A Cultural Center for Orange County

OCCC logo

The Orange County Cultural Center (OCCC), a nonprofit cultural arts organization located in Hillsborough, is thrilled to partner with OrangePolitics to help celebrate OP’s 9th birthday on Thursday at Mystery Brewing. The OCCC shares OP’s vision of an open, diverse, and thriving community of ideas where creativity and innovation are nurtured.

We strongly believe that the more rural areas of Orange County are currently neglected in terms of access to arts and cultural events, despite the abundance of nationally known writers, storytellers, artists and other performers who inhabit Central and Northern Orange. There is no large, centrally located performance space serving Hillsborough and rural Orange. Youth do not have a central location for after-school arts programming, often having to drive a significant distance to reach the nearest arts center. The OCCC envisions a cultural arts center in or near downtown Hillsborough. The OCCC will benefit the economic vitality of the region by providing open space and the infrastructure to foster artistic and historic enrichment, collaboration, and education.  

The OCCC was formed by a core group of artistic, cultural, and educational organizations that banded together to create a new organization to address the lack of accessible and affordable space to fulfill the cultural needs of the community.  Representatives from the Orange Community Players, the Hillsborough Arts Council, the Historic Hillsborough Commission (the Burwell School), the Historical Foundation of Hillsborough and Orange County (the Orange County Historical Museum), the Chapel Hill Orange County Visitor's Bureau, the Orange County Artist Guild, the Orange County Arts Commission, the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, and the Orange County School System are all part of this ‘dream team’ and are committed to making the OCCC a success.

The OCCC seeks to partner with Orange County and the Town of Hillsborough to share the first floor of Building A of the historic Whitted Building , so that we can provide  classroom  and performance space for cultural organizations that reside in Hillsborough and the central and northern portions of Orange County.  The OCCC would primarily facilitate the cultural programming of the other organizations and individuals, booking the space and managing the calendar, but would also facilitate new programming in partnership with the community organizations.

This Whitted space is an asset that is a critical form of community capital. Community capitals can take many forms, including physical, human, intellectual, social, natural, political, cultural, and financial (Pender, 2012). Community capitals can be leveraged into community wealth.  The concept of wealth goes beyond marketable assets. Arrow et al (2010) defines wealth as “the entire range of factors that determine intergenerational well being.” The US Department of Agriculture encourages attention to a variety of community capitals when designing strategies to create wealth in rural areas (Pender, 2012).

The use of the Whitted Building space as a cultural arts center is a stark example of leveraging a physical capital to foster so many other types of community wealth, such as cultural wealth (dances, stories, food, traditions, values, and connections to the spirit), human wealth (knowledge, wisdom, information, and skills possessed by the people who live in the community), social wealth (the bonds among family, friends, and organizations), as well as financial wealth (new businesses and cultural creatives attracted to region because of this cultural asset).  A good example of a place that has used its physical assets for the betterment of its cultural and financial well-being is Grand Marais (Cook County), Minnesota, which has developed a center for the arts, a music association, a playhouse, and an “Art Colony” (Pender, 2012).

The staff and board of the OCCC have spent the past several months working with Orange County government to consider our proposal to turn the 2nd floor of Building A in the historic Whitted Building, the location of the former Hillsborough High School, into a cultural and performing arts center. However, because of historical disagreements about parking and use of space between Orange County and the Town of Hillsborough, we have been unable to move quickly toward a satisfactory conclusion for all parties, to the community’s detriment. That said, in recent weeks, government leaders and staff members have begun meeting with the OCCC to think through the logistics of a partnership. We hope that our ongoing commitment to making the OCCC space a reality will inspire the wider community to get involved in this effort. We believe that the rich cultural and artistic heritage of ALL of Orange County deserves a truly spectacular showcase, and the fact that a gorgeous, historic, and largely already functional space like the 2nd Floor of Building A in the Whitted Center sits empty is a true shame.

OCCC board chair John Delconte will be a the OP Birthday Party at Mystery Brewing tomorrow at 5:30pm. Please join us to learn more about the benefits of a cultural center for Orange County. 



Arrow, K.J., P. Dasgupta, L.H. Goulder, K.J. Mumford, and K. Oleson. 2010. Sustainability and the Measurement of Wealth. NBER Working Paper 16599, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA.

McGranahan, D., & Wojan, T. (2007). Recasting the Creative Class to Examine Growth Processes in Rural and Urban Counties. Regional Studies, 41(2), 197-216. doi:10.1080/00343400600928285

Pender, J., Marré, A., Reeder, R. Rural Wealth Creation: Concepts, Strategies and Measures. ERR-131, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. March 2012.



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