Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

ASC provides needed cultural experiences for students

10 Apr

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager 

Allen Tate - School Grants ProgramPutting cultural experiences in all Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools gives students a greater chance at success.

Ensuring such parity exists across schools regardless of student population is the goal of the Arts & Science Council (ASC) Education School Grants program, which provides up to $285,000 in total funding to local schools for cultural programming.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are eligible for $1,500 to $3,000 each. Schools spend their funds directly on cultural programming that aligns with their specialized learning environments and helps increase student success in a particular subject matter.

Before the school grants program began last year, only 83 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools received in-school cultural programming provided by professional artists, scientists, historians and other cultural providers the previous year.

In the first year, 154 of 159 CMS schools participated, resulting in cultural opportunities for students that wouldn’t have access to them any other way.

ASC is you and me making a real difference in a child’s life – one that makes success more likely than ever before.

ASC_2013_logo

Meet our spring Community Supported Art artists

20 Mar

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

Our spring Community Supported Arts (CSA) season kicks off this week! Nine talented local artists will provide CSA shareholders with original, limited-edition works of art at three pick-up events/art parties in March, April and May.

Here’s a look at each of the participating artists.

Carmella Jarvi: Buy on in – the water’s fine 

Drive down I-77 South and just after its intersection with W. Morehead Street you’ll see Jarvi’s work displayed on one of the ASC ArtPop billboards.

Drive down I-77 South and just after its intersection with W. Morehead Street you’ll see Jarvi’s work displayed on one of the ASC ArtPop billboards.

 

 

 

 

 

Wan Marsh – Faith, trust, and a little bit of Oprah dust 

This collage by artist Wan Marsh, entitled “Birdman,” is featured in the Arts & Science Council's ArtPop program, which places the work of 20 local artists on billboards across Mecklenburg County. Marsh's billboard is visible along Brookshire Boulevard.

This collage by artist Wan Marsh, entitled “Birdman,” is featured in the Arts & Science Council’s ArtPop program, which places the work of 20 local artists on billboards across Mecklenburg County. Marsh’s billboard is visible along Brookshire Boulevard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Partridge – Piecing it together

Scott Partridge’s work includes bright color and geometry as seen here.

Scott Partridge’s work includes bright color and geometry as seen here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren Doran – Snapshotting Lauren Doran

“Harvest” represents Lauren Doran’s skill at blending light, the everyday and the seraphic.

“Harvest” represents Lauren Doran’s skill at blending light, the everyday and the seraphic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Pellitteri – Standing proud – a Charlotte sculptor on the up and up 

Jonathan Pellitteri 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amy Sanders – Molding Charlotte’s art scene

These mugs bear Amy Sanders’ individual appliques.

These mugs bear Amy Sanders’ individual appliques. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Stephenson – A Living Canvas

 

“Johna Edmonds, Miss North Carolina 2013” by Mark Stephenson.

“Johna Edmonds, Miss North Carolina 2013” by Mark Stephenson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amy Bagwell – The poetic musings of Amy Bagwell

“Watching you Land” by Amy Bagwell. Photo credit: Taryn Rubin.

“Watching you Land” by Amy Bagwell. Photo credit: Taryn Rubin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terry Shipley – Animating life with Terry Shipley

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.

 

 

 

Studio 345 opens doors for spring series of adult art enrichment classes

22 Feb

By Chris Thomas 
Studio 345 Digital Media Arts Studio Teaching Artist 

Studio_345_FinalThe Arts & Science Council (ASC) education team is enthusiastic to announce a new series of arts enrichment courses for adults at Studio 345 for spring 2014.

Beginning in March, Studio 345’s fleet of multitalented teaching artists will team up to share their skills with adult learners in uptown Charlotte at Spirit Square, where the studio occupies space on two floors.

Studio resources include digital photography and filmmaking workspaces, music recording and voice-over booth facilities and a top-to-bottom screen printing and multimedia arts studio.

Over the last two school years, Studio 345 has served more than 300 creatively inclined Charlotte-Mecklenburg School students in the form of free out-of-school arts enrichment courses led by a diverse group of professional local artists.

Due to repeated inquiries about similar arts enrichment courses for those18 years and older, the ASC education team has decided to offer a series of classes and one-time workshops for adults, with the intention of gradually expanding public offerings for adults as the year progresses.

The pilot wave of courses and workshops are linked below. For more information about the offered courses and workshops and/or to register, click on the individual links or visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LSL572K.

Book Arts @ Studio 345

10 a.m. Saturdays March 1-March 29.

Book arts is a great alternative to scrap booking. Your artistic spirit guides content and design of the book.

Click here for more information.

“Night Moves” Charlotte

8 p.m. Fridays March 7-April 4

Photograph the city of Charlotte at night and capture the multitudes of color as you learn how to make photographs at night.

Click here for more information. 

 

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.

Faith, trust, and a little bit of Oprah dust

3 Feb

By Amy Bareham
Cultural and Community Investment Intern

Art is a fiercely loyal companion, something Wan Marsh, a 2014 Community Supported Art (CSA) participant, knows full well. Even when life drew her attentions elsewhere, art waited patiently for her return.

Their relationship began early on.

Artist Wan Marsh.

Artist Wan Marsh.

“I guess,” Marsh says, “like everyone else I was born an artist…I didn’t have any say in it.”

Adopted during her childhood years, Marsh considered art her refuge, starting out, like most of us do, with coloring books. When asked if she was a stay-inside-the-lines gal, Marsh laughed.

“Oh honey, I tried for years and years to color inside the lines…then I got tired of trying to be somebody I wasn’t.”

Fortunate to receive a tremendous appreciation for the arts from a Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school teacher, Marsh won numerous accolades, including the opportunity to study at the Governor’s School of North Carolina. She was only 16 though, and while art may have been ready for her, Marsh wasn’t ready for art – there were too many other responsibilities.

After 20 years of working as a draftsperson, Marsh grew frustrated with drawing technically.

“[It] was kind of a bipolar experience,” she said. “You get to draw, but you don’t get to draw what you want.”

The saga (as Marsh refers to her own personal art history,) reached its climax in 2001 when Marsh found herself sitting just a few rows away from Oprah Winfrey’s stage at a Live Your Best Life tour. In typical Winfrey fashion, Oprah asked just the right question at just the right time – if you could do anything with your life right now, what would you do? Marsh’s answer was simple: art. Oprah asked her audience a follow-up question – now, what’s holding you back?

The answer to this wasn’t so simple, but Wan’s lack of space was one component. When she pitched the idea of a serious art career to her husband, his response was to give her that space by constructing an art studio in their backyard. This studio has assisted Marsh in what she considers the most important part of artistry – keeping the spark alive.

Officially a full-time artist after resigning as a naturalist at the Charlotte Nature Museum this year, Wan includes her passion for landscaping and the natural world in each composition. These compositions are dynamic collages, thick with texture and bursting with color. Unlike oils, watercolors, pen and ink, or even photo-realism, collage is a medium devoid of formality. Marsh stresses this at the workshops she facilitates, explaining that collages are far more accessible than we assume.

Sometimes, she feels artists overwork their pieces, “kind of like on ‘Project Runway’ when they stick those boots on and a pocketbook and a hat. I try not to over-style my work.

“Give yourself the permission to screw up. That’s the masterpiece. Let your spirit be free to create…that’s what we were placed on this earth to do, to create.”

The magic of Marsh’s art lies in the element of story. Every piece has its own tale but Marsh stops adding layer and texture before the story’s finished.

“I give them enough information so they can fill in the blanks with their own history,” she said.

Those who buy shares in the CSA program for 2014 will receive one of 50 unique collages, each with a personal story. Using her combined media style, Marsh hopes to fascinate and delight, and is even considering a twist that may involve the use of minerals like mica. Ultimately she’s going for an “of the earth” aesthetic.

Like many local artists, Marsh considers art a universal language.

“I paint better than I write, or speak, or do anything,” she said. “I guess that’s what makes me an artist.”

Click here for more of Wan Marsh’s work.

This collage by artist Wan Marsh, entitled “Birdman,” is featured in the Arts & Science Council's ArtPop program, which places the work of 20 local artists on billboards across Mecklenburg County. Marsh's billboard is visible along Brookshire Boulevard.

This collage by artist Wan Marsh, entitled “Birdman,” is featured in the Arts & Science Council’s ArtPop program, which places the work of 20 local artists on billboards across Mecklenburg County. Marsh’s billboard is visible along Brookshire Boulevard.

Buy Your Share! 

Only a handful of shares for the spring season of ASC’s Community Supported Art program are available  at ArtsandScience.org. Shares are $500 each and limited to the first 50 buyers. For more information or to purchase, click here.

 

 

 

 

School grants help kids learn through the arts

31 Jan

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager 

They didn’t want to leave.

The first graders in Judy Yang’s art class didn’t want to take off their wooden shoes.

They wanted to dance. And they wanted to keep learning about The Netherlands.

“This is the best day of my life!” one student told Yang as he left her class.

Students at Tuckaseegee Elementary in Charlotte dress in traditional clothing and dance while learning about Africa through The World in Our Backyard, a multicultural program developed by Ineke Van der Meulen.

Students at Tuckaseegee Elementary in Charlotte dress in traditional clothing and dance while learning about Africa through The World in Our Backyard, a multicultural program developed by Ineke Van der Meulen.

Third, fourth and fifth grade students at Tuckaseegee Elementary in Charlotte had similar experiences recently while learning about Africa, Mexico and Australia, respectively, thanks to an Arts & Science Council (ASC) Education School Grant.

The ASC Education School Grants program provides up to $285,000 in total funding to local schools to provide cultural programming opportunities that align with their curriculum and help increase student success. Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are eligible for $1,500 to $3,000 each.

Tuckaseegee used its grant to bring The World in Our Backyard, a multicultural program developed by Ineke Van der Meulen, to the school for three days in January.

The program helps students understand how cultures evolve over time through photos and artifacts, stories and movement and by dressing students in traditional costumes. Yang said the program stood out to her because she knew it would help make her students more globally aware.

“I wanted to bring in clothes and instruments and artifacts and pictures so these kids could touch it, hold it and experience it,” Yang said. “A lot of times just teaching it to them on a smart board, they’re not involved in it, they don’t remember it. When they stand up and they dance and they play these instruments, they’re going to remember.”

In the process, the students were able to connect their “backyard” cultural experiences their prior learning.

“Whatever they are learning in the classroom, this backs it up,” Yang said. “For an experience to truly be educational, you have to be able to dive into it, be surrounded by it and be involved in it… that’s the only way for you to learn.”

Students at Tuckaseegee Elementary in Charlotte dress in traditional clothing and dance while learning about Africa through The World in Our Backyard, a multicultural program developed by Ineke Van der Meulen.

Students at Tuckaseegee Elementary in Charlotte dress in traditional clothing and dance while learning about Africa through The World in Our Backyard, a multicultural program developed by Ineke Van der Meulen.

Charlotte filmmaker follows the buzz with ASC grant

30 Dec

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

The Charlotte Hornets name is more than a cool mascot for the local sports team.

It recalls the Revolutionary War, when British General Charles Cornwallis referred to Charlotte as “a veritable nest of hornets” because of the resistance he faced in Mecklenburg County.

Charlotte filmmaker Rusty Sheridan.

Charlotte filmmaker Rusty Sheridan.

The name encompasses the “independent spirit I think has been in Charlotte for a long time,” said Charlotte filmmaker Rusty Sheridan.

“That’s why we have Independence Park and Independence Boulevard and Freedom Drive and Freedom Mall.”

For the past two years or so, Sheridan followed the grassroots movement to return the Hornets name to the city’s National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise, with the idea of creating a documentary. (The name went with Charlotte’s first NBA team when it moved to New Orleans in 2002 and the current team, founded two years later, was named the Bobcats.)

Relying on borrowed equipment to video “Bring Back the Buzz” gatherings and last-minute interviews, he’s compiled hours of footage for what will be his first professional documentary.

Making it easier for Sheridan to document the events leading up to what will be a historical moment for Charlotte – the Charlotte Bobcats announced in May that the Hornets name will return for the 2014-15 NBA season – is a 2014 Arts & Science Council Regional Artist Project Grant. Sheridan received $2,000 to purchase a Canon 6D camera for his film.

“A documentary is chaos. You’re running all over the place,” he said. “Now that I got the grant, I bought my own camera so I’ll be able to more easily run very quickly due to the chaotic nature of the documentary and go and get that footage in the spur of the moment.”

Though not born in Charlotte, Sheridan attended elementary through high school in the local school system before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2002. He left Charlotte to complete his master’s degree in film at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and returned in 2007.

“In my opinion, if you were here before the Hornets were here, you’re a Charlottean,” he said.

He grew up a Hornets fan and remembers how the community embraced its first major sports team following its inception in 1988.

“I saw what it was like,” he said, “that spirit, the energy, the excitement. We saw Muggsy Bogues driving down the road one time and everybody in my family started clapping.

“That doesn’t happen today.”

Bogues, a 5-foot-3 fan favorite on the original Hornets team, drove that point home in an interview for the documentary.

“Muggsy said, ‘Yeah, I think this (name change) should happen. There was a spirit in town in the 80s and the 90s when the Hornets were here and that spirit is not here now,’” Sheridan said.

So Sheridan kept recording, even though naysayers said the name change wouldn’t happen because it was too expensive – it’s estimated to cost the team about $4 million – or because the Bobcats brand was too entrenched in the community.

“I had a feeling it was going to happen,” he said. “I was passionate about the Hornets when I was a kid, so I had the sentimental aspect where I wanted to see it happen, but I realized as a filmmaker, this is a great story… it should be documented so that people can see it.”

The new Charlotte Hornets logo.

The new Charlotte Hornets logo.

‘Jazz Lives’ through Jazz Arts Initiative

30 Oct
935724_553068678079037_1726611540_n

Renowned trumpeter Mark Rapp performing the music of jazz master Miles Davis with tenor saxophonist Phillip Whack for a sold-out audience at THE JAZZ ROOM @ the Blumenthal Stage Door Theater. May 2013

By Lonnie Davis
Jazz Arts Initiative Executive Director

“…No America, no jazz…” the legendary drummer Art Blakey once said.

Jazz music has always been a direct reflection of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.  With humble beginnings over one century ago, it was born out of the rhythms of Congo Square and the brothels of Storyville right off the river crescent in New Orleans. Like a brewing pot of savory gumbo, it was created with layers of individualized flavors, layers of cultural experiences. Only in America, could this music have been created… all a product of our collective pain, perseverance, creativity, and aspiration. Like skyscrapers and cocktails, jazz is our gift to the world.

Why is jazz relevant in Charlotte? The list may surprise you— John Coltrane, Woody Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Billy Taylor, Max Roach, and Nina Simone – all born right here in the Carolinas.  These masters changed our world with their music and even today we are still being influenced by their mastery.

Continuing a legacy of Jazz through Performance

Final-9516

Renee Ebalaroza sings the music of legendary songstress Billie Holiday at THE JAZZ ROOM @ the Blumenthal Stage Door Theater for a packed house. – Oct. 2013

The music of our Carolina jazz masters and others can be experienced first–hand at Jazz Arts Initiative’s (JAI) monthly classic jazz concert series—The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater.The acclaimed inaugural 2013 spring/summer season was highly successful with sold-out audiences enjoying live jazz in the The Stage Door Theater, part of Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, at the corner of 5th and College in Uptown Charlotte.

The series’ second season is underway. It continues to take place on the third Tuesday of each month (except for Dec. 10th) at 6 p.m. and features the Charlotte region’s most gifted musicians recreating the sounds of jazz masters like Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and Dave Brubeck. The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater provides a casual, intimate setting with tables and a full bar. Limited tickets are only $10 in advance and can be purchased at http://www.carolinatix.org, by calling 704-72-1000, or at the door if available.

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, Jazz Room: Holiday Edition will feature five of Charlotte’s top jazz pianists playing the music of the legendary composer Vince Guaraldi, (known for scoring Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” Christmas special) and other classic holiday favorites.  This festive evening will include a catered pre-reception and a silent auction to support the JAI Jazz Academy and performance-based programs.

Other performances will be on Jan. 21, Feb. 18 and March 18. For The Jazz Room Season 2 lineup, visit www.thejazzarts.org.

Camp w. Donald 2

JazzArts Summer Music Camp w/ Donald Harrison: Fun moments at the 2013 JazzArts Summer Music camp with guest clinician, international jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr.

Inspiring a passion for music through Education

In the spirit of cultivating and preserving “American’s original art form” for future generations, Jazz Arts Initiative offers education-based programming through its JAI Jazz Academy. The Jazz Academy includes in-school programs, free community master classes, jazz youth ensembles, and summer jazz camps. Students are taught by notable local, regional, and international jazz educators and performing artists. Some of JAI’s past guest clinicians have included NEA Jazz Master Award recipients and internationally renowned artists/educators Delfeayo Marsalis and Jamey Aebersold. On Oct. 8, JAI Jazz Youth Ensemble students were privileged to meet legendary jazz trumpeter and cultural ambassador Wynton Marsalis following his Charlotte concert, “Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration featuring the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra,” presented by the Arts & Science Council (ASC), Knight Foundation and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. 

Wynton Collage

Wynton Marsalis Meets JAI Students: The great Wynton Marsalis with students from the JAI Jazz Academy Youth Ensembles after the Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration featuring the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church- Oct. 2013

JAI’s Jazz Youth Ensemble program has been supported in-part by ASC and the NC Arts Council through the Cultural Projects Grant. This popular program includes four jazz workshops for beginner through advanced students from across the Charlotte region in grades 7-12. The Jazz Youth Ensemble program provides weekly learning opportunities in jazz repertoire, improvisation, theory, history, instrument technique and performance coaching.  JAI Ensemble students are featured regularly, performing at numerous Charlotte community events and programs. The 12-week spring semester will begin Feb. 9, 2014, with auditions on Jan. 18 and 25. Students interested in joining the Jazz Youth Ensembles program for spring 2014 can register at http://www.theJazzArts.org or call JAI Executive Director Lonnie Davis at 704-336-9350 for more information. You can also follow Jazz Arts Initiative on Facebook and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/thejazzarts.

Don’t curb your enthusiasm for the work of the city

29 Oct

By Bernie Petit
Communications Specialist 

Being stuck on a tour bus in uptown Charlotte traffic – just in front of the new Romare Bearden Park – didn’t bother free-spirited artist Sheila Klein.

IMG_0696

Art and design experts, city staff, artists, master gardeners, farm-to-table restaurant chefs and nonprofit leaders, among others, gathered at McColl Center for Visual Arts before tour of city yards.

She was too busy talking enthusiastically about the stoplights, gutters and other seemingly mundane city infrastructure.

“I’m an observer of the minutia of the city,” Klein said. “I’m really fascinated by the connection between those things and everything else.”

As the bus slowly made its way out of Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship traffic towards the city yards for transportation and signage, she pointed out some of the streetlights and talked about the metaphors associated with light – safety, hope and positivity.

“Once you think about things like that, it seeps into other parts of your life and culture,” she said.

Having that lesson sink in for a motley crew that included included art and design experts, city staff, artists, master gardeners, farm-to-table restaurant chefs and nonprofit leaders was one of Klein’s objectives in organizing the recent tour.

“ We’ve got the luminaries and the gloominaries,” joked Klein, the artist commissioned to create public art in conjunction with Charlotte’s first Greenroad (a certification similar to LEED for buildings). The Greenroad streetscape project will be located just outside the 1-277 loop in the North Tryon Business Corridor.

The project won’t be completed until 2016, but Klein has already made herself at home at the city yards searching for materials and inspiration for the public art portion of the corridor, which she says will be “the next area of Charlotte that really changes.”

Her trips to see the city at work inspired her to arrange the tour. There’s a lot of design and work that goes into maintaining a functional city that we don’t really think about, she said. When it’s done well, the work can add to the beauty of the city.

IMG_0702

North Tryon Street Corridor artist Sheila Klein takes pictures while at one of the city’s street maintenance facilities.

At the first stop, a tour of one of the city’s three street maintenance facilities, the tour group saw some of the materials used to keep our streets functional – mounds of dirt and gravel, inlet covers and gutter grates and even 5,000 tons of road salt for use during winter weather.

IMG_0758

New street signs ready to go.

At the city facility where traffic signals, pavement makers and pedestrian crosswalks, among other things, are made, participants saw the detail that goes into making street signs and talked to some of the folks responsible for fabricating 12,000 city signs a year.

Exposing the group to the work that goes into such design got them thinking about new ways to reuse the materials that end up at the city yards. It also had artists on the bus chatting about ways to create temporary exhibits using salt and how to replicate the street sign fabrication process.

Those creative conversations were sparked once participants really took notice of city infrastructure we normally disregard.

Next time you’re stuck in traffic, give it a try.

You’ll never look at a streetlight or a stop sign the same way again.

Four cultural turning points that shaped Charlotte-Mecklenburg

4 Oct
Spirit Square on North Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte.

Spirit Square on North Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte.

By Bernie Petit
Communications Specialist 

Charlotte might be considered a young city, but its cultural roots run deep.

It’s what makes October, or National Arts & Humanities Month, an ideal time to not only celebrate the arts and culture we enjoy locally, but to also explore the cultural past that laid the foundation for all of it.

Therefore, to recognize the role the arts and humanities have played in shaping our city and county, we’ve asked Arts & Science Council (ASC) Interim President Robert Bush and Dr. Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South, to share four turning points in our cultural history.

1) Turning Point: The Great Depression

Tom HanchettIt was during the Depression era that Charlotte took some notable cultural steps. Among them, the first North Carolina municipal orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, is founded in 1932.

“There’s this crazy guy (founding symphony conductor Guillermo S. de Roxlo),” Hanchett said, “who says, ‘Everybody’s out of work anyway. Let’s play music.”

Today, Hanchett said, you’d expect a city of Charlotte’s stature to have an orchestra. But back then, “Charlotte and Raleigh and Winston-Salem were all kind of vying for bigness, so it was not obvious that Charlotte, the business center, would get it.”

Four years later, to save the original branch of the United States Mint, the treasury building was torn down and reassembled in on Randolph Road as the Mint Museum of Art. It was the first art museum in North Carolina.

“So we come out of the thirties with a celebration of history, which is what the Mint is, even though it’s not a history museum,” Hanchett said. “It’s a celebration of art and a celebration of history.”

2) Turning Point: The Bicentennial

“People could see it coming and it was a moment of reflection, of taking stock, of dreaming big,” Hanchett said of the U.S. Bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1976.

From that contemplation came the Historic Landmarks Commission and the Fourth Ward Historic District, which demonstrated that history could be the nub of new construction at a time people were leaving the center city in droves.

At the same time, a group of citizens put together a plan to save an abandoned downtown church, which led to Spirit Square.

“We now take for granted that we will have arts institutions throughout uptown,” Hanchett said. “But in 1975-76, when Spirit Square was being created, that was a wacko idea.”

Spirit Square helped create momentum for Discovery Place, which opened in 1981 right across the street “in a part of the city – North Tryon Street – that people had assumed was just going to be abandoned,” Hanchett said. “So there in just a very few years – five, six years – the Bicentennial is a beacon. Folks began to create this robust arts culture that we have – arts, science, history, heritage – that Charlotte is known for.”

3) Turning Point: A champion for Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s long-term cultural health

As bank executive who built NCNB into what became NationsBank (and ultimately Bank of America), Hugh McColl realized

Robert Bush

Robert Bush

that in order to compete for top talent, he needed to help make sure Charlotte could offer young workers the quality of life they were looking for.

His recognition of the role the arts and humanities play in attracting and building a talented workforce is what made his support of ASC and artist such as Ben Long (he of the Bank of America Corporate Center and Transamerica Square frescoes) critical to the cultural community. It also made him the ideal person to chair the 1995 Endowment for the Arts & Sciences campaign.

“We needed to start building endowments for the long-term health of the sector and that campaign was the first major effort to endow,” Bush said. “It raised $27 million dollars.”

4) Turning Point: “Angels in America”

ASC briefly lost county funding in the 1990s in the aftermath of the controversy surrounding the 1996 play “Angels in America,” performed by the former Charlotte Repertory Theatre, which was an ASC-funded affiliate.

At the time, the Charlotte theatre was one of six American companies granted the rights to produce Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning epic, according to “Creative Loafing.” Still, its homosexual themes and full frontal male nudity during a hospital examination scene sparked the controversy that led five county commissioners to vote to suspend ASC funding in 1997.

Despite the funding loss, ASC sustained major operating support to its cultural partners. The 1998 ASC annual fund drive broke records among united arts funds across the nation, as a team of 800 volunteers raised $6.6 million – a 14-percent increase above the $5.7 million goal. In 1999, the county restored ASC funding.

“‘Angels in America,’” Bush said, “is clearly a watershed moment in the cultural history of this city and it solidified that art is protected by freedom of speech and the first amendment.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers