Noelle Rhodes Scott grew up surrounded by the performing arts. As the daughter of a Davidson College professor, Scott had the opportunities to learn from talented ballet, drama and piano teachers.
"I really was surrounded by the arts by doing them myself and getting to see these amazing performances," said Scott, 53, executive director at the Cabarrus Arts Council since 2000. "I got to see Marcel Marceau there, the Alvin Ailey dance troupe there. I got to see to see the best magicians in the world there. I got to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band before they became big."
Her love of the arts began at 8, when Scott participated in Connie Welsh's Children's Drama Workshop. It was the first time she learned pantomime.
Welsh had her students divide into groups and watch each other pretend to mop floors, explained Scott, who noticed the little details of every motion performed.
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"It was like turning on a light switch," the Davidson native said. "When she mopped, I could feel the weight of the mop," she said. "I watched her twist out the water."
It was then she realized her passion and love for the theater.
Scott graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in French from Wake Forest University in 1979. After graduation, she spent time as a student teacher and participated in the Arts in the Basic Curriculum Program as a theater specialist. The focus of the program was to teach a unit of history to fourth-graders.
Teachers would talk to the theater specialists ahead of time and point out which students were troublemakers and who had a tough time learning, Scott said.
"We would bring those children in immediately and give them roles like Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella," said Scott, who spent an hour a day for a full week engaging students in re-enacting historical events.
Scott noticed that excellent students excelled as they normally would, and those who had trouble learning excelled as well.
"It really hit home to me how vital the arts are to really teaching things in a way that you can't learn otherwise," she said.
It was then her love and passion for the theater took a backseat to her desire to become involved in the community.
"There's a real big social worker inside of me," Scott said. "I wanted to figure out a way to work with the arts to change communities and that's what I'm able to do with the arts council ... is to watch communities change."
Scott began her career as an intern with the North Carolina Arts Council where she worked with the United Arts Council of Greensboro and the Goldsboro Arts Council. After the internships, she worked as the associate director and later director of the High Point Arts Council.
In 1984, Scott moved to Alexandria, Va., with her husband and was selected as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. She was hired by the NEA as a research assistant. Following her assistant position, she worked as a program and public relations director for the Arts Council of Fairfax County.
"I get inspired every time I go to a gallery talk," Scott said. "I'm not a visual artist myself, but the creative process is universal. It's so exciting how somebody gets inspired about your techniques to see how they look at the world."
A couple years later, Scott and her family moved to Winston-Salem. She worked as associate director and director at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art. After her experiences there, she became the marketing director for the Winston-Salem Symphony.
In 1995, Scott and her family moved to Concord.
As the executive director at the Cabarrus Arts Council, Scott works closely with the board of directors to determine what programs and projects to showcase as well as fundraising plans.
"One of the things in this economy is people trying to decide what their critical need are," Scott said.
"The arts cannot be separated from our physical needs. A part of what makes us human is our creativity, our desire for more than just the physical."
According to Scott, their financial goal this year is 20 percent lower than their goal for last year.
However, with only one fundraising event per year, their last event brought over 600 people.
"Even in a tough economy people recognize how important the arts are," Scott said. "It's taking a lot longer for the corporations, local governments, to really come to a final decisions to what level they are able to support."
Scott is focused on developing creativity and a passion for the arts throughout the community.
But in her free time, she loves to spend time with her family and attend concerts.
Scott lives in Concord with her husband, Edward, and son, Richard, a junior at Gray Stone Day School. Her daughter, Lessie Ann, is a junior at the UNC Chapel Hill.