About BAC
Exterior of Fine and Performing Arts CenterThe natural wonders of the North Carolina mountains, like the arts themselves, evoke powerful feelings and uplift the human spirit. And it is here in the mountains that a vision of the fine and performing arts as a central force in the cultural, social, educational, and economic life of an entire region takes place.

Western Carolina University's Bardo Arts Center is the focal point where all of the disciplines of the arts come together to inspire, to engage and to excite audiences and artists alike with the highest caliber of performances and programming.


Along with the traditional academic activities of our students and faculty, the Bardo Arts Center offers opportunities for participation by artists, musicians, theater groups, creative writers, folk artists and craft persons from near and far. Our mountain setting has attracted artists and artisans for decades, and we reach out to collaborate with the established, thriving arts communities in Asheville and Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta; Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala. and beyond.

BAC enhances appreciation of the Appalachian region's rich and diverse cultural history - woven from the experiences of Native Americans, Scotch-Irish, African-Americans and a growing Hispanic community. We reach out to surrounding communities of a mountain region that while traditionally underserved but is alive with artistic dreams as vital and vibrant as those found anywhere.

Award-Winning Architects

The Bardo Arts Center was designed by Gund Partnership, an award-winning professional practice located in Cambridge, Mass., that provides services in architecture, planning and interior design. Founded in 1971, Gund Partnership has been honored with more than 100 national and regional awards for design excellence and has received wide critical acclaim and professional recognition for its work.

The design for the 122,000-square-foot facility was a result of Gund Partnership's bold interpretation of the grandeur of the Great Smoky Mountains. Partnership staff visited the Joyce Kilmer National Forest and were inspired by the spiritual and cultural home of the Cherokee. The architect's profound experience of Western North Carolina's regional history, diverse mountain culture and vernacular local architecture led to Gund's BAC design.

Cherokee mask and floor design

Cherokee Influence

Situated in the lush and temperate Cullowhee Valley, the site of several early Cherokee settlements, the Bardo Arts Center features numerous Cherokee-inspired design elements. In the main atrium, the tile floor design of a seven-pointed star represents the seven Cherokee clans. Bilingual signage throughout the facility uses English and the Cherokee syllabary, developed in 1809 by Sequoyah to give his people their first written language.


Performance Hall

The elegant 1,000-seat performance hall, with its fine-tuned acoustics and state-of-the-art lighting system, is designed to provide WCU students, faculty and staff, Jackson County residents and surrounding neighbors with a series of performing arts events by regional, national and international guest artists.

Performance hall

The Fine Art Museum

The Fine Art Museum includes nearly 10,000 feet of exhibit space, featuring a growing permanent collection, an exciting schedule of contemporary art and fine craft, and related interdisciplinary education programs. The galleries focus on contemporary art while strengthening the university's role as a catalyst for collaboration, celebration and preservation of the artistic legacy of the region in order to develop a new focus on collecting, interpreting and showcasing cross-cultural innovation in contemporary art.

With a full spectrum of wide-ranging forms of expression in the visual arts, the galleries serve the campus, the community and the region as a teaching resource with scholarly research, interactive art education, curriculum support, enrichment, and lifelong learning for children and adults of all ages and backgrounds.

Artists at work in the academic wing

Academic Wing

The fine arts academic wing includes state-of-the-art teaching and learning laboratories along with lecture, critique and studio spaces for undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including WCU's master of fine arts program.


Education and Enrichment

Developed and administered by the School of Art and Design, the comprehensive academic degree curriculum in the visual arts includes painting and drawing, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking and book arts, photography, art history, art education, graphic design, and experimental work in new media and digital technologies. A season of prominent guest artists-in-residence, an outdoor sculpture program and campuswide innovative art events enhance the academic experience and serve as opportunities to involve artists and audiences throughout the surrounding region.


Artistic Diversity

As a focal point for interdisciplinary activities in the arts and humanities, the Bardo Arts Center embraces an inclusive vision for artistic diversity. BAC nurtures the highest standards of academic excellence among faculty and students and encourages critical thinking. It reaches out to bring the arts of the world to the region and the arts of the region to the world.


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John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center