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Arts council leader retires

By Staff
Looks back on accomplishments and challenges
By KEVIN SCOTT CUTLER
Staff Writer
For Wanda Johnson, Friday was a bittersweet day marking the end of her tenure as executive director of the Beaufort County Arts Council.
Her successor, Joey Toler, officially takes the reins on Monday.
Johnson said she has enjoyed her years with the arts council but she’s also looking forward to spending more time with her family and traveling with husband Bruce.
During a BCAC board meeting Wednesday afternoon, Johnson was feted by the people who have worked alongside her for the past decade, all with the common goal of promoting the arts in the area. As a highlight, she was presented the key to the city and a proclamation by Washington’s mayor Judy Jennette.
Ironically, Jennette preceded Johnson as executive director. She gave up that post in 1998 to accept a job with Beaufort County Community College and Johnson, who had been the arts council’s publicity contact and gallery coordinator, assumed new duties.
She remembers the kindness Jennette showed her during that time and she plans to extent the same courtesy to Toler.
When the Johnsons moved to Beaufort County in 1976 with their young sons, Brian and Kevin, she began looking for activities for children in the area.
Johnson served as a member of the board of directors in the early 1980s prior to joining the staff.
Looking back on her career with the arts council, Johnson spoke with enthusiasm about some of the milestones.
Working alongside members of arts councils from Mecklenburg County, Asheville and Greensboro, the BCAC helped put together a conference to discuss the state of arts education in North Carolina. The March event, held in Charlotte, drew more than 500 attendees.
Another milestone was the establishment of an endowment that Johnson said allows people to do “planned giving” to the arts council. And she said she is especially proud of “Plate &Palette,” the cookbook published by the arts council in 2001.
The cookbook incorporates Beaufort County art, recipes and history. It is in its second printing.
“It is still a steady seller and hopefully it will always be in print,” she said.
Johnson admitted there was one area she would have changed if she had the opportunity.