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Happy Birthday To The Leland Cultural Arts Center

By: Jan Morgan-Swegle

Have you ever taken your children to the Egg Hunt in Founders Park? How about Breakfast With Santa? Have you enjoyed the Lights in Leland? What about seeing a Movie in the Park? Have you ever taken an art program in one of the parks or taken a dance class at the Leland Cultural Arts Center? Have you signed up for pottery or woven baskets classes? If the answer is yes, you can thank the Town of Leland ’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department for the experience.

This fall is the 15th birthday of the Leland Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department, an entity that plays a very important part in the community.

In 2008, the Leland Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources department started with one employee. It now has 12 full time staff members, four parks, and one building. Each year, the department coordinates approximately 55 events and more than 500 programs. The department, under the direction of Wyatt Richardson, Community Enrichment Director, strives to present a diverse compliment of programs and classes to the residents of Leland.

You can always tell when someone loves what they do for a living because they do it well and Wyatt Richardson is no exception. He has been with the Town of Leland for five and a half years and says that he is in the “best profession there is.”

“I was always an outside kid, he continued, “I grew up visiting parks, hiking and being outside. I got a job and started out on the maintenance side of the department — it was just a job. Then my mentor showed me what the job could be. He opened my eyes to possibilities and showed me that I could make a difference in the community and that’s what I’ve been doing in this role. I absolutely love what I do. I live the parks and recreation life style. My family and I do Ju Jitsu together. I do road cycling, hiking, fishing and I run marathons.”

What Richardson does is connect with the community as a whole. “As the town grows, my department is doing a lot of planning, acquiring and developing land for parks and open space for future generations, like Sturgeon Creek, Sweet Bay Park and Loblolly Park. We’ve got a plan for development for Sturgeon Creek that includes a partnership with the state of North Carolina that will provide a wildlife program so we can enjoy the water and nature around us. Sweet Bay Park is 11 acres near I–140 and Windsor Park. Loblolly Park is 32 acres near Kay Todd Road in Brunswick Forest. I would really love for the residents of Leland to come to future planning meetings and tell us what they want in these areas,” Richardson said.

Founders Park, located at 113 Town Hall Drive, is a primary focus of the department. The park, which opened in 2004, was awarded the NC PARTF grant to provide funding for park renovations along with a Connect Grant from FOCUS Broadband that will, in part, be used to upgrade park security and enhance Wi-Fi.

“Construction starts in October and residents will see a new splash pad area, picnic shelter, new playground equipment, an amphitheater and more walking trails,” Richardson said. “A Veteran’s Memorial is also planned that will recognize all branches of the service as well as a small plaza area, and adjacent to the Town Hall there will be fitness stations. Health and fitness is so important to all of us. The fitness stations will have ADA approved bench press pull up bars. We want something for everyone.”

The Leland Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources department is all about building programs, events and facilities that are geared to family friendly, leisure activities. They blend the beauty of nature in this area with fun and unusual events that create memories for all.

My personal favorite part of what this group provides is the Leland Cultural Arts Center. If you look up the definition of the word “culture” the Oxford dictionary will tell you that it means, “The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement, regarded collectively.” Or, “The customs, arts, social institutions and achievements of a particular nature, people or social group.”

I like the part about intellectual achievement in that definition because to me it covers a wide variety of ideas. Ideas that impact or improve the lives of others are vital to us and our children. We can survive with the basics of life—food and shelter, but we thrive with ideas that come to life and make us appreciate what we have around us.

Since 2015, the Leland Cultural Arts Center (LCAC) has provided space for creative workshops, a variety of programs for children and adults, and memorable performances by local artists and those known nationwide.

Wyatt said the programs at the LCAC have proven popular. “People love our art classes. Our pottery and wheel classes are really popular. But then, so are our music classes. Our compliment of instructors enables us to offer not only piano, violin and guitar, but we also offer tap dancing and jazz. Then, there’s photography. We also have a wonderful ‘healing arts’ selection of yoga, balance and movement and Tai Chi,” he said.

Looking for something to do in October? Wyatt said, “Look no further!”

On Friday, Oct. 20, from 6 to 8 pm, come out for Bluegrass, Bowls & Baskets, a free event at LCAC that celebrates local potters and weavers. You’ll be able to listen to bluegrass music performed by Masonboro Sound while sampling competing dishes from the Leland Police and Fire Departments’ chili cook-off. You can even vote for your favorite by donating a non-perishable food item.

And, Trunk or Treat is back! This year, head over to Brunswick Town Center on East Cutlar Crossing on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 4 to 6 pm.

Finally, Wyatt said, “If you enjoy what we offer, tell your neighbors, tell your friends. Word of mouth drives engagement and so do good recommendations. Come to the parks board meetings — see the Town of Leland website for dates — so we know what type of programs you want us to develop.”

The Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department has given the residents of Leland much more than just a walk in the park. They have provided a life style that brings art, nature and culture to our town. Get out and enjoy live music or art exhibits from award winning artists. Learn to Contra Dance. Enjoy everything that Leland has to offer. Celebrate the 15th year of the achievements of this remarkable entity and everything that they bring us.

Artist Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Once you take a class, attend a performance at LCAC or watch nature in one of Leland’s parks, I think you will understand what he meant.


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