Cornelius Arts Center to be Named After Bill and Ericka Cain

The Cornelius Arts Center is proud to announce that they will name their upcoming arts center after local community leaders Bill and Ericka Cain. The renaming comes as a result of the Cain’s generous lead gift of five million dollars to the Center’s comprehensive campaign.

Bill and Ericka Cain relocated Financial Independence Group, FIG, to Cornelius in 1998.  Dr. Cain serves as Chief Executive Officer while Mrs. Cain serves as Executive Administrator.  The Cain’s are passionate about pursuing opportunities that allow them to help others. In 2017, they were both honored for their community work. Dr. Cain received the Robert T. Cashion Person of the Year Business Award, and Mrs. Cain received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Business Today.

“We are thrilled to be able to be part of the arts center,” says Dr. Cain. He notes that the center will benefit everyone, including adults, children, families, seniors, and members of the business community. “The arts center will improve the aesthetics of the community and it will be the catalyst to bring more improvement to the area. We can’t think of any reason not to support it.”

The Cain’s gift, alongside initial fundraising and public funding from the Town of Cornelius totals $12 million towards the center’s $25 million campaign goal. Cornelius Arts Center Board President, Greg Wessling, believes the Cain’s lead gift will help to build further momentum and excitement for the project during the early phase of the campaign.

“We are honored to have Bill and Ericka Cain make this legacy investment to name the facility,” says Wessling. “It not only provides a foundation for the center, but calls all of us to action in following their lead. It tells everyone that this arts center project is a reality.”

The new center will also anchor the revitalization and economic redevelopment of downtown Cornelius. “The Cains leadership for the arts center project is going to provide so many positive effects for Cornelius and the Lake Norman Region,” says Mayor Woody Washam Jr. “It’s going to provide quality education, entertainment and social experiences for all ages. It’s also going to create more opportunities for successful economic development projects for our downtown area.”

The Center will coordinate with the Cains in creation of the new organizational brand, with plans for unveiling in early November.

Cornelius Arts Center introduces 2018 Fall Programming

Not having bricks and mortar yet, isn’t stopping the launch of our 2018 fall programming. As we gear up for a capital campaign, in addition to architectural design and construction developments, this inaugural programming gives us even more momentum.

We will currently be utilizing space at the existing Parks, Arts, Recreation & Culture (PARC)-run Cornelius Arts Center at Oak Street Mill (19725 Oak St., Cornelius) for pre-kindergarten and senior dance classes provided through a partnership with Charlotte Ballet. This will be the renowned dance organization’s first presence in Lake Norman, although it has served portions of the Lake Norman community and beyond for years at its home base in Uptown Charlotte and through outreach in south Charlotte community programming.

Registration opens for the classes on September 1, 2018. Classes will be held weekly on Wednesdays, starting on October 3 and running through December 12.

Charlotte Ballet instructor Gretchen Jax (Photo by Jeff Cravotta)

Gretchen Jax, who graduated from Winthrop University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance Performance, and has worked as a faculty member of Charlotte Ballet since 2003, will instruct both classes. She is thrilled to serve the North Mecklenburg region and Lake Norman community. The dance organization has received national recognition for its excellence in programming, education and outreach, and dance training.

Offerings for seniors and youth showcase our diverse programming plans and no previous experience in dance is required. Executive Director, Justin Dionne, says the Center plans to provide new opportunities for the community through its programs. When in discussions with Charlotte Ballet, it was noted that classes for pre-schoolers and seniors are often overlooked. While the current PARC-run Arts Center provides art and ceramics classes, it does not offer any performing arts classes. 

Senior dance classes will be held on Wednesdays from 11-11:45 a.m., October 3rd through December 12th at Cornelius Arts Center at Oak Street Mill. (Photo by Peter Zay)

Senior dance classes, 45 minutes to one hour long, will be tailored to the needs and desires of the group and may be done on foot or in a chair. The senior dance classes do not have specific age limitations and are meant to introduce movement to the body.

Meanwhile, in the 45-minute “First Steps Pre-School” class, students (3-5 years old) will explore musicality, rhythm, creativity, and movement through space. The class aims to encourage age appropriate stretching, strengthening, balance, motor skill development and coordination techniques. The classes will provide students with the skills needed for pre-ballet classes. Following the end of pre-kindergarten classes, there will be a special showcase for family and friends of students.

Pre-kindergarten classes will be held on Wednesdays from 12-12:45 p.m., October 3rd through December 12th at Cornelius Arts Center at Oak Street Mill. (Photo by Lynn Spence)

Dionne plans to offer other dance classes and theater classes in the future. Design plans for the future Center include two classrooms, one for dance classes and another that can serve as a multi-purpose room for theater and arts classes. “We want to establish flagship programs,” says Dionne. “This partnership with Charlotte Ballet provides us with an opportunity to serve the community and test programs.” 

For more information on Cornelius Arts Center classes, visit

Cornelius Arts Center unveils concept renderings

In October of 2017, we announced our partnership with two acclaimed architect firms, C Design of Charlotte, NC, and Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture of New York, NY. Since then, we’ve been busy working with architects like Rob Crane and Malcolm Holzman to determine what we’d like to incorporate into the Center.

Luckily, we’ve had some amazing developments. We’re happy to present our concept renderings, along with descriptions from Holzman. Cue the drumroll!

(Note: These are not finalized, detailed sketches of exactly what the Center will look like, but they present some very exciting possibilities.)


Concept rendering of the view from Town Hall on Catawba Avenue.

Community Arts Center: The community exhibition gallery, rehearsal and education space, and main entry promenade along Catawba Avenue announce this new cultural catalyst for the Lake Norman region. Complimenting other civic and retail structures, it welcomes children and adults to a myriad of daytime and evening programs.


Concept rendering of the view of the Center from above Oak Street Mill.

Backyard festival space: “Complimenting programs inside the Center, organized periodic gatherings celebrate special community events in an exterior park like setting. Tiered lawn and hard surfaces used regularly for parking form a general seating area for focused events on a flexible stage adjacent to the Arts Center. Film, live presentations and children’s events occur during the performance season. Seating, picnic tables, and data access allow for year-round usage.”

Concept rendering of what the interior of the Center could look like.

Cultural Promenade: “The multi-level animated space functions as an informal gathering area before and after events and as a destination with a rooftop terrace. Accessible to outdoors at three different levels it also serves as a landscaped drop off location for school groups and event goers. Complimentary planting elements unify the open spaces on adjoining sites.”


Concept rendering of theater space at future Center.

Regional Playhouse: “An open loft like space with a three-sided balcony accommodates 450 individuals for a variety of entertainment events. The flexible space permits music, theater, dance, film, conference meetings, dinners, celebrations and community gatherings to be equally presented and enjoyed. The timber roof truss system spanning the space recalls the mill buildings previously found on the site.”


Cornelius Arts Center Selected as 2018 Tate Cares Recipient

Northern Mecklenburg and Lake Norman residents are one step closer to enjoying professional dance, theater and visual arts close to home, thanks to the Allen Tate Companies.
Allen Tate recently presented a check for $6,345 to the Cornelius Arts Center (CAC), a planned arts and cultural facility in downtown Cornelius. The gift was part of funds raised by Allen Tate Realtors® and employees in its Lake Norman, Davidson and Huntersville offices through the company’s annual Tate Cares giving campaign, which benefits arts and culture and United Way organizations.

The check was presented May 3 at Allen Tate’s Annual Porch Party, on the patio adjacent to the Allen Tate office in downtown Davidson. The event celebrates the company’s commitment to its local communities and honors Tate Cares recipient organizations chosen by agents who work in the greater Lake Norman region. The Ada Jenkins Center was also honored as a Tate Cares recipient.
Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox, an Allen Tate Realtor, provided acoustic guitar music for the event.
“We are fortunate to have such a strong partner in Allen Tate Realtors,” said Greg Wessling, Cornelius Arts Center president and board chairman.
“Allen Tate’s investment in the Cornelius Arts Center furthers our commitment to the greater Lake Norman community through the building of our new arts facility and the subsequent programming, entertainment and education we will provide for this broad audience,” he said.
Justin Dionne, CAC executive director, also attended the event, along with members of the organization’s board of directors: Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam, Town Commissioner Denis Bilodeau, Kate Gaither, Jim Duke, Donna Johnson, and Carroll Gray.
“Tate Cares supports a broad spectrum of organizations that impact the quality of life in our local communities,” said Stephanie Gossett, Allen Tate regional vice president and 2018 Tate Cares chairperson. “A vibrant arts community helps drive people to the region, improving cultural and economic life at the same time.”
As part of the Tate Cares campaign, Dionne shared the CAC’s mission and future plans with three Allen Tate offices, including a presentation at the Old Town Public House, next to the future home of the CAC.
In 2013, Cornelius residents approved a $4 million bond project for downtown redevelopment, and funds were used to purchase 1.85 acres adjacent to the police station in downtown Cornelius for a future arts center. In 2017, Cornelius Arts Center was established as a 501 (c)(3), Dionne was hired as executive director, and two architectural firms were named to execute the center’s vision.