CAM (Contemporary Art Museum) Raleigh will present the NC Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award Exhibition through April 27. Located in the revitalized warehouse district of downtown Raleigh and positioned as the region’s premier contemporary art museum, the CAM is using this opportunity to display 18 of the finest artists from North Carolina.

The 15 artists now on display received $10,000 from the 2012-2013 North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award. This money allowed them to create new and innovative works to eventually be put on display in this exhibition.

“They are just opposites in many cases,” Marjorie Hodges, Director of Contemporary Art Foundation at CAM Raleigh, said of the artists. “But what is consistent is the skill level. These are very skilled and highly trained artists. Their pieces are gorgeous.”

The artists range from a husband and wife ceramics team to installation artists to jewelers to filmmakers. The ability of CAM Raleigh to facilitate the varied media is appreciated by the artists.

“The space is beautiful,” jeweler and sculptor Sarah West said. “It’s able to hold all of these different pieces really well."

CAM Raleigh is also unique because it doesn’t hold a permanent collection. Instead, it seeks to find national and international artists to rotate through the gallery, using the building’s unique movable walls to creatively set up exhibitions.

“CAM really is a progressive space. We are not collecting art and spending our time storing it and taking care of it,” Hodges said. “We are trying to find emerging, fresh, wonderful art from all over the world and show it, but we also collaborate in the region.”

Amanda Small, a contemporary installation sculptor, sees this space as ideal for the type of art being displayed.

“The space is so incredible, and it shows off the work. The work is so incredible, and it shows off the space,” she explained.

The Opening Celebration for the exhibition occurred February 6. Artists were present to answer questions, and the community came out to view the modern artwork on display.

“There were CAM members, donors, art collectors. People brought their kids! There was just a real sense of community,” Small said. “People seemed to be really inspired and intrigued by an exhibition that was all local.”

This sense of community is exactly what CAM Raleigh seeks to foster in the city. Raleigh, like Durham and several other North Carolina cities, is slowly getting back on its feet after a tough stretch of years following the collapse of industry and tobacco in the state. And, like Durham, Raleigh is increasingly turning to art to help bring the community together again.

Hodges sees the museum, which opened in April 2011 and has since won many state and national awards, as a “premier contemporary art museum but also an urban community center.”

Filmmaker and photographer Jeff Whetstone graduated from Duke with a degree in zoology and used his knowledge to explain how he saw art’s role in society.

“Artists are kind of an indicator species of the health of a social environment,” Whetstone said. “Where artists thrive, culture thrives. It makes people want to move here, and it makes people want to stay here.”

In addition to bringing the local community together, Whetstone also believes that museums can bridge the gap between universities and their communities, a problem with which Duke has notoriously struggled.

And, although the exhibition displays a great deal of the variety and talent of North Carolina art, some of the best results of this fellowship unseen: the fellowship can help to kickstart—or restart—a career.

“It’s such a wonderful experience as an artist to receive funding to continue your work. It was a real honor for all of us,” Small said.

For West, who graduated two years ago, this fellowship is a long-term investment in her as an artist and the North Carolina arts scene as a whole.

“I don’t think I’m going to see the great things that come out of this right away,” West said. “This is a really long-term, sustainable fellowship. The exposure is immense.”

For now, though, North Carolina’s art scene is operating a lot like how Whetstone creates what he calls "creative non-fiction films."

“I’m figuring it out as I go. I look at what I get, readdress my intentions and find out what is interesting,” he said.

For the state of North Carolina, this fellowship and this exhibition are paving the way to an art culture that thrives with the best in the nation. The community is figuring it out as it goes, but these artists and curators are hopeful for what the future will bring.

The NC Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award Exhibition will be on display at CAM Raleigh until April 27. For admissions and other information, visit the CAM website.