Winston-Salem’s Downtown Arts District

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The Downtown Arts District is an eclectic area that includes Trade Street, Liberty, and 6th Ave. It is a collection of restaurants, galleries, working studios, residences, shops, and nightlife. It has grown over the years thanks to the work of groups that believe in making the arts accessible to everyone.

Red Dog art gallery entrance in Winston-Salem and sculptures in the art park.
The Red Dog Gallery is one of the many fine art galleries in the Downtown Arts District (left). Alex from our team is walking one of the beams at the ARTivity Park, located between the Arts District and Innovation Quarter (right).
Photos by Michelle Schenker for, © Cover Story Media Inc, 2023

Arts District Events

1st FRIDAY GALLERY HOP – Support your local art scene. DADA hosts Demonstrations, Gallery Exhibition Openings, Food, and Fun. The first Friday of every month, 12 months a year, 7-10 pm.

ART CRUSH – Plenty of Art to love. ADWS hosts Artists, Musicians, and Crushable Art Experiences. The third Friday of every month, April through December, 7-10 pm

The Arts Moravian Heritage

Winston-Salem’s history of an art-based culture began with the early Salem Moravians, known for their pottery and silversmithing in 1772. They also were accomplished musicians and created beautiful symphonies. Both education and the arts were encouraged in the Moravian community.

The Junior League

Interest in The Arts continued to grow as The Junior League of Winston-Salem began providing arts opportunities in the early 20th century, including The Arts and Crafts workshop formed in 1945, which later became the Sawtooth School for Visual Arts. The League was also responsible for forming the first Municipal Arts Council in the nation in 1949. It became the model for other Arts Councils nationally.


Corporate donors and citizens helped support the struggling art community during the 50s and early 60s. Several cities competed to be home to the North Carolina School of the Arts, and with the help of a residence-calling campaign, Winston-Salem was selected. 1965, the school (now the University of NC School of the Arts) opened. UNCSA provides the city with theater, music, and dance programs throughout the year.

The Art District Grows

The Arts began to flourish in Winston-Salem. Artists began opening shops, studios, and galleries on Trade and Liberty between 5th and 7th Streets in the late 70s. The movement picked up in the 80s, and the Art District began.

The Groups That Make Things Happen


The Arts District was growing, but many needed to know what it offered. One group that continues to put its efforts into presenting events and activities and bringing the Arts District to the general public’s attention is the Downtown Arts District Association (DADA). Founded in 1998, DADA, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit, comprises artists, businesses, and residents working to bring people to the Arts District. They host one of the area’s longest-running free art programs, 1st Friday Gallery Hop, every 1st Friday, 12 months a year, 7-10 pm.


Another group dedicated to making the Arts accessible for everyone is Arts for Art’s Sake (AFAS). A local nonprofit that spearheaded the downtown ARTivity Park project recognizable by its red smokestacks that emit clouds of water vapor on occasion and its sculpted silvery steel band “artist’s performance shelter.” Known as ARTivity on the Green, it brings art to a public space located between the Arts District and Innovation Quarter.


A new organization that espouses All for Art, Art for All, Arts District Winston-Salem (ADWS) is a recently formed 501 (c)6 organization. The group wishes to lift the artistic community and make the Arts District a destination through arts-centric events, partnerships, and community building. ADWS hosts ART CRUSH every third Friday from April to December. They fill the streets with local artists, musicians, and crushable art experiences from 7-10 pm.

Continued Support

It has always been the people of Winston-Salem who have enthusiastically supported the artists, art organizations, and institutions that have established themselves in our city, including The Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra, The National Black Theater Festival, SECCA, RiverRun Film Festival, The Steven’s Center, and our vibrant Art District. Visit the many galleries in the city and attend the Gallery Hop and Arts Crush events to show your support.

What would you like to see in the Arts District? Tell us in the comments.

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