Christina Cultural Arts Center

A downtown Wilmington institution founded nearly 75 years ago carries on its mission to promote the arts, education and live performance.

It does so with a new Executive Director for the first time in more than two decades.

The Christina Cultural Arts Center is different things to different people. It has an early learning center and an after-care program that introduces arts to middle school and high school students. Dance classes, art classes, spoken word instruction and music classes also are part of its busy schedule.

James Ray Rhodes began his affiliation with the Christina Cultural Arts Center when he was in college. He was invited to join the board of Kuumba Academy and although his career took off he spent time as a tutor and served in other ways at Christina. 

According to Rhodes, the former leader Raye Jones Avery instilled core values of inclusion and equity while engaging the public at large.

"We find that when students are engaged in the arts that they do better in school. They have a much better success of graduating not only high school but also college," Rhodes said. "90 percent of the students who come through Christina do both."

"We pride ourselves on not turning any students away," Rhodes added. "We understand that living in urban areas that having an arts education sometimes comes at a premium." 

Costs are set on a sliding scale based on a family's income, and donors have made it possible for scholarships to be offered to students.

Rhodes lived in Wilmington during the riots of 1968 that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior. He said he found early he wanted to help others and to give back.

"My passion met my purpose a long time ago," Rhodes said. "I would say I'm living a dream every day being in a position like this."