups to get to know each other and find out what shared resources are out there and what other groups are doing. “We’re hoping that today is just a pilot of that idea and that we’ll have more opportunities to get out and see what each of us is doing.”

Additional arts groups on hand at the mall to share information about their organizations included The Gallery Players, a local theater production company; The Alamance Chorale, celebrating its 50th season presenting sacred and classical music; and Burlington Writers Club, which since 1956 has supported writers in all stages of development through education and outreach, including the longest-running student writing contest in the state. The tour wrapped up with a stop at the fine arts gallery of the Burlington Artists League, also located in the mall, which is celebrating its 50th year promoting the work of local artists and providing classes and educational opportunities.

“I’ve been in Mebane for 11 years and I did not know a lot of these places existed,” said tour participant Barbara Rivera, who teaches kindergarten. “I hope they’ll continue doing these tours because arts people need to support one another. It’s all about connections. We’re all concerned about funding and getting people to come to our shows. But word of mouth is the best way to connect…that personal invite that gets people involved and willing to come out for a local performance or event.”

The time on the bus between stops provided an opportunity for Anne Baker, a member of the For Alamance Arts & Culture team, to share some thoughts with Darrell Coble, a Burlington artist. 

About For Alamance

For Alamance is a partnership between Alamance County community members, Impact Alamance, and The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. Their aim is to inspire community members to work together despite their differences to build a better Alamance. The initiative comprises five action teams: the Arts & Culture Team, Bridging Team, Faith Team, Narrative Team, and Youth Wellness Team. The teams have been gathering public knowledge through community conversations since early 2023. Now, they are beginning to take action to create an Alamance that is rooted in the aspirations of its community members.

Get Involved

If you’re interested in learning more about the Arts & Culture Team, please contact Cheryl Wilder at If you’re interested in learning more about the For Alamance Initiative, please contact Jewel Tillman at