The Triangle has relatively few obvious physical landmarks to serve as testaments to the artistic vitality of the region. While there are performing arts spaces, they can be swallowed in the sprawl of the region, the houses, highways and trees.
But the area's cultural riches are really about people, not bricks and mortar. For more than two decades, the Independent Weekly has honored artists and arts organizations for their often-unsung contributions to the cultural life of the Triangle. This year's six honorees represent a mix of old and new.
The Raleigh Ensemble Players and The Scrap Exchange in Durham are two august organizations that we were startled to discover had never been honored, and this year happens to be a pivotal one in the annals of each.
Then we have two relative newcomers who have brought exciting additions to the region: the Sacrificial Poets, a sensational, savvy and politically active group of spoken-word artists in Chapel Hill; and Tom and Heather LaGarde, who have opened an important venue for live music in the burgeoning community of Saxapahaw.
And finally, the last two awards recognize individual curatorial passion: Sam Stephenson of Durham has devoted his career to studying and promoting the extraordinary cache of photos and recordings left by W. Eugene Smith, a New York lensman who lived and worked among some of the greatest jazz artists of the mid-20th century; and Avid Video and Bull City Records, neighboring Durham stores that specialize in products that have largely gone digital and online, but retain a fiercely loyal clientele due to the extraordinary commitment of their respective proprietors, Jason Jordan and Chaz Martenstein.