Artists, patrons of the arts and community leaders from across Western North Carolina will gather to discuss the importance of the region’s artistic community, the common challenges they face and more at a conference Thursday, March 17, at Western Carolina University.

Titled LEAD:Arts, the event will be held in Room 204 of WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building, beginning at 10 a.m. and concluding by 3 p.m. Among issues to be discussed are what it means to be an artist or an arts organization in the mountains, and methods for towns to leverage the arts to advance the cultural, educational and economic vitality of the region. Attendees will have an opportunity for networking, to build creative partnerships and to share examples of success.

WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher will welcome attendees and make opening remarks. LEAD conferences are regional forums hosted by WCU on a variety of topics that explore solutions to common problems and find ways to strengthen Western North Carolina.

Lead Arts conf george-brown-for-web

George Brown

A conference highlight will be a “Beginning the Conversation” roundtable discussion to identify shared issues and concerns and to start a dialogue on the potential of the local artistic community, as well as its influence. George Brown, dean of WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, will moderate.

“The arts and artists are essential elements for a healthy community,” Brown said. “Art improves the quality of life. Artists make good neighbors. This conference will go beyond discussion of the role of arts in the community. Western Carolina University and Western North Carolina will come together through art to take action and foster a better tomorrow for the region.”

The conference and a provided lunch are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. To register, go to or call 828-227-7560.