This year, for good and for ill, the nation's attention turned to North Carolina.
House Bill 2 made national headlines and sent violent ripples through the art world, as creators and presenters banded together against the discriminatory lesgislation—or against the state. But as we became a national laughingstock and battle lines were drawn, our artists responded with courage, commitment, unity, and a will to save North Carolina from regressive forces. Musicians played anti-HB 2 benefits and branched out into other kinds of activism. Visual artists created safe spaces for endangered populations and turned to political performance art in droves. Independent bookstores banded together to affirm their status as bastions of diversity, curiosity, and open intellectual inquiry. Theater artists pushed to widen the inclusion of women on local stages as misogyny was enshrined in the highest office in the land.
It wasn't all negative attention, though even the positive looks often had a serrated edge, as the country enjoyed a Southern food fad that raised existential questions of authenticty and ownership here. All this national scrutiny, not to mention the dire state of N.C. politics, raised the stakes for our artists, who admirably rose to the occasion. We trust that they'll use their heightened platforms for continued protest in 2017. We'll be here to hold them accountable, support them when they succeed, and catch them when they fall.