America's got talent—but what about Wake Forest? Find out in a new talent competition | Arts Feature | Indy Week

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America's got talent—but what about Wake Forest? Find out in a new talent competition



So you think you can dance, sing or otherwise entertain a live audience? Send a short video—less than five minutes—of your talents in action to Wake Forest ARTS and you might have the chance to share them with your community, if not quite the world.

Operating on a shoestring budget, the volunteer-run nonprofit has sometimes struggled in its mission to bring cultural events to local schools, senior citizen centers and parks. To mark its 25th anniversary, however, Wake Forest ARTS has set its fundraising sights higher. Based on the popular TV show America's Got Talent, Wake Forest Has Talent! will encourage patrons to vote with their dollars for finalists competing as opening acts in the town's popular concert series.

"I believe there is incredible talent in the region, so we can do two things at once," says Ann Welton, a longtime member of the Wake Forest ARTS board. "We will bring new talent to the forefront, and we will raise money not only to support the concert series, but also to deliver quality programs throughout the year."

The free Six Sundays in Spring concert series, co-presented by the Town of Wake Forest, typically attracts thousands of attendees per show to E. Carroll Joyner Park Amphitheater. Based on their video submissions, musicians, dancers, jugglers and family-friendly comedians—virtually anyone with the chutzpah to believe he or she has a shot at winning—will compete for the chance to open for the likes of New Orleans-style jazz quintet Boneslinger and Chapel Hill bluesman Ironing Board Sam.

"All someone has to do is take a video of their performance—it can be a simple one shot on a camera phone—upload it to YouTube and then send us the link," says Welton, who has been impressed by the early entries. The finalists will be selected by a panel including Wake Forest ARTS board members and local professional artists. Hopefuls do not need to live in Wake Forest to participate and, depending on the number of quality auditions, each concert might include multiple finalists.

Performers are encouraged to launch social media campaigns to convince concert attendees to vote for them with $1 donations, made to Wake Forest ARTS via Crowdrise fundraising sites. The top three voter-earners will also each get a cash prize equal to 50 percent of the money they raise. "It's a win-win situation," Welton says. "If they raise a lot of money for Wake Forest ARTS, they also should get a prize."

As much as she's looking forward to the concerts, Cathy Gouge of the Renaissance Center is just as excited about what additional funding could mean for Wake Forest arts organizations, including those that use the 10,000 square-foot cultural arts and event center.

"We partner with Wake Forest ARTS to present performances, especially shows for children," says Gouge, who helped found Forest Moon Theater. "Without Wake Forest ARTS, we wouldn't have been able to get Forest Moon established, and in turn it would not have created opportunities for so many people to participate in and enjoy watching its productions."

And who knows? Maybe the next big thing is lurking somewhere North of Raleigh.

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