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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.

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.

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.

Thank You From ASC

29 Jul

By Robert Bush

ASC President Robert Bush.

ASC President Robert Bush.

Thanks to the support of public and private donors, like you, the Arts & Science Council has secured $13 million to invest in the cultural sector for fiscal year 2014-2015. These dollars incorporate funds raised through the 2014 Annual Fund Drive, restricted gifts for special projects (such as Project L.I.F.T. intercessions and Knight Innovation), endowment earnings, foundation grants and public funding from the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Arts Council, and Mecklenburg municipalities.

I am pleased to announce that ASC’s Board of Directors has approved allocations totaling $10.8 million for 2014-2015. ASC’s initial awards for the year total $6.6 million. These grants fund 49 neighborhood cultural projects, festivals, programming in all Mecklenburg County municipalities, and support the operations of 22 cultural organizations. Additionally, ASC has received $750,000 that will be passed to Blumenthal Performing Arts for the operations of Spirit Square. We anticipate ASC will distribute $1.4 million in education, $1.2 million in public art and additional project and technical assistance funding in the coming months.

Although ASC is funding organizations and programs, the cultural sector continues to face a revenue challenge. Unfortunately, that challenge has impacted the sector’s work in cultural education more than ever this year.

Due to ASC’s Annual Fund Drive having an $800,000 shortfall on a $6.9 million goal, ASC has suspended its support of arts, science, and history curriculum-based field trips for students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. This cut impacts more than 50,000 CMS students. ASC has also made reductions internally and in other grant programs including Cultural Project Grants, Festival Grants, Technical Assistance Grants and School Grants.

These cuts were not an easy decision to make. Without an increase in financial support from the public and private sectors, ASC cannot sustain the funding for these field trips to Discovery Place, Latta Plantation, Blumenthal Performing Arts and other cultural organizations.

I am happy to let you know that despite the campaign shortfall, there is no decrease in funding to the 22 cultural organizations in Mecklenburg County that receive unrestricted operating support in fiscal year 2014-2015. These grants had been cut annually for years, so it was a top priority to keep the funding level flat to help them retain a strong financial footing.

Even though the cultural sector faces a setback related to the field trips, I am proud of the initial round of investments that will help provide access to cultural experiences that are personally empowering and transformative. I hope you, your family and friends will be able to experience many of them for yourselves.

Thank you again for your support of ASC.

Cultural Life Task Force releases its findings

16 Jun

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

CLTF Final Report-Instagram

Artwork by Sharon Dowell

The blueprint for creating a sustainable funding model to secure Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural sector has been revealed.
The Cultural Life Task Force – a diverse group representing local philanthropy, non-profits, government and business – has released its final recommendations for funding the arts and culture sector. Over the last 13 months, the citizen task force examined the history and current financial state of the local sector, as well as similar cities across the nation, to offer insight for how to pay for the Charlotte region’s cultural life.
In order to ensure vibrant, accessible arts, science and history programming for future generations in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the task force recommends four key goals:
1) Restructure private sector giving to increase donations directly to cultural organizations. This includes establishing the Arts & Science Council (ASC) as the gateway for new cultural donors and participants who enter the sector through a workplace campaign.
2) Engage local and state government to recommit and expand support for the cultural sector to restore the public/private partnership that built and grew the local arts, science and history sector.
3) Redesign ASC and its mission so that it can be more effective in leading the cultural community’s adaptation to 21st-century trends in philanthropy, demographics and citizen participation.
4) Support ASC cultural partners with administrative, fundraising and managerial resources as they revise, build and improve their programmatic, revenue and governance operations and sustainability.
“The sector-wide transformation begins with stabilization by private donors and government, continues through increased efficiency, engagement and outreach by local cultural groups, and moves toward long-term solutions through a restored public/private funding partnership,” the 174-page report reads.
For decades, the public-private fundraising model of workplace giving campaigns and partnerships with local and state government earned the dollars necessary to support cultural institutions and fund neighborhood projects, education programs for school children and grants to individual artists.
But over the past several years, local arts, science and history nonprofits have endured severe revenue reductions from public and private source, a trend exacerbated by the severity of the downturn in Charlotte resulting from the national financial crisis.
Some groups have since closed their doors, while others cut administrative functions. In many cases, organizations have attempted to do more with less, spending money on programming while trimming staff and fundraising resources.
“That’s a great plan if it’s a temporary plan,” task force co-chair Valecia McDowell, an attorney with Moore & Van Allen, told The Charlotte Observer. “Eventually you get to a place where that begins to cripple the organization, and it begins to crumble under the weight of its own infrastructure.”
Civic, corporate and community leaders formed the task force in May 2013 to examine the history and current financial state of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg cultural sector and to ensure its viability.
Task force members were appointed by the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Charlotte Center City Partners, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, UNC Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Foundation For The Carolinas, the Charlotte Chamber and ASC.
“Arts and culture are imperative to our region’s vitality and are a major contributor to the quality of life her in Charlotte,” said task force co-chair Pat Riley, president of Allen Tate Realtors. “The path we’re on will not sustain the cultural sector we need to remain an outstanding place to work and live. This task force has worked diligently to make sure no stone was left unturned and every factor was considered. I am proud of the blueprints we have presented that will, hopefully, spark positive change in Charlotte.”
The report also recommends shifts in ASC’s strategy. Among them:

• Redesign the annual fund drive to a year-round cultural campaign;
• Launch a major data collection, warehousing, analysis, and sharing project;
• Strengthen ties with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority to make the city more of a cultural tourism destination; and
• Design and implement a $125 million endowment campaign over the next decade, in collaboration with its cultural partners and the Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust.
“There is nothing in here that scares me,” ASC President Robert Bush told the Observer about the recommendations. “There is much here that makes me think in new ways. We’re up for the task.”

A community appeal from ASC

12 Jun

From 2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive Chair Richard T. “Stick” Williams and ASC President Robert Bush

Whether you live, work, go to school in or visit Charlotte-Mecklenburg, you benefit from the organizations and programs supported by dollars from the Arts & Science Council (ASC).

For that reason, back in January we asked the community to dig deep to help ASC reach its 2014 Annual Fund Drive goal of $6.9 million to sustain the cultural sector. And it’s why we’re asking you to dig a little deeper to help ASC reach its goal.

2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive Chair Richard T. "Stick" Williams.

2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive Chair Richard T. “Stick” Williams.

The public portion of ASC’s campaign was scheduled to end April 30. In May, ASC worked to wrap up remaining employee campaigns as well as finalize corporate and foundation gifts. However, as of June 1, we have commitments for $6 million — $900,000 short of the goal.

In order to finish the job, ASC is making a special appeal to the community to help us reach our annual campaign goal by June 30.

Reaching this goal is vital. Fewer dollars to ASC means fewer dollars to support cultural groups that have suffered more than a 40-percent reduction in funding since 2009. It also brings less cultural programming; cuts to grant funding that provides greater access to arts, science and history experiences; and possibly the elimination of cultural events our community has grown to cherish.

This year’s $6.9 million goal represents a 7-percent increase over the $6 million in unrestricted dollars and $450,000 in education funding ASC raised for the cultural community in 2013. Last year’s campaign fell $500,000 short of its unrestricted-gifts goal, resulting in a 4-percent cut in operating support to organizations.

ASC President Robert Bush.

ASC President Robert Bush.

The Annual Fund Drive campaign cabinet believes ASC can fill the gap by extending this opportunity for individuals and companies to donate.

Please remember – and tell your friends – that every dollar to ASC matters. Individuals can make a gift online at or can mail a check to Arts & Science Council, 227 W. Trade St., Suite 250, Charlotte, NC 28202. If you have already given, please consider giving a little more. If you just haven’t gotten around to making your pledge, please make it happen by June 30.

Thank you to all of the campaign volunteers for your hard work to date and to those individuals and companies that have donated to ASC.

For 56 years, our community has rallied together to raise the funds that have built and sustained our arts, science and history organizations. Together we can meet this challenge again.

ASC is You & Me!


A new place to spark STEM learning

30 May

By David Fowler
Communications Intern

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats


Ribbon cutting for the new Discovery Place Education Studio.

Ribbon cutting for the new Discovery Place Education Studio.

So it reads on a wall inside the new Discovery Place Education Studio in Uptown Charlotte, a professional development program for pre K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) educators. However, these are more than decorative words on a wall.

The quote defines the purpose of the Education Studio and its mission.

The studio will train educators through hands-on methods, awe-inspiring curriculums, and collaborative partnerships in hopes of bringing a sense of wonder back to STEM classrooms. By developing STEM teachers through various programs, Discovery Place hopes to have a massive trickle-down effect to the students in those classes. So often all it takes is a spark of intrigue to light a fire of passion.
The studio will provide teachers with the opportunity to hone their craft and become inspired, impactfulEd Center 3 STEM educators. With workshops ranging anywhere from DIY rockets and catapults to hydroponics, and various field experiences in topics like archaeology and sea turtles, there is no shortage of opportunity for growth, inspiration, and ideas for STEM teachers to bring back to their classrooms and incorporate in their own curriculums.
There is no universal way of learning that works the same for everyone, and Discovery Place recognizes this fact. Because no two students learn the same way, programs at the studio will aim to arm educators with resources and curriculum ideas, while also encouraging teachers to adapt these tools to fit the needs of their own students.
With the support of Bank of America, Duke Energy, UTC Aerospace Systems and OrthoCarolina, Discovery Place will open its doors to educators this summer. Through the creation of other partnerships, Discovery Place hopes to continue to develop the studio and grow its impact on STEM education in the community.
The future of STEM education in Charlotte is bright.


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