There’s a tendency to think of vacation Meccas as cultural wasteland–a place where out of tune guitarists accompany tone deaf lounge singers. Where kitschy jewelry competes with tacky t-shirts for shelf space. And to be sure, the Outer Banks has more than its share of that–but the state of the arts by the sea is surprisingly robust and diverse.

This thought comes up because of two events sponsored by the Dare County Arts Council  last week. The DCAC is one of those organizations that works quietly in the background to create a more diverse and interesting place to live. The events were a movie and an open mic reading that underscores powerfully the role the arts play in the Outer Banks community.

For the past three years the DCAC has sponsored the Southern Circuit Film Tour on the Outer Banks. Six films will be shown over the next six months and the first was an absolutely outstanding documentary. On Wednesday the DCAC premiered Joe Papp in Five Acts–a compelling, fascinating examination of a man who was at once heroic yet extraordinarily imperfect.

Papp emerges as a man driven to create free theatre for everyone in New York. At the core of this success is a man who recognizes the importance of theatre in every day life—how it is transformative and how it informs and entertains.

Yet beneath this success is a man in denial of who he was and a childhood lived on the teeming slums of Brooklyn. Producer Tracie Holder and Director Karen Thorsen go beyond image—take viewers past the veneer of Papp’s success and show a man who at times seems almost fearful of the accomplishments surrounding him. What emerges is a tour de force of documentary filmmaking and an extraordinary personality study of a complex, driven man.

The following night, Thursday, Glenn Eure’s Ghost Fleet Gallery in Nags Head hosted an open mic reading. These are monthly events, occurring on the second Thursday of every month, and what was presented last week, may have been the best yet. Some of what was read was beautifully written, yet gut wrenching and difficult to hear–in some ways an obscenity without any obscene words being used.

Other works were humorous, some were 1970s style in-your-face poetry as political rant. There was poetry in English and Spanish. There were essays, segments from a novel . . . ultimately it was a wonderful reflection of the diversity of creative thought on the Outer Banks.

The DCAC is, of course, much more than movies and readings. Their gallery in the old Dare County Courthouse in Manteo houses some of the finest visual art on the Outer Banks. Additionally the Arts Council sponsors music programs, workshops and awards a number of scholarships every year.

For more information about what is happening with the DCAC and the cultural scene on the Outer Banks got to, or call them at 252-473-5558.