Lyman Collins, Arts Evangelist, Reflects on a Career in Cary

Lyman Collins, Cary's retiring Cultural Arts Manager, talks about Applause! Youth Theatre in a recent video. Setting up the program was one of his first tasks when he joined the town staff in 1999.

In his 20 years as Cary’s cultural arts manager, Lyman Collins has helped shape the town’s cultural landscape.

“That’s what really drives me, this sense of the transformative power of the arts, which I think we’ve seen in Cary and will continue to see,” he said. “I feel a little bit like an arts evangelist, and I want to continue to be that.”

Collins, who retires July 31, has worked on the construction of Booth Amphitheatre, as well as the renovations of the Cary Arts Center and The Cary Theater.

But the accomplishment he’s proudest of isn’t any building. Rather, he’s pleased that he was able to nurture an environment in Cary where cultural organizations could thrive and where arts groups would collaborate.

“There’s no such thing as competition in the arts, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “The different cultural aspects of Cary work together really well — and the Triangle. That was one of the things I really felt passionate about when I came to Cary.”

The town has helped promote this collaboration by establishing arts venues, often by leveraging historic structures. Collins says many people don’t stop to think how special it is to have facilities that preserve the past and celebrate the future.

“One of the cool things about Cary, when you look at our facilities, is except for Booth Amphitheatre, the others are in historic resources. The Page-Walker Arts & History Center, the Cary and the arts center are all valuable historic resources for Cary,” he said.

The manager works in the Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department and, in addition to managing the various arts facilities, guides programs ranging from festivals and events to public art, classes and camps.

When he came to Cary in 1999, Collins was tasked with three big objectives: establish a youth theater program, partner with Cary Visual Art to promote public art displays, and evaluate an existing literary festival.

“I had no background on any of those three things,” he said with a laugh.

He had to come up to speed quickly, and remains proud of Applause! Cary Youth Theatre.

“That’s a wonderful, wonderful program that probably flies under the radar a lot — what it means to children and teens and helping build those values of teamwork and collaboration,” he said. “You also get that out of sports, but people don’t think about it in the arts as much.”

William Lewis will take over from Collins as the next cultural arts manager, and he will begin work on Aug. 1.

Lewis is the former Executive Director of PineCone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, and has been instrumental in developing a wide variety of cultural arts programs across the Triangle. While in this role, he helped bring the International Bluegrass Music Association, its annual conference, and the Wide Open Bluegrass festival to Raleigh.



  • Theresa Dolan says:

    Congratulations Lyman Collins on your retirement. You will be missed, but not forgotten. Thank-you for your service and all that you have contributed in your 20 years with the Town of Cary. Your talent and passion for the Arts is endless. Thank-you!

  • Linda and Kirk Fuller says:

    Lyman, you should now have cards printed up with the title “Arts Evangelist” on them! Too cool!
    See you soon!

  • Debby Scott says:

    So very proud of my MHS high school classmate and his wonderful accomplishments for himself and the Town of Cary!

    Congratulations on your retirement Lyman! Best to you and Don and your future!


  • Lyman! It’s been a pleasure working with you. You have been a visionary to foster cultural integration in Cary. A huge THANK YOU from Humsub team! Wishing you a wonderful retirement!

  • Phil Duncan says:

    Well done, Lyman! More great things in your future, no doubt! Good luck!

  • Mark Rose, TMDA leader says:


    Many thanks for finding a home for our small Triangle Mountain Dulcimer Association (TMDA) group at Page Walker. We very much appreciate the opportunity to gather together in a public place and share our music with each other and with others, e.g., at the Cary Farmer’s Market and during the Christmas Season at Page Walker as the Triangle Folk Ensemble (autoharp, dobro, guitar, mandolin and double bass players). And thank you for all the future that you have brought to the Cary Arts Center!

    Best to you in retirement,

    Mark Rose, TMDA

  • Tushar Ghosh says:

    Lyman, many thanks for being a champion of diversity in Cary. I have been very impressed with your vision for the town and understanding of the community! Wishing you the best.

  • Jim Ackil says:

    Lyman, Kay and I now live in Mankato,MN, close to our daughter, Jennifer and her children. Tonight as Kay and I prepared dinner together (lots of garlic, onions and mushrooms and wine) we listened to “Cats”. and immediately thought of you. How incredible, you brought Cats to Macomb Illinois . So good to have known you. Jim and Kay Ackil

  • Mary Burg says:

    Lyman, congratulations on your retirement. I highly recommend it! You are such a renaissance man, and I know you will continue to be a major force in the Cary (and beyond) arts scene for years to come. I hope that you and Don will travel west and stop by to see us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *