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Charlotte museum awarded NEA grant

17 Apr

Compiled by Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

A Charlotte museum has been awarded an Art Works grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as part of the second half of its fiscal year 2014 funding.

ImageThe Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture will receive one of the coveted Art Works grants, which support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence: public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancing the livability of communities through the arts.

The Gantt Center will receive $40,000 to support a digital plan for the John & Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American Art. The collection includes 78 two-dimensional works by 20th-century African-American artists such as Romare Bearden, Margaret Burroughs, Jonathan Green, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Ann Tanksley and Henry Tanner. The project will include expanding the interactive capabilities of the website and improving image and video streaming quality to make the collection widely available.

McColl Center for Visual Art, North Carolina Dance Theatre and Opera Carolina previously received a combined $42,500 in Art Works awards during the NEA’s first round of grants for 2014.
For every dollar invested by the NEA, grantee organizations raise an additional $9 in support from other, non-federal sources.

“We know that arts and culture play an important role in our nation’s economy, with the most recent numbers showing the sector comprising more than 3.2 percent – or $504 billion – of GDP,” said NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa. “The NEA is proud to support the nation’s nonprofit organizations which are an integral part of the arts and cultural sector. These NEA-supported projects will not only have a positive impact on local economies, but will also provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in the arts, help our communities to become more vibrant, and support our nation’s artists as they contribute to our cultural landscape.”

ASC helps theatre reach all generations

4 Apr

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

The Arts & Science Council (ASC) supports Matthews Playhouse and its mission through a Cultural & Community Investment grant.

The Arts & Science Council (ASC) supports Matthews Playhouse and its mission through a Cultural & Community Investment grant.

A funny thing happened when Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts began offering productions for kids nearly 20 years ago.

Adults wanted to play, too.

So the playhouse expanded to give adults in southern Mecklenburg opportunities to shine.

“We try to be a big arts presence in Matthews,” said playhouse representative Melisa Verch. “They love the arts here and we try to be a big venue for that.”

It’s why more than 6,000 students will see a Matthews Playhouse performance with their school this season.

“Introducing them to live theatre is important,” Verch said. “It helps their favorite books come to life, it sparks their imagination and it creates a love of the arts.”

The Arts & Science Council (ASC) supports Matthews Playhouse and its mission through a Cultural & Community Investment grant.

“A grant from ASC,” Verch said, “helps us to do things just a little bit better than maybe we would have otherwise.”

ASC supports our entire community.  Its impact reaches all corners of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and Matthews Playhouse’s multi-generational cultural experiences are further proof that everyone benefits.  ASC is you and me.


Spring festivals provide outdoor cultural experiences

4 Apr

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

If you’re looking for something to do outside in the coming weeks, you’re in luck.

The arrival of spring means outdoor festival season is upon us, and the Arts & Science Council (ASC) is helping give families across our community plenty to look forward to this season.

ASC supports festivals throughout the year primarily through Town Initiative Grants and Cultural Festival Grants, which increase access to arts, science, history and heritage offerings and strengthen the quality of cultural programming in neighborhoods and towns throughout Mecklenburg County.

Several of festivals supported by ASC take place in the spring, when the warm weather and longer days beckon us outside after the cold and gloom of winter.

Here’s a look at five festivals taking place in April and May you won’t want to miss. Admission is free unless noted.

Charlotte World Parade and Festival.

Charlotte World Parade and Festival.


When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 26.

Where: Freedom Park, 1900 East Blvd., Charlotte.

What’s Happening: The hometown multicultural and international event celebrating all cultures in North Carolina starts with a Parade of Nations, an authentic exploration of cultures showcasing more than 45 countries from all over the world with vibrant, colorful, native dresses. The festival includes a variety of live cultural entertainment all day, as well as cultural displays and interactive exhibits, and international crafts and food.


Kings Drive Art Walk.

Kings Drive Art Walk.


When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 26 and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. April 27.

Where: Little Sugar Creek Greenway on Kings Drive, 600 South Kings Dr., Charlotte.

What’s Happening: Presented by Festival in the Park, the annual event focuses on fine and emerging artists. Nearly 80 artists, ranging from clay and metal to mixed media and painting, will have their work on display and available for purchase. There will also be a jazz music stage both days.


Art on the Green.

Art on the Green.


When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 26 and noon-4 p.m. April 27.

Where: Main Street and town green in downtown Davidson.

What’s Happening: North Mecklenburg’s largest annual art festival brings thousands of people to Davidson to enjoy art, live music and food. The juried art festival features booths filled with art works from artists throughout the region. The weekend also includes musical performances by a variety of local talents and a host of food choices from on-site vendors and area restaurants.


Hello Huntersville Festival.

Hello Huntersville Festival.


When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. May 10.

Where: Downtown Huntersville.

What’s Happening:  Huntersville’s annual music and arts festival will feature regional artists, live music, chalk drawing demonstrations, local restaurants and food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, children’s rides and activities and more.


Romare Bearden Park.

Romare Bearden Park.


When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. May 3 and noon-4 p.m. May 4.

Where: Romare Bearden Park, 300 S. Church St., Charlotte.

What’s Happening: The inaugural Romare Fest at Romare Bearden Park will feature performances from regional artists, art, children’s activities and more.


*Romare Fest is not supported through an ASC Cultural Project Grant or Town Initiative Grant; ASC hired Seattle artist Norie Sato to work with Charlotte-based LandDesign to integrate themes from Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden’s work in the park, which opened last year.

Differences Dissolve Through the Arts

4 Apr

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

CPCC presents Dances of India at 4 p.m. April 26 on campus at Halton Theater.

CPCC presents Dances of India at 4 p.m. April 26 on campus at Halton Theater.

Barriers – racial, language or otherwise – are broken each spring on the Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) campus.

They are torn down by graceful movements during Dances of India performances that promote unity and celebrate diversity.

“We bring people together through performing arts to show that we are more alike than different,” said event organizer and acclaimed performer Dr. Maha Gingrich.

CPCC presents the 12th Anniversary of Dances of India at 4 p.m. April 26 on campus at Halton Theater. The event features traditional Indian classical and folk dances – rhythmic movements that tell the story of ancient India through costumes, dance dramas and music.

The event’s signature dance, “Unity in Diversity,” will be set to a live international orchestra and feature an array of international dances.

Dances of India.

Dances of India.

“Using performing art, there is no language barrier,” Gingrich said. “It opens people’s eyes and makes them think beyond racial barriers. You get rid of those barriers through performing arts.”

She organized the first Dances of India event in 2000 at CPCC. In addition to showcasing the beautiful diversity that exists in the Charlotte region, the performances highlight how traditional Indian dances have influenced dance forms across the world.

Indian dance has influenced tap and flamingo dancing, among others. And festival dances in India, Greece and Italy share commonalities, Gingrich said.

Through Dances of India, “I was able to bring in different dance forms and groups and tell the story of how India’s dance has influenced other cultures,” she said.

Support from the Arts & Science Council (ASC) has allowed performances to grow exponentially and expose broader audiences to CPCC, Gingrich said.

“When people support ASC,” she said, “they’re supporting a vision of Charlotte as not only an international city but a city that has a history, a city that supports science and takes pride in the art and artists that exist in our city and the region.”

“We bring people together through performing arts to show that we are more alike than different,” said event organizer and acclaimed performer Dr. Maha Gingrich.

“We bring people together through performing arts to show that we are more alike than different,” said event organizer and acclaimed performer Dr. Maha Gingrich.

Want to Go?

The 12th Anniversary of Dances of India takes place at 4 p.m. April 26 at Halton Theater on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College, 1206 Elizabeth Ave., Charlotte. Tickets are $10 adults and $5 school-age children. More information:

ASC President Robert Bush shares how culture influences the next generation

19 Mar

By Robert Bush
ASC President 

Robert Bush

Robert Bush

My parents thought I had lost my mind.  They made certain that I had every opportunity, including seeing me complete my M.A. in community education and securing a teaching position at a school for at-risk youth, so they couldn’t fathom how I could toss all of that work aside.  After four years of teaching language arts and outdoor skills (whitewater, back packing and rock climbing), I quit.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love teaching – I still do – but the opportunity to be the executive director of a local arts council was too much to resist.  After all, I was trading a traditional classroom of kids for a county full of people and a cultural classroom that contained museums and theatres, libraries and science centers, a symphony and chorales.  What I did not know is the extent to which my next 33 years would be filled with classroom moments of wonder, awe and inspiration as I watched children and youth encounter the arts, science and history in real ways.  That’s what I want to share in this letter – two stories of how chance encounters made faces light up and perhaps changed a life’s path.

I expect that like me, you believe arts in education is important.  Did you know 86% of Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents agree that arts, music, drama and dance education programs in schools are important in helping children do better in other academic subjects?

I could fill the rest of this letter with numbers that show the importance of making the arts core to the education of every child.  Some are very compelling.  For example, a student involved in the arts is:

  • Four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement;
  • Four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair; and
  • Three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.

Even better,

  • Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are more than twice as likely to graduate from college as their peers with no arts education;
  • 72% of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring; and
  • Students who take four years of art and music classes average almost 100 points better on their SAT scores than students that take only one-half a year or less.

But back to the stories…

I don’t remember his name, but I can see him sitting alone in the school multipurpose room – a nice looking young man of about 10 or 11, but his visual and physical impairments were obvious.

John, the artist-in-residence that I had brought with me to visit the school, was a Juilliard trained pianist, a charismatic performer who could charm any audience with his easy approach to making classical music approachable.  John sat down at the piano, the children got quiet and he began to play.  I believe it was a Chopin Étude, and immediately, the young man I spotted previously sat up in his chair, clearly responding to music.

At the end of the performance, the young man’s teacher brought him up to meet John.  She told us he had never spoken.  John spoke to him and asked if he liked the piano, the young man immediately nodded his head.  John asked him to sit on the piano bench next to him and began to play.  He played a musical phrase, stopped and without hesitation, the young man played the phrase back to him on the piano.  This went on for almost 30 minutes before it was time to go.

I learned a tremendous lesson that afternoon – the power of art to connect human beings and the power of musical language to transcend all language and communication barriers.

I experienced a similarly profound moment during my time at the Mint Museum.  A young African American woman was visiting the museum during her 7th grade field trip with other CMS students, and I happened to come upon the group in the European Art Gallery.

The young woman was examining every inch of the coronation portrait of Queen Charlotte by Sir Allan Ramsay.  She got close and looked, and then, she stepped back.  Her concentration was on her hair and her regal attire.  She shook her head and nodded knowingly as she took a final step back and announced to her classmates, “Don’t tell me she isn’t a sista.”

Allan Ramsay (Scottish, 1713-1784) Created: circa 1762 Materials: Oil on canvas Dimensions: 96 x 63 inches Not currently on display Gift from Frank Ryan Harty to Mint Museum

Allan Ramsay (Scottish, 1713-1784)
Created: circa 1762
Materials: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 96 x 63 inches
Not currently on display
Gift from Frank Ryan Harty to Mint Museum

The docent quickly told the students that, in fact, their fellow classmate was very perceptive, and Queen Charlotte’s lineage did, indeed, included Moors from the Portuguese royal family, and she quite possibly was biracial.

I learned, during that brief encounter with a school group, the power to see yourself in a work of art that might seem so foreign to your condition, and how that connection can positively influence your aspirations and goals.

When I left my formal classroom years ago, I didn’t fully understand how I would continue to experience the joy of teaching – not as the teacher, but as part of organizations that help make teaching moments tangible through arts and culture.  I’ve witnessed children enthralled by Opera Carolina’s performance of The Three Little Pigs; seen teenagers come face-to-face with the history of our city at the Levine Museum of the New South; watched pre-school classrooms light up with the mere presence of a storyteller; experienced sheer delight with middle school students during their first time working in a science lab at Discovery Place; and sat with proud parents as their sons and daughters performed in the Winterfield Elementary School Orchestra.

Those were just a few of the thousands of young faces I’ve seen touched by the power of the arts, science and history, and they’ve completely validated the moment I shocked my parents many years ago.  But even more important, I want everyone that has donated to ASC (or one of our cultural partners) to understand that you are a part of those young people’s experiences.  Your actions set up the table for wonder!

Help ASC keep those moments of wonder in motion by enabling even more arts, science and history experiences for the next generation.  By supporting their cultural growth and well-being, we ensure our community’s well-being.

ASC is You & Me – now and in the future.

Animating life with Terry Shipley

14 Mar

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern 

“I guess the best way to describe it is it’s very accidental…I’m an accidental artist.”

Equal parts humility and wonder light up Terry Shipley’s face when she begins talking about ceramics, a passion she discovered at age 42. A Community Supported Art participant, she considers herself living proof that it is never too late to embrace something new.

These flowers are unique to Terry Shipley and, though tedious to make, are one of her favorite projects.

These flowers are unique to Terry Shipley and, though tedious to make, are one of her favorite projects.

For Shipley, the something new was clay painting which boomed in popularity several years ago. She would spend hours at paint the bisque-ware places until her infatuation was so deep that “friends finally said stop it, go take a class.”

Those classes led to a nine year stint renting space from Clayworks as well as significant time spent at Jewish Community Center workshops. These experiences allowed for intimate clay study devoid of any intimidation. Maybe this is why Shipley speaks so fondly of clay, almost as though it’s an old friend – ceramics are a comfortable, all inclusive medium.­

The opportunity to cultivate her relationship with clay on a full-time basis came from the McColl Center for Visual Art’s Artist in Residency program. As an affiliate artist, Shipley had access to a blend of local artists who inspired and challenged.

Now, Shipley has a definitive identity as a ceramics artist, including a wild color palette, the use of flowers, and stacking – most evident in her totem pieces. Conceptually, Shipley focuses on hand-building, a method of working that enables her to connect best with the clay.

“I exclusively hand-build,” she said. “I usually start with a slab construction, flat, and make different forms I can slump clay onto or into.” Even though hand-building comes with a price, (“it’s physically demanding and the repetition can take its toll”) she forges on.

Once she bought herself a kiln, Shipley was an unstoppable clay-working force. She caters primarily to décor and says she would describe herself – her aesthetic – as decorative. This is evident when studying her art. There isn’t a centralized message; the ceramics are simply beautiful testaments to human creativity.

“It’s not social issues,” she said. “I’m not trying to make an important statement. I kind of pursue decorative form. I

Pictured here is a more sculpturally intensive work that exhibits the stacking technique.

Pictured here is a more sculpturally intensive work that exhibits the stacking technique.

read the newspaper in the morning. My voice is the alternative I want to that, I want something gentler, something happier.”

Most engaging about Shipley is her continuing desire to learn. She fosters that desire within herself, improving her painting skills thereby improving her clay-work, and within others. Her wall pieces, featured at the Levine Children’s Hospital, included the ideas of local fifth graders.

“I’m not a teacher but fifth graders are amazing,” she said. “Their enthusiasm is so strong. Little ones, they’re just wide open.”

CSA shareholders will benefit from Shipley’s dedication, receiving a painted vase with a “very lively, fabulous pattern” just in time for spring fauna’s arrival.

Fair warning: Shipley’s joie de vivre is contagious. Meet her and you will be changed, but sit with her for a while and you will realize you have dreams that have lain dormant far too long.

Click here to view more of Shipley’s work.

Let’s Dance!

13 Mar

Compiled by Bernie Petit
Communications Manager 

Now in its eighth year, the Charlotte Dance Festival presents two days of performances and classes with local and national professional dance companies and choreographers Friday and Saturday, March 14-15, for CLT Dance Weekend.

Dance Charlotte performances will run both nights of the festival at 8 p.m. at the Booth Playhouse at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, 130 N. Tryon St., Charlotte. Performances will feature a juried selection of performers and the CDF Repertory Ensemble in a new work by New York-based contemporary hip-hop choreographer Jennifer Archibald. Tickets are $7-$20.

Jennifer Archibald HSA variety of Master Classes for dancers of all ages and levels, including several for local professionals, will take place Saturday at Spirit Square, 345 N. Tryon St., Charlotte. Class offerings range from jazz and ballet to contemporary and Afro-fusion. Classes are $10-$15 per class.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, Charlotte Emerging Dance Awards (CEDA) will bring together area youth dance programs at Booth Playhouse to perform and experience a professional festival atmosphere.

For more information, visit or email


Bodiography Contemporary Ballet / Maria Caruso

Dance Charlotte! Performers
Bodiography Contemporary Ballet / Maria Caruso (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

d a n a h b e l l a DanceWorks (Pulaski, Va.)

THE MARK/Arlynn Zachary (Charlotte)

Linda Thompson (Charlotte) – 48 Hour Project Winner

Warped Dance Co. (Sheboygan, Wis.)

CDF Rep Ensemble / Jennifer Archibald (Charlotte/New York)

4thright dance company (Charlotte)



CDF Repertory Ensemble Dancers

Audrey Baran, Caroline Calouche, Amanda Floyd, Val Ifill, Alex Lieberman, Elizabeth Sanford, Mackenzie Smith, Ashlea Sovetts and Britney Stevenson

Her job? Igniting wonder in the world around us

6 Mar

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager 

Megan York has the greatest job in the world.

Or at least she likes to think so.

Megan L1006769As an informal educator at Discovery Place, “I get to dress up in costume and blow stuff up,” she said. “I mean, really? I won the job lottery. Not everybody would like it, but it’s exactly perfect for me.”

Her job combines her two passions – science and theater. York attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics her last two years of high school before earning a degree in physics at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia and teaching middle school science for six years in Cabarrus County.

She’s been involved in theater since she was 13 years old, recently appearing in the Citizens of the Universe local production of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

“I’ve just always been this way,” York said. “My report card from second grade would say things like ‘Megan loves reading aloud. She loves doing character voices for the kids and she loves our science lessons.’”

She’s still doing the same things, only now it’s not part of her permanent record. To accompany the “101 Inventions That Changed the World” exhibit at Discovery Place, York created the steampunk character Necessity, i.e. “the mother of invention,” as a way to interact with guests and enhance the exhibit experience.

As Necessity, York gets guests at the science center talking about deep-thinking questions, like “Is all change good?” and “Why are there no women on the list?” – the latter being a reason she created her character.

“Technically, there is no inventor of duct tape,” York said, “but the person you can most credit it to is a woman named Vesta Stoudt.”

Stoudt developed a method that allowed for tape to be torn rather than cut.

“So she’s not considered the inventor of duct tape,” she said, before whispering, “but we all know she is.”

One of the cultural sector contributors featured in 2014 Arts & Science Council Annual Fund Drive campaign materials, York joined Discovery Place fulltime in September 2013 after working in its summer camp program for two years. Discovery Place is one of more than 20 cultural organizations in Mecklenburg County that receives unrestricted operating support through ASC.

Discovery Place, she said, exists to ignite wonder. And being a part of that is the most important thing that she can do in the world.

“I want to surprise people and amaze people and the way that works for me – it’s the same motivation a magician would have or a singer would have,” she said. “I want to evoke in other people these feelings of awe and wonder and interest and fascination and joy because to me all those things are very joyful and I think that those are very important emotions for people to have.”

ASC is You & Me using science to help kids and adults better connect to the massive curiosity of the world we’re all born with.


Saturdays are for dancing

4 Mar

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager 

Like most of us, Fraxedy Gomez looks forward to the weekend.

But not because she gets to sleep in.

Fraxedy Gomez.

Fraxedy Gomez.

Her Saturdays are spent in the dance studio, learning folkloric Latin dance – along with cultural and historic-related content – as a member of the Carolinas Latin Dance Company, supported in part by a $2,500 Arts & Science Council (ASC) Cultural & Community Investment Grant

“Dance has been pretty much my life since I was little,” said Gomez, who has danced with the company since she was 7 years old. “On Mondays I would go to school and I would be excited for dance and would tell myself ‘I’m going to dance on Saturday.’

“‘After Saturday practice, I would be like, ‘aww, I’m done with dance – go to school again and come back.’”

This year, she’s also teaching beginning dancers that are about the same age she was when she started 11 years ago.

“It’s been a new experience because usually I’m the one that’s getting taught,” said Gomez, an 18-year-old senior at Butler High School. “I like seeing how little girls are interested in dancing and hopefully they can do it for as long as I have.”

One of the cultural sector contributors featured in 2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive campaign materials, Gomez said she loves to dance the salsa.

“You get to put your own flair to it – more emotion, more style,” she said. “Salsa is just something you can express yourself in.”

She especially likes performing on stage and making people aware of the Latin American culture found in Charlotte (both of her parents are from Nicaragua). She also appreciates the structure dance provides her.

“It puts you in the right mindset for school and activities and it opens up more opportunities,” she said. “It keeps you busy instead of going off doing other things and not being responsible. It teaches you how to be responsible.”

ASC is You & Me giving everyone in our community something to cultural to do on the weekend – and every day of the week.


Molding Charlotte’s Art Scene

28 Feb

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

To those of you who chose the math or science track and feel condemned to an un-artsy existence, find hope in Amy Sanders, a potter selected for the Arts & Science Council’s Community Supported Art program.

Originally at school for biology, Sanders took a ceramics class during her sophomore year and caught the art bug. She went on to receive a BA in art and a certification in secondary education.

After serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer for two years with Habitat for Humanity, Sanders and her husband settled. A lack of studio space meant that she took a brief hiatus from pottery, sewing for a while instead. When she returned to the ceramics scene, Sanders was trading labor for space at Clayworks. Teaching lessons provided access to art.

These mugs bear Amy Sanders’ individual appliques.

These mugs bear Amy Sanders’ individual appliques.

“The chunk of time that I was sewing for my creative outlet started breathing life into my ceramics,” Sanders said. Essentially, texture, trim and color from the sewing days imprint themselves in her clay pieces and give depth to each surface.

Sanders makes these pieces in a studio she and her husband constructed in the backyard, a place where she can experiment with pattern and shape. Because Sanders has two young boys, she works primarily at night to remain active in the clay field, although she still continues to teach.

“I love…inspiring other people…keeping my feet wet in the art community without having to produce a lot of work,” she said.

How does a potter with kids on the run protect her creative time?

By combining efficiency and talent and using hand-made stamps in the design process. Sanders does this using small pieces of bisque fired clay (the kind of firing that makes the clay hard, pre-glaze). Using stamps “gives me a visual vocabulary,” she said. “I’m getting texture that is personal and does have meaning.”

Furthermore, the space between the designs “becomes really interesting as well.” Stamps alleviate the pressure of Sanders having to draw a pattern, but still provide a sense of intricacy.

Right now, Sanders is playing with molds, trying to mark both the inside and the outside of pieces.

“I’m a more is more gal,” she explained, adding that she ultimately wants buyers to discover more on the item after their initial first-glance.

For the CSA program, she is delivering 50 serving bowls. These are the perfect size for individual use (read: one

Amy Sanders has found her niche combining functionality with art as seen here.

Amy Sanders has found her niche combining functionality with art as seen here.

incredibly hearty bowl of soup), or can be used as side dishes. They’re dishwasher safe and will feature appliques that Sanders stamps into thin clay and then attaches.

Said Sanders: “I love the idea of having something beautiful that’s also functional…things from your life bleed into your art so often.”

Clay is a friendly medium anyway, but bowls make art even more approachable because everybody eats therefore everybody needs something from which to eat. CSA shareholders dig out your cook books and prepare for your little piece of Amy Sanders – coming soon!

Click here to view more of Amy’s work.


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