The mission of the Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County is to support artists and arts organizations through innovative public/private partnerships that support jobs, stimulate commerce, and showcase the region as an arts destination.

Our Core Functions

  • To establish the region as an arts destination

  • To promote arts-driven economic development
  • To significantly contribute to quality of life in the region
  • To provide a stream of funding to support the sustainability of artists and arts organizations
  • To facilitate communication and collaboration within the arts community
  • To advocate for the arts at the local, state and national levels

The Executive Director

Rhonda Bellamy is the founding executive director of the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, an agency she helped to establish in 2012.  Its predecessor, the Arts Council of the Lower Cape Fear, closed its doors in 2002.

Prior to full-time work in the arts, Rhonda was an award-winning news director/anchor/talk show host with 22 years in radio, television, and print in the Wilmington market. Currently she is host and executive producer of “Around Town with Rhonda Bellamy” on WHQR Public Media.

A co-founder of the Black Arts Alliance, Inc., she established the organization’s signature North Carolina Black Film Festival, which has honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award. She was named to the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s  Top 100 (two years running) and has garnered numerous commendations including the City of Wilmington’s Living Legend Award, Woman of Achievement Award in the Arts from the YWCA, and Woman of the Year by the New Hanover County Human Relations Commission. She was also honored to serve as the official Mistress of Ceremonies for the 59th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival.

Rhonda has written and edited three books: “Moving Forward Together: A Community Remembers 1898”, “My Restless Journey”, the memoirs of iconic community leader Bertha Boykin Todd, and “Meet the Help: An Anthology of True Stories” inspired by the best-selling novel “The Help”.  Her writing is also featured in several anthologies.

As an artist, Rhonda‘s passion lies in crafting one-woman stage performances from an extensive repertoire of literature. Other acting credits include the role of Billie Holliday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” for Big Dawg Productions and the lead in “The Dance on Widows’ Row, written and directed by Tony Award nominated playwright Samm Art Williams. Her voice is featured in television and radio promotions for the General Motors exhibition “A Slave Ship Speaks”, the Japanese animation film “Blue 6”, and numerous spoken word productions for WHQR.

Rhonda is chair-elect of Arts North Carolina and also serves on the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher Community Advisory Board.  Formerly she has served on the boards of the 1898 Centennial Foundation, Cameron Art Museum, New Hanover County Library Foundation, Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, and Domestic Violence Shelter and Services.  In addition to being a charter member of the City of Wilmington’s African-American Heritage Commission and the NC Azalea Festival Multicultural Committee, Rhonda was also a founding instructor at the Dreams Center for Arts Education.

A native of New York, Rhonda graduated from Wilmington’s E.A. Laney High School and North Carolina Central University, where she holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in Media/Journalism and graduate credits in Instructional Media.

The mother of two enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren.

The Board of Directors

Tom Priestley, Chair

A native New Yorker. Tom Priestley has been active in the motion picture industry for over 50 years. He is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, the Directors Guild of America, and the Academy of Motion Pictures. Some of his favorite movies that he worked on include Midnight Cowboy, The Exorcist, Network, Saturday Night Fever, A League of Their Own, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Amadeus (for which he was awarded Camera Operator of the Year (1984).

Tom and his amazing wife Mary Anne have four children: Susan, Karen, Andrew, and Malia. He looks forward to serving the Wilmington/New Hanover County community.

Todd Atwood, Vice Chair

Todd Atwood is a retired marketing executive with Colgate Palmolive where he served a number of senior roles in Europe, Latin America and New York. He has served on a number of not for profit boards including chairman of The American Overseas School of Rome and Cape Fear Academy. His wife, Carol, has played local board leadership roles with Good Shepherd, Lakeside, Bnai Israel, and Humanity Now. They have three children including Sylvia who is the artist in the family.

Liz Carbone, Secretary

Liz Carbone is the Community Coordinator for Good Shepherd Center, a local nonprofit organization addressing the issues of hunger and homelessness in the Cape Fear region. Liz received her Bachelors in International Studies with a concentration in Art and Literature from UNC Wilmington, where she is now pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with a focus in nonprofit management and public policy. In her spare time, Liz volunteers at the Cameron Art Museum and the Cape Fear Literacy Council. She is passionate about equity in arts programming and making the arts more accessible to under served communities.

Jim Desmond, Treasurer

Bio coming soon!

At-Large Board Members

Eris Dunston

Erris Dunston is Assistant to the City Manager for Economic Development and the city’s LGBTQIA liaison. Prior to assuming her position in Wilmington, she served as Assistant County Manager in Halifax County and Planning Director for the City of Henderson.

Shane Fernando

Shane is Vice President of Advancement & the Arts at Cape Fear Community College.  In addition to overseeing the opening of the Wilson Center, he previously served at UNC Wilmington, as Director of Campus Life Arts and Programs, overseeing UNCW Presents, the Arts in Action Performance and the Leadership Lecture Series, Ann Flack Boseman Gallery, and Lumina Theater; he also taught as an adjunct faculty member in the UNCW Department of Communication Studies.  Shane earned a communication studies degree and a master’s degree in public administration from UNC Wilmington.

Fidias Reyes

Fidias Reyes was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts Management from Herbert H. Lehman College. After graduation she went on to complete the 2 year intensive at the William Esper Studio under Maggie Flanagan. Subsequently she was cast in various roles in television, film and theatre. She is the Director of Arts Engagement in UNCW’s Office of the Arts.

Jennifer Pate

Jennifer Pate grew up in Chicago, lived in Los Angeles for 25 years and now is proud to call Wilmington her home. She was a professional dancer for over a decade appearing in such shows as Song and Dance, Mrs. Potiphar to Donny Osmond’s Joseph and spent a year on the Queen Elizabeth II just to name a few. She then went on to being a casting director for Film and TV founding the casting company, “Colloff, Fishman and Britt” casting shows for creators such as Judd Apatow, Joss Whedon and her husband Jonas Pate. Jennifer then created, produced and hosted the Webby Award winning web series “Jen and Barb, Mom Life”, wrote the self help book, “The Mother of Reinvention”, was a contributor for both Rachel Ray and Katie Couric, starred in the HGTV series “Turnkey Renovation” and is now launching a new show called “Feel Ageless”. She and her husband Jonas have two children; Cooper and Lilah and one furry baby Maddy.

Jill Webb

Jill is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill School of Journalism where she served as President of the Carolina Student Union. She has worked in the film business where she was a Camera Assistant and Assistant Director. Previous board service includes Carolina Student Union, Cucalorus, CFA Family Partnership, and National Charity League. She is an artist working mostly in murals and, when allowed, street art. She lives in Wilmington with her husband and two children.

Joey Toler

Joey is a retired arts administrator originally from Washington, NC where he served as Executive Director of Arts of the Pamlico, formerly the Beaufort County Arts Council. He has been involved with the arts in some capacity for most of his life. A graduate of Appalachian State University with a degree in Communication and Theatre, he currently also serves on the board of Panache Theatrical Productions. Past professional memberships and committee work include the North Carolina Presenters’ Consortium, Arts North Carolina, panelist for the North Carolina Arts Council’s Community Grassroots Grant, and Steering Committee for the 2007 AE/AIE Charter Conference in Charlotte, NC. He is a devoted advocate for the arts.

Susi Hamilton

Susi served in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017. In 2017, Governor Roy Cooper named her Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources which has oversight of the North Carolina Arts Council.  She held that position until December 2020.  Susi earned her B.A. in history from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her M.P.A. from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Her professional experience includes working as the executive director of Wilmington Downtown, Inc. from 2001 to 2007. She is the founder and CEO of Hamilton Planning

Cornelia “Nini” Rogan

Nini has enjoyed a 40-year career as a script supervisor and is credited in 40 film and television projects, including Super Mario Brothers, Under the Dome, and the Thomas Crown Affair.  Nini has been involved with a number of local organizations, including long standing leadership with the Cape Fear Literacy Council.

Philip Sindel

Phil Sindel was born and raised in New York City but spent the last 25 years in Boston before retiring to the Wilmington area in 2018 though he has been visiting the area for the past 16 years. He received his BS from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Hartford and has 45 years experience with the technology and operations within the financial services industry. Joining the founder of Olmstead Associates in 1994, Phil helped it to become a leading specialized consulting firm to the asset management industry. Prior to joining Olmstead Associates, Phil’s experience includes technology management positions at Aetna Life and Casualty and Mass Mutual and work as an independent consultant that took him overseas to England and Australia. Phil also worked for the White House as Manager of Information Systems for the Executive Office of the President. He has always been active in the arts community wherever he has lived, having helped produce concerts, been on radio or performing in community theatre. His wife Deni is a painter and a quilter and on the board of the Friends of the Leland Cultural Arts Center.