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ASC Cultural Education Expo to connect schools and students to the arts

28 Aug

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

The free ASC Cultural Education Expo takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts (430 S. Tryon St., Charlotte).

The free ASC Cultural Education Expo takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts (430 S. Tryon St., Charlotte).

Parents, teachers and students can see up close many of the cultural experiences available to local classrooms at the Arts & Science Council (ASC) Cultural Education Expo this weekend.

The free event takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts (430 S. Tryon St., Charlotte). More than 50 teaching artists and cultural education groups will be at the expo, from Community School of the Arts to Catawba River District and from Levine Museum of the New South to Historic Rural Hill.

The event will also feature performances and demonstrations by cultural providers throughout the day, as well as a kids’ zone and food trucks on site.

The purpose of the event is to introduce local teachers and administrators to the cultural resources available through ASC’s School Grants program, which will provide up to $280,000 in total funding in 2014-15 for Mecklenburg County public, charter, independent, parochial and private schools to support cultural programming that aligns with their curriculum and helps increase student success.

“This is a very differentiated approach to cultural education,” said Dr. Barbara Ann Temple, ASC vice president of education. “Teachers can shop for and select the cultural opportunities that best align to the needs of their respective schools. And families will be able to see what their kids are going to be experiencing during the school year.”

Each school within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is eligible for $1,500 to $2,000 each. Before the School Grants program began in 2012-13, only 83 schools within CMS received in-school cultural programming provided by professional artists, scientists, historians and other cultural providers the previous school year.

In the first year of the School Grants program, 154 of 159 CMS schools participated, resulting in cultural opportunities for students, several of whom would not have had access to them any other way.

“We know that engaging students in art, science, history and heritage is one of the best ways to help them find success in the classroom,” said ASC President Robert Bush, “so we hope that everyone who cares about student success will attend the Cultural Education Expo to learn about the resources and funding available to our schools.”

A scene from last year's ASC Cultural Education Expo.

A scene from last year’s ASC Cultural Education Expo.

Arts refuse to be ‘Spiral Bound’ in upcoming documentary

28 Aug

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Spiral Bound Key PremiereBusiness leaders don’t care what a kid’s GPA is when she or he enters the workforce. They don’t care about SAT scores or other standardized tests.

They want creative problem solvers and critical thinkers – the kind of traits students develop when the core curriculum in schools are supported by arts experiences.

It’s a key point of “Spiral Bound,” the arts advocacy documentary which will premiere Tuesday, Sept. 9 at McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square (345 N. College St., Charlotte). A second premiere event will take place Thursday, Sept. 11 at the Davidson College Duke Family Performance Hall (207 Faculty Drive, Davidson).

(Click here to see the trailer.)

The documentary follows a group of high school students in the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) Studio 345 program and education scholars from Davidson College seeking social justice in the U.S. public education system through the infusion of the arts, which play a critical role in the development of the 21st century workforce.

“By working through various mediums of art, whether it is visual arts or performing arts, students learn how to look at things differently and see things from different perspectives,” said Dr. Barbara Ann Temple, ASC vice president of education and “Spiral Bound” co-writer.

The inspiration for the film came last year when Davidson College launched its Education Scholars initiative, a 10-week “Transition to Impact” summer program in which college students were placed in project-based internships with local partners in and around the Charlotte-Mecklenburg education system, including ASC.

“All of these scholars were after one thing – to effect change at every level of the education system,” Temple said. “So I thought, wow, what these college students were fighting for, or what they were seeking change in, the students at Studio 345 were the faces of that issue.”

Studio 345 is ASC’s out-of-school youth development program for high school students. The high school and college students’ exploration of the education system over the course of last summer is tracked in the 60-minute documentary.

The film also examines why the education system often fails to reach some of the most at-risk children in public schools and offers the arts as a solution for helping children find success personally and in the classroom.

Dr. Barbara Ann Temple.

Dr. Barbara Ann Temple.

“If you want to know what the arts can do in the lives of young people, this film tells the story,” Temple said. “It shows very clearly the power of the arts and how they can motivate our students to go to school, stay in school, graduate and move on to pursue a world of possibilities.”

Students in Studio 345 were not only the subjects of the film, but were also part of the film crew and created the music and art utilized in “Spiral Bound,” including the title track.

“Being able to participate in a real-world, community-based experience like this not only reinforces the skills these students learn in Studio 345, but it also empowers them to become active citizens and advocate for their own education,” Temple said. “It also provides them a new vantage point into the world of school and higher education.”

This is explored in the 60-minute documentary through not only through the local perspectives of the Studio 345 and Davidson College students, but through the national lens of arts education activists and experts that speak powerfully about the impact the arts can make in education – and the dire consequences of defunding arts programs.

“Our hope,” Temple said, “is that ‘Spiral Bound’ will become not only a national platform for the exploration of critical issues centered around equity, access and opportunity in public and higher education, but also an impetus for a call to action.”

The documentary was directed by Jason Winn, produced by Chris Blunt and co-written by Michael Buchanan, all of “The Fat Boy Chronicles,” the 2010 film that revealed the emotionally painful world obese teens experience in the face of a thin-obsessed society.

Tickets to the Charlotte world premiere of “Spiral Bound” are $10 adults and $8 students and are available at Tickets to the Davidson premiere event are $10 adults and $5 students and available at

For more information about the documentary, visit

ASC asks Charlotte-Mecklenburg community to ‘Imagine 2025′

28 Aug

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

"Imagine 2025: Share the Vision" takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 at Booth Playhouse in Charlotte. Tickets are $25 and are available at

“Imagine 2025: Share the Vision” takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 at Booth Playhouse in Charlotte. Tickets are $25 and are available at

Just what is “Imagine 2025: Share the Vision,” the forward-thinking event taking place Sept. 23 at Booth Playhouse?

It’s a creative and interactive conference to inspire members of the cultural sector.

It’s a day of artistic performances to energize the community.

It’s a forum for prominent national and local speakers to spark the imaginations of creative people across our region.

And it’s the vehicle for the Arts & Science Council (ASC) to release the results of the community’s cultural vision plan, “Imagine 2025: A Vision for Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s 21st Century Cultural Development.”

“It sets forth a vision for the future but it doesn’t give out all the steps along the way, which requires all of us in this community to be creative and innovative,” said ASC President Robert Bush. “We wanted to reveal the vision plan in a new and different way that brings some of the most creative individuals from both the nonprofit cultural sector and the for-profit creative sector together.”

In short, “Imagine 2025” – both the upcoming event and the vision plan – is something our community has never attempted at a time when local residents are calling for expanded cultural opportunities.

“The plan and the day that we are going to unveil it are built around the central themes that the community articulated to us about building community using arts and culture, providing innovative programming for a rapidly changing population, and ensuring critical thinking and creativity are a part of every child’s education,” Bush said.

Tackling those themes require a different approach.

“So at this rollout,” Bush said, “you will hear from local artists and arts leaders talking about things that we’re already doing to advance those themes, national people talking about how we can engage the community in new and different ways, and private sector innovators around how creativity is a critical part of our for-profit economy.”

Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation vice president for arts.

Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation vice president for arts.

National presenters include Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation vice president for arts, and Aaron Dworkin, founder, Sphinx Organization and member of President Obama’s National Council on the Arts.

More than eight additional speakers, including David Mohler, vice president of emerging technology, Duke Energy; Michael Ford, owner, Upstage NoDa; and Dr. Jean Wright, chief innovation officer, Carolinas HealthCare System, will also share their perspectives on issues important to the cultural sector.

There will be performances by physical theater expert CarlosAlexis Cruz, who will be presented with the 2014 ASC McColl Award at the event, and Community School of the Arts bassist Eric Thompson III, as well as a science-based performance by Discovery Place and short films by students of Studio 345, ASC’s out-of-school youth development program for high school students.

Aaron Dworkin, founder, Sphinx Organization.

Aaron Dworkin, founder, Sphinx Organization.

Participants will be able to engage “Imagine” speakers about cultural topics in sessions facilitated by national radio personality Sheri Lynch and ASC vice president Ryan Deal, co-hosts for the event.

Other speakers include: Regina Boyd, program director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Shaun Cassidy, associate professor of fine arts, Winthrop University; Amy Herman, founder, Vintage Charlotte; Lisa Hoffman, associate director, McColl Center for Art + Innovation; Irania Macias-Patterson, co-founder, CrissCross Mangosauce; and Rosalia Torres-Weiner, founder, Project Art Aid.

The cultural vision plan provides a roadmap for Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s 21st century cultural development.

The “Imagine 2025” event brings together a collection of creative minds to inspire us all to make the journey together.

“This is about how we advance together on this front, that no one entity is going to drive this development,” Bush said. “Achieving this vision is going to be something that we all share together.”

Tickets to the daylong event are $25, which includes lunch, and available at The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Duke Energy are the presenting sponsors.

The arts impact others immensely, and it probably can’t ever be measured in full

6 Aug

By Scott Walker Cunningham
Davidson College Education Scholar


Scott Cunningham

When I came to Davidson College, I arrived as a wrestler. I spent my high school days between three varsity sports, and while I always held creative interests, I never invested much in them. But by the end of my first semester wrestling was no longer an option.

Fast forward to the spring and my best friend began teaching me how to take pictures on his camera. I started uploading my early work onto social media platforms and caught the attention of Aly Dove ’16 who won a grant to run a photography teaching program called YouthMAP in the upcoming fall at the Barium Springs Home for Children. She asked if I would mentor some students in the program and I accepted the offer.

Though a bumpy experience in the piloting process, the program went well and we concluded the semester with a Gala showcasing our participants’ work. One student, Carlos, talked about how he brought some of the pictures on a rare visit home, and when he showed them to his parent they started crying—and then his brother started crying—and his grandma too. I realized that our entire semester, for me, really had nothing to do with photography. It was all about creating that moment for Carlos, providing him with the opportunity to work for something he and his family could connect over.

This inspired me to pursue the Davidson College Education Scholars program and an internship with the Arts & Science Council to learn more about the non-profit sector and arts-based teaching. I split my time between the ASC office and their digital and media literacy camp held at spirit square under the supervision of Dr. Barbara Ann Temple.

In the office I researched best practices for afterschool programs and created a report on the most measured methods of success.

At camp, where the ASC’s Studio 345 program runs during the school year, I saw the human element that researchers could not convey in their work. There are some parts of education that seem to go beyond the data, and cannot be quantified in numbers.

If you took these opportunities away from the students, something would be missing. Morelia’s movie on Abekh’s dance moves, the song Childhood Memories recorded by Da’Quan and others, and the many other instances of cup stacking, Claymation, laughing, and photographing—these happened at camp, and without camp they wouldn’t have happened.

With my internship concluding, I will begin channeling my experiences with afterschool programming back into YouthMAP, which brought me here in the first place. But I continue to ask myself if I think it’s all really worth it, and if photography can actually make a difference for these kids.

Well, I’d like to remind myself and others that, two years ago, my friend Jack taught me how to take pictures in the spring. The simple pleasure that started as a creative outlet opened one opportunity after another and brought me to where I am today.

I’m happy to be living evidence of the impact I hope something as simple as photography can have on someone’s path. I hope we will always remain faithful to those factors in education that are organic, human, and sometimes difficult to measure.

A Systemic Understanding of Injustice

5 Aug

By Scott Cunningham
Davidson College Education Scholar

In a previous blog I discussed experiences teaching a specials course on Writing Rap Lyrics during ASC’s Digital & Media Literacy camp. These past few days since then I have researched many of the different afterschool opportunities in the Charlotte community and something struck me—there are scant few programs based around rap music. This confuses me because rap music holds such a powerful hold over young individuals throughout the Charlotte area, leaving me to wonder why afterschool programs are not focusing on such a fundamental interest of its community.


In this image, the vine represents a community and the barbed wire represents injustice. Sometimes in society, injustice dictates how a community will grow.

Several weeks ago I spent the weekend with some fellow Davidson College students in Washington, D.C., meeting with various individuals about the educational sector on a federal level. One of the most memorable meetings, however, took place in the office of ONE DC, a grassroots activism group focused on fighting gentrification and providing affordable housing.  Initially I wasn’t sure how the group related to education until Ms. Lee shared a few words with us and put things in perspective. Ms. Lee is an elderly black woman and a longtime resident of D.C. When she spoke, her voice conveyed a slight tremble, but one that seemed to come from wisdom acquired over many experiences.

She spoke all about how creating change in a community requires “a systemic understanding of injustice,” a degree of immersion in the culture and the people one wants to serve. Without understanding culture, even the best efforts can dissolve into toxic charities.

Back in Charlotte, I wonder if service organizations truly understand the people in need of assistance. I hope afterschool programs being created to serve students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are designed with the interests of those students in mind. Understanding the culture of a community is inexplicable to assisting it, and I feel the Charlotte community must always meet this standard if it hopes to help the various citizens of its vibrant and diverse community.

The beginnings of progress towards this state of acceptance are, in my belief, through first remembering the commonality we share as human beings. Students titled at-risk, as one example, carry a heavy burden. This label can appropriate an illusion of innate inefficiency that puts them at a higher risk of failure than other children. The term, however, does not mean these kids are broken and need fixing; they are disadvantaged and need some extra help. They are just kids like all the others.

In the same way, when approaching communities in need of assistance, it will do well to remember that they are not inherently broken and need fixing. A culture that differs and is disadvantaged is not disadvantaged because of its differences. For this reason, having a systemic understanding of the injustices people face is the only way of separating the circumstances from a community’s identity and assisting it towards progress.


In the end, statistics and labels are not the things that matter to a community. Rather, what matters to a community are the commonalities we share as human beings.


Project Scientist one of ASC’s initial 2014-15 investments in cultural community

1 Aug

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

A program that encourages young girls to develop their talents in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is being strengthened, thanks to funding from the Arts & Science Council (ASC).

ASC recently announced an initial investment of $6.6 million in the local cultural community to fund 49 neighborhood cultural projects, festivals, programming in all Mecklenburg County municipalities, and support the operations of 22 cultural organizations.

Project Scientist is one of the many programs receiving funding through ASC's initial 2014-15 investments in the local cultural community.

Project Scientist is one of the many programs receiving funding through ASC’s initial 2014-15 investments in the local cultural community. (Photo courtesy Project Scientist.)

“Providing access to cultural experiences that are personally empowering and transformative is fundamental to the continued growth of our community,” said ASC President Robert Bush. “ASC invests in an array of arts, science, history/heritage and community-based projects that are not only educational, entertaining and enriching, but also keep our region fun and fascinating.”

Among those investments is Project Scientist, which started three years ago with summer programs conducted in the guest home of founder Sandy Marshall before finding a home at Queens University and expanding this year to a second site at Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte.

Marshall had decided to do something about the disadvantages girls and women have in STEM majors and careers.

Project Scientist “stemmed from my desire to provide better opportunities for my two young daughters and other girls in the community,” she said. “By looking at the factors that affect a girl’s perception of ‘who is a scientist’ and ‘what does a scientist do,’ we developed a pipeline for girls that nurture their growth over the course of their educational experience.”

Project Scientist will receive a $5,000 ASC Cultural Project Grant to develop and implement a quality method and curriculum that integrates STEM and the arts in its summer programming for girls ages 4 to 12.

“Ours is the only program to start girls as young as four years old, even though the research says that for girls and minorities, you need to get them interested in science at 4, 5 and 6 years old in order to prevent gender and cultural biases from setting in,” Marshall said.

After relying on community artists to volunteer their time to work with girls in the summer program last year,

Project Scientist encourages young girls to develop their talents in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Project Scientist encourages young girls to develop their talents in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). (Photo courtesy Project Scientist)

the grant will allow Project Scientists to pay teaching artists this year. It makes a real difference, Marshall said.

“If we didn’t have funding from ASC, we would be relying on interns to do the arts component of our camp,” she said. “This grant allows us to get the best of Charlotte in here to inspire the girls.”

On one recent afternoon, several elementary-aged girls created poems about explosions, bones and other concepts they’d been learning about. Another day, they worked on life cycle quilts, altering the color of the cloth by boiling down objects from nature and basing their work on stages of the life cycle.

“It’s exposing the girls to things they normally might not be exposed to,” said teaching artist Amy St. Aubin, “and by utilizing the arts, you’re integrating art forms with science, so it’s cross-cultural learning and holistic learning.”

To view ASC’s first round of investments, click here.

Q&A with New ASC Public Art VP Constance White

31 Jul

By David Fowler
Communication Intern

Constance Y. WhiteLast month, the Arts & Science Council hired Constance Y. White as its new Vice President of Public Art to lead the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public art program. White will bring to ASC 17 years of experience facilitating creative projects from inception to completion. She began her career as an arts administrator at the Office of Cultural Affairs in the city of Dallas, Texas, before moving to San Diego, where she served as Art Program Manager for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. ASC is excited for White to begin her new role in Charlotte-Mecklenburg on Sept. 2. She recently answered a few questions about her experiences, how Greek antiquities sparked her love of public art and what she expects in her new role.

Q:  What attracts you to public art and the cultural sector in general?

CYW:  I focused on Greek antiquities while earning my undergrad. That strongly influenced my appreciation of and cultivated my passion for art in public places and a desire to engage communities through art and culture.  Our human desire to create, present and preserve our art and culture is what makes us civilized. This is what I love.

Q:  Is there a project that you have worked on that you think is particularly important to you or to a community in which you’ve lived? 

CYW:  I think the Green Build as a project is particularly important to the region of San Diego.  It is the largest collection of contemporary art accessible to the public in San Diego.  Over 18 million passengers yearly experience these site specific artworks – some monumental – some very quiet and human scaled. When I arrived to San Diego eight years ago, I was told by most that San Diego is a military town, a beach community and most importantly, “we do not want to be L.A.”  Without offending the majority of those folks, we were able to curate a collection of commissioned artwork that has raised the expectations of what the public will accept for the community of San Diego as a region.  Transforming that mindset has been particularly important to me.

Q:  What are you most excited about in your new role as Vice President of Public Art?

CYW: I’m most excited about getting to know the region and understanding the dynamics of the various communities both collectively and individually.

Q:  Nothing worthwhile is easy. What do you think your biggest challenge will be?

CYW:  I think my biggest challenge will be to pace myself and take one day at a time.

Q:  What do you ultimately hope to accomplish in your new role at ASC?

CYW:  I want to become fully acclimated as an active member of the community.  I think everything else will come naturally.


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