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Lessons learned from a Charlotte Museum of History re-enactor

20 Feb

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Lisa Jilliani of the Charlotte Museum of History is pictured in period-correct 18th century clothing she made herself with a working replica of a Pennsylvania long rifle typical of the mid-1700s. “Women could shoot as well as men because there might be a time where they would have to be the ones to bring home the bacon – or a squirrel or a deer,” she said.

Lisa Jilliani of the Charlotte Museum of History is pictured in period-correct 18th century clothing she made herself with a working replica of a Pennsylvania long rifle typical of the mid-1700s.
“Women could shoot as well as men because there might be a time where they would have to be the ones to bring home the bacon – or a squirrel or a deer,” she said.

Lisa Jillani went from writing about historical re-enactors for the local newspaper to dressing up in 18th century garb herself.

“I had always been a history buff ever since I can remember, even as a young child,” Jillani said. “Because my grandparents raised me, I was privileged to be exposed to people who were a lot older than I was and lived during the time the history books were written about.”

So when a press release about a nearby backcountry Thanksgiving reenactment came across her desk at The Mecklenburg Times back in 1987, she covered the story in period-appropriate attire.

From that moment, she was hooked.

“I was bitten by the reenacting bug,” she said. “It had never dawned on me before that there were people that did it as a hobby.”

It became more than that in 2001, when she became a docent at the Charlotte Museum of History. She’s currently the museum’s living history coordinator and event planner, and is “very possessive” of the log kitchen out at the historic Hezekiah Alexander House on the grounds of the museum, supported by a $50,000 Arts & Science Council (ASC) Technical Assistance Grant.

“Children ask me if I live there, which tells me that my costume is right, that I don’t look like I’m going trick-or-treating, but I look like somebody who lived in that cabin,” she said. “One little girl asked me if I could travel back in time.”

Jilliani is one of the cultural sector contributors featured in 2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive campaign materials. Her authentic look comes from her own hands – she sews all of her reenactment clothes. Her daily meals are “99.999-percent” made from scratch, too.

“The thing that reenacting has taught me is, if I need something, I first say, ‘Can I make it myself?’” she said. “If the answer is ‘Yes,’ then I make it. If the answer is ‘No,’ the question is ‘Can I get it from a thrift store?’ I rarely say ‘I need such and such’ and go buy it new.”

ASC is You & Me celebrating our history and bringing it alive for new generations.


‘His brain is wired to put things together’

19 Feb

By Bernie Petit 
Communications Manager

It started with LEGOs.

Jalen Thompson.

Jalen Thompson.

Instead of stacking his play set bricks as high as he could, a then-three-year-old Jalen Thompson visualized and assembled elaborate castles with windows, entrances and waterways.

So his mom, Tonja Thompson, bought him sets meant for older kids.

“They may have taken me days or weeks to put together,” she estimated. Jalen put them together in a series of snaps.

“His brain is wired to put things together and kind of figure them out.”

It’s no surprise Jalen figured out early that he wants to pursue an engineering career. The decision came when he was 10 years old – about the time he discovered robotics at a summer camp in Wilmington.

“I’ve always been the kind of person who likes to build things,” Jalen said. “Robotics is kind of taking it to the next level of what I’ve done before.”

Now 14, Jalen is a robotics wiz and a leader in the Movement of Youth Robotics Program sponsored by 100 Black Men of Charlotte. The program, supported by a $5,000 Arts & Science Council (ASC) Cultural & Community Investment Grant, provides activities through robotics to promote achievement in participants’ STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes and further exploration of STEM-based career options.

“The 100 opened our eyes more to that STEM piece and got us exposed to that competition aspect,” Jalen said. “They’re giving us exposure – exposure to the real world.”

Jalen – one of the cultural sector contributors featured in 2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive campaign materials – and his teammates meet twice a month on Saturdays and are building a robot to compete in an upcoming robotics competition. Figuring out how to design, build and program a robot to compete against other teams is a more than just a challenge Jalen is well-equipped to tackle.

“The educational piece is what’s fun for me,” he said. “In order to be an engineer, you have to have your bachelor’s in science or math, and that’s part of what we’re learning about.”

ASC is You & Me providing STEM opportunities to kids throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg.


Cultural reflections from our interim president

17 Feb

By Robert Bush
ASC Interim President 

Almost 30 years ago, I got the call.  The call was to join the Mint Museum staff as its first development director.  I said, “Yes,” and while I knew some things about Charlotte, a crash course in all things Charlotte began.

ASC Interim President Robert Bush

ASC Interim President Robert Bush

Not unlike today, Charlotte had a lot of new cultural baubles then – Discovery Place was sparkling new and had just hosted its first blockbuster exhibit (featuring the Muppets, to be exact) and lines were wrapped around the building; Spirit Square was still new and was changing both the performing arts as well as the visual arts scene; work was underway to turn historic Little Rock AME Zion Church’s former building into a new Afro-American Cultural Center; and the Charlotte Symphony and Opera Carolina were filling seats at Ovens Auditorium.   Even within the Mint, changes were brewing.  I was quickly learning how the Dalton Wing expansion was going to change the face of the arts in Charlotte, but more about that later.

Charlotte was a different place then.  It was smaller, and the skyline wasn’t nearly as filled as we see it today.  Neighborhoods were the major players – Fourth Ward and Dilworth were just beginning their transformations.  The ‘new coliseum’ on Tyvola was still a dream, and the business community was hungry and ambitious.  We focused our jealousy on our big sister Atlanta.  However, I soon learned that Charlotte loved big ideas, and that is when my love affair with Charlotte began.

Volunteer and Mint Museum staff leadership team for the Ramesses the Great exhbition (from left): Zach Smith, Margaret Callen, Tom Cox, Ann Parker, Jim Thompson, Karen Owensby, Patti Norman, Robert Bush and Milton Blach (deceased).

Volunteer and Mint Museum staff leadership team for the Ramesses the Great exhibition (from left): Zach Smith, Margaret Callen, Tom Cox, Ann Parker, Jim Thompson, Karen Owensby, Patti Norman, Robert Bush and Milton Bloch (deceased).

Charlotte’s cultural sector also loved big ideas, and before the decade was over, Luciano Pavarotti had sung at a gala concert to benefit Opera Carolina (to standing room only at what is now Bojangles’ Coliseum); SpringFest was filling Uptown with thousands of visitors for its three-day arts festival; and the Ramesses the Great exhibit came for a four-month stay and more than 600,000 people came to Charlotte from across the U.S. to experience the historical art!

Our arts, science and history stars all still love big ideas and now the world is taking note.  North Carolina Dance Theatre, not even a local player in the ’80s, was one of only nine dance companies selected to perform at the Kennedy Center’s Ballet Across America and received standing ovations from the audiences and rave reviews from critics for Jean Pierre Bonnefoux’s Shindig.  The McColl Center for Visual Art has been recognized as one of the top three visual arts residency programs in the U.S.  The Levine Museum for the New South has been recognized by the Institute of Museum and Library Services as the winner of its National Medal for Museum and Library Service.  The professional peer reviewers that help ASC evaluate our operating support applications consistently rank Children’s Theatre of Charlotte as one of the best (if not THE BEST) children’s theatres in the U.S.  The Bechtler Museum’s collection is the largest modern art collection south of Washington D.C.  And as I briefly mentioned earlier, the Dalton’s gift to the Mint 30 years ago was just one of many, and now the museum has what many consider the finest collection of contemporary craft in the country.

There are still a few of us around from those days, and as we see each other at openings or performances, our conversations often go back to that time as we talk about how proud we are to have been there when Charlotte’s big ideas about using arts and culture to spark both economic development and improve our quality of life were in their infancy.

Today, the conversation now turns to the impact of the financial downturn on our community and our cultural superstars – where cash reserves have been depleted and little funding is available to invest in new programs or expanded services to the community.

Until 2009, gifts to ASC’s annual fund drive had driven the growth of our arts, science and history institutions.  That is no longer true.  Today, we are still working hard to dig our way out of a loss of more than one-third of the funds we raised through 2008, and we need your help to make that happen.

Your gift can help us continue to provide support for the things in which organizations find it the hardest to raise funds, like utility bills, security and computer systems to name a few.  These often least compelling, yet critical items are not luxuries – they’re necessities, and as it is with any necessity, it must be met in order for things to survive.

Please join me in making 2014 the year of the turnaround.  The year that we begin investing anew in Charlotte’s cultural jewels that make our city not only the center attraction of the Carolinas, but also a great city!  Let your gift to ASC be the catalyst for a year of cultural awakening and renewal, so we all can enjoy a community that’s fun, alive and fascinating.

ASC needs you because ASC is You & Me.

(From left) Former ASC staff member Keith Bulla, educator and actor John Dickson, Robert Bush and local educator and actor Dennis Delamar.

(From left) Former ASC staff member Keith Bulla, educator and actor John Dickson, Robert Bush and local educator and actor Dennis Delamar.

Ten Things to Know About the 2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive

31 Jan

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager 


The Arts & Science Council (ASC) kicked off its 2014 Annual Fund Drive on Jan. 27. Here’s what you should know about the campaign, which runs through April 30.

  1. This year’s campaign goal is $6.9 million, which is what is needed to help sustain the cultural sector – including the operations of more than 20 organizations – in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
  2. This year’s fund goal only reflects unrestricted giving – those gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations to support the cultural sector broadly.
  3. ASC still welcomes restricted, one-time or project-related gifts. However, those gifts are not reflected in this year’s campaign goal.
  4. The campaign theme is “ASC is You & Me,” which speaks to how everyone – whether you are a patron, student, employee, artist or visitor to Charlotte-Mecklenburg – is impacted by the organizations and programs that ASC dollars support.
  5. In planning the 2014 campaign, ASC looked back at what is likely the most popular fund drive theme in its history – ASC is Good for Me! – and asked its friends at Wray Ward to modernize the theme for the 21st century.
  6. Eighty-five cents of every dollar raised during the campaign directly supports the cultural sector, including funding of arts, science and history organizations, individual artists, and education and community programs.
  7. ASC is a funding source, but what it funds is your passion – visual and performing arts, science, history and heritage programming, festivals, and cultural education opportunities for students.
  8. This is ASC’s 56th annual community appeal for funding that supports arts and cultural experiences that enhance the quality of life for residents across Mecklenburg County.
  9. While the 2013 fund drive raised $9 million on an $8.2 million goal, this year’s goal is considered more ambitious. This year’s $6.9 million goal only includes unrestricted giving, while last year’s goal included an unrestricted giving goal of $6.1 million and a restricted giving goal of $2.1 million.
  10. Keeping our region fun, alive and vibrant takes money from everyone who loves this community and understands how transformative arts and culture can be. To make a gift to the Arts & Science Council, visit or call 704-333-2272.

#myculturallife: The cultural sector’s search for a new funding model

31 May write-on-chalkboard

By Kristopher Steele, MPA
ASC Planning and Innovation Manager 

In Search of a New Funding Model
For nearly 40 years, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural sector has been supported through a public-private fundraising model that includes running fundraising campaigns in the workplace and partnering with local and state government to earn and raise the necessary dollars that support cultural institutions, such as the Mint Museum, Carolina Raptor Center, Levine Museum of the New South, Blumenthal Performing Arts and Discovery Place among many others. The money raised is also invested in individual artists, neighborhood projects and arts, science, history and heritage education programs for school children.

This model of private fundraising and public funding has worked well, and throughout the years, Charlotte-Mecklenburg has witnessed an extensive cultural growth. We have seen the Cultural Facilities Master Plans of 1976 and 2004 create a ‘cultural mile’ along Tryon Street in Uptown Charlotte from McColl Center for Visual Art to the new Levine Center for the Arts.  Surrounding towns have also increased their cultural amenities. Additionally, new programs and public art have popped up all over the city and county as a result of the public-private partnership.

However, throughout the past decade, annual funding for the cultural sector has changed and is impacting the progress of arts and culture in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

In fact, since 2002, private sector giving to ASC’s Annual Fund Drive has wilted from $11.6 million to $6.5 million. In similar fashion, local government funding has been reduced by 25% to $6.2 million. This downward trend has happened while Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s population continues to grow by leaps and bounds and the demand for quality arts and cultural experiences increases. Research as part of the forthcoming Cultural Vision Plan shows strong citizen interest in more accessible and relevant programming, innovation, and cultural education.

The Cultural Life Task Force
As leader of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural sector, ASC along with its public and private partners, is tackling an important community-wide issue: finding a new, healthy and sustainable funding model for the cultural sector.

This work will be done through the Cultural Life Task Force, a 21-member group representing the following organizations: City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Foundation For The Carolinas, The Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust, Charlotte Chamber, Charlotte Center City Partners, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.   The task force is chaired by Valecia McDowell, an attorney with Moore & Van Allen and Pat Riley, president of Allen Tate Company.

The task force will begin their work in June 2013 and will likely present their recommendations in January 2014.

How you can engage (#myculturallife)
I encourage you to engage with this important work. From attending public meetings to connecting with us through social media, there are a variety of ways you can learn about the cultural sector and participate in the process.

The first-round of public meetings will take place from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the ASC (227 W. Trade St., Suite 250) on the following dates:

  • Monday, June 10
  • Monday, June 24
  • Monday, July 15
  • Monday, July 29

You can also connect with the task force through ASC’s Facebook page and Twitter Feed using the hashtag, #myculturallife.

The cultural sector is a major player in driving the economy, supporting jobs and more importantly, enhancing our quality of life.  With the work of the Cultural Life Task Force and your help, we will create a new and healthy funding model that will sustain the cultural sector for years to come.

Civic Leaders Jim and Mary Lou on the Arts and ASC

25 Mar

Charlotte civic leaders and honorary 2013 ASC Campaign Co-Chairs  Jim and Mary Lou Babb talk about the importance of the arts and the Arts & Science Council in Charlotte.

The Charlotte Observer Makes Its Mark

2 Mar

By Catherine Miller, Associate Director, Workplace Giving

Charlotte Observer Kickoff Stories 047

Inspire the Fire helps kick off the Charlotte Observer’s 2013 Make Your Mark campaign.

The employees of the Charlotte Observer have committed themselves once again to supporting arts and culture in our community. Their enthusiasm and energy was evident at their campaign kickoff with Observer Publisher, Ann Caulkins and ASC Board Member, Bill Bollinger.  ASC grantees, Inspire the Fire, of America’s Got Talent fame entertained the crowd, and shared their moving story of the significant impact that song and dance can make in young peoples’ lives.

The fun did not end with the kickoff. Each day of the Observer’s campaign incorporated cultural tours and performances. Employees toured ASC’s newest program, Studio 345, as well as the Gantt Center’s ‘America I Am’ exhibit. They were treated to performances by strolling violinist, Bob Ennis, the Charlotte Children’s Choir, and Renaissance singers, The Weights. This made for an exciting work week while truly demonstrating the breadth and depth of ASC’s impact on the community.

All of this effort amounted to a very successful campaign for the Observer! Thank you so much to Campaign Chair’s, Jennifer Rothacker and Sarah Crosland, as well as the whole campaign committee. The Observer remains one of ASC’s top 25 employee campaigns, and we are so grateful for the mark they make on this community.

The City of Charlotte Makes Its Mark

12 Feb

By Catherine Miller, Associate Director, Workplace Giving

National Arts Program at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center

National Arts Program at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center

The employees of the City of Charlotte kicked off another exciting campaign year last Friday. Employees gathered in the lobby of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center for their First Friday breakfast and were treated to an expo of cultural organizations that are supported by the Arts & Science Council. These organizations ranged from the Carolina Raptor Center with their special guest Estrella, the bespectacled owl, to Opera Carolina, the Levine Museum of the New South, and the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte.

The City of Charlotte is ASC’s 5th largest employee campaign, raising over $150,000 annually to support arts and culture in our community. These employees not only raise significant funds, they have a lot of fun doing it. Activities planned by their 28 In house Coordinators include bake sales and art classes.

These exciting events are an example of the enthusiasm that creates a hugely successful campaign for the City of Charlotte each year. ASC is grateful for their ongoing support. They are truly Making their Mark on our cultural community.

Make Your Mark Campaign Kicks Off

4 Feb

Late last week, ASC kicked off the 2013 Make Your Mark Campaign, announcing a goal of $8.2 million.  The campaign supports investment in more than 100 arts, science, history and heritage organizations and programs,  individual artists and education programs.

This year, Linda Lockman-Brooks, ASC board chair and president of Lockman-Brooks Marketing Services and Kevin Patterson, ASC board member and retired IBM executive are co-chairing the campaign.  Civic leaders Jim and Mary Lou Babb are serving as honorary co-chairs.

“This campaign is about ensuring organizations such as Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Levine Museum of the New South and Discovery Place have the financial resources they need to operate and serve the community,” said Lockman-Brooks.  “In addition, these dollars support cultural education programs in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, arts, science and history projects in neighborhoods, the development of regional artists and festivals across the county that educate, entertain and enrich the lives of residents and visitors.  Through the collective spirit of community giving, I know we can reach the goal.”

ASC will invest $12.5 million in the cultural sector this fiscal year. Here are some ways we are making our mark…

How are you making your mark?

To make a gift to the Arts & Science Council, visit or call 704-333-2272.

GreerWalker to Kick Off the 2013 Make your Mark Campaign

3 Jan

By Lauren Leach, Development Officer, Workplace Giving

GW-CPA_WEBGreerWalker kicks off its 2013 Make your Mark Campaign next Monday. Under the leadership of Charlie Greer and Kevin Walker, GreerWalker employees have consistently met their goals with great energy and enthusiasm. The Arts & Science Council could not be more excited to have them set the pace for this year.


GreerWalker employees at their campaign kickoff.

“Laura Jo and I are very excited to be leading the Arts & Science Council campaign,” said Stacia Neugent, tax associate, GreerWalker, and In House Coordinator. “We believe ASC has so much to offer and is very beneficial to the local community. We also look forward to enjoying local talent Joel Kweskin, a caricature artist, as we kick off this year’s campaign.”

To date, GreerWalker has raised $140,966 towards the ASC Make Your Mark campaign. The campaign will close January 11th. We look forward to seeing the exciting results of this wonderful partnership.

Look for more information about the Make you Mark campaign in the ASC February Newsletter.


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