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.

More than just a trip to Yellowstone

31 Jul

By David Fowler
Communication Intern

A group of students from Studio 345 went to Yellowstone National Park in July on a once-in-a-lifetime camping trip.

But their experience runs deeper than just a trip to Wyoming, thanks to Park Journeys, Inc., a youth development organization which seeks to educate, energize, and empower urban and rural youth through exploration, wellness and civic engagement.

By partnering with Park Journeys, students active in Studio 345 – the Arts & Science Council’s out-of-school youth development program for high school students – have been able to participate in a unique 16-week program focused on community service and stewardship, nature and outdoor experiences, and civic involvement.

pj1During the first phase of the program, which revolved around mental and physical commitment to self and community (with a heavy emphasis on community service), students worked closely with The Relatives, a youth shelter and support system in Charlotte focused on keeping kids safe and families together.

“We’ve hung out with the kids, helped repaint their kitchen, and planted flowers in their garden. It feels good to help people out, and it built up our teamwork before we went on our trip to Yellowstone,” said Jordan Jeffries, a student at Studio 345 participating in Park Journeys. “It forced us to work together like we (had) to do out in the wild.”

The second phase emphasized wildlife, ecosystems and geology. Before their trip to Wyoming, participants prepared for what they would encounter in Yellowstone by going on smaller camping trips locally. Those experiences exposed them to new things and empowered them to be both self-sufficient and a part of larger team while camping in the national park.

“It’s given me an opportunity to get out of Charlotte and do something I’ve never done before,” said participant Daquan Barnette. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to do and see new things.”

The final phase will happen this fall and will focus on participation in and ownership of the democratic process. One local Park Journeys participant will be selected to join Park Journey delegates from across the country in Washington, D.C., to meet with national policy makers, showing students that they have a voice in the democratic process.

“It’s been really great just to work with these kids in the community and in nature,” said Emily Pfahl, one of the trip leaders. “It’s rewarding to give them an experience that they will remember forever and to see them grow as a group in the process. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.”

‘Spiral Bound’ shows importance of arts education

31 Jul

By David Fowler
Communication Intern

A harsh reality in the public school system is that while many children thrive and complete their education, not every child has the same opportunity. Some students struggle to keep up. Others drop out altogether.

This issue is addressed and explored in Spiral Bound, Living and Learning Through the Arts, a new documentary that takes an honest look at the current state of our education system and follows a passionate mixed group of high school students from the Arts & Science Council’s Studio 345 – an out-of-school youth development program for high school students – and education scholars from nearby Davidson College as they stand up, speak out, and try to change our education system and their futures for the better.

spiral bound image 1The film 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). You can watch the trailer here.

“It was important to us that we premiere in Charlotte because we get our support from the community and this is where the students in the film are. It was important to us that we celebrate the premiere in the McGlohon Theatre, the same space Studio 345 students celebrate and showcase their accomplishments” said Barbara Ann Temple, ASC vice president of education and co-writer of Spiral Bound. “And it was equally important to include a Davidson premiere because of the partnership between Studio 345 and the Davidson Education Scholars.”

The documentary asks why our education system fails to reach some of the most at-risk children in our education system and offers arts education as a solution for helping those children find success personally and in the classroom. Arts education provides opportunities for students to find their passion and strive for improvement and growth. It helps develop creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. And it is disappearing from our public schools.

Dustyn Brigham, one of the students featured in the film, said that before he got to Studio 345 he’d never touched a camera. He discovered his love of film and photography on his first trip to the studio, but without Studio 345 he said he never would have found it.

“Studio 345 has definitely made me more confident,” Brigham said. “Something about having a passion makes everything else in life more enjoyable. I think that finding something your passionate about is healthy for your life and I found film at Studio 345.”

Arts education is too important to let it fade away. With the guidance of Bill Strickland of the Manchester Bidwell Group, Studio 345 created Spiral Bound to illustrate how crucial the arts are can be and how the defunding of art programs has had, and will continue to have, a negative impact.

For tickets to the McGlohon Theatre premiere on Sept. 9, CLICK HERE. For ticket to the Davidson College premiere on Sept. 11, CLICK HERE.

Promoting student accountability by teaching less

30 Jul

By Scott Cunningham
Davidson College Education Scholar

“I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
“Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?
“I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black.
My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch.”

Digital & Medial Literacy Camp students working hard on a project.

Digital & Medial Literacy Camp students working hard on a project.

These lyrics come from one of the six songs my students and I listened to during my specials course at Studio 345’s second session of Digital and Media Literacy Camp. Specials are hour-long, student-selected classes that range from movie making to cup stacking. Mine focused on Writing Rap Lyrics. In eight days, the group was expected to create a rap song, cover art, and a brief analysis of what their work meant.

We began each class listening to snippets of songs by artists such as Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, and Eminem.

After listening to the song, I led a discussion on how the lyrics related to the theme of identity. On the last day of class, however, I decided to conduct a small experiment. I wanted to see if the kids actually learned something. I was curious if anything we worked on the last few days had stuck.

“Alright we’ll listen to this song, and then you all can decide what you want to do.”

To my surprise, the kids launched into a discussion about what they had just listened to, asking each other what parts they underlined, how it related to the song, and what it all meant. One seventh grader in particular, Shahim, continued raising his hand to contribute, despite being silent for the majority of the discussions. The experience enlightened me on how teaching less might actually help kids learn a little bit more.

After each discussion, I very intentionally framed the purpose of the project and how I hoped everyone would draw from the discussions while making their music. After those introductions, however, I stepped back and told them they were responsible for the use of their time. I decided I would not touch any of the content, even if the students found themselves in a dead end.

At every other point, however, I was amazed by how much the kids were able to accomplish on their own as I watched. Once I set the parameters for the group, they were free to explore all avenues within that context, make their own discoveries, and facilitate their own learning.

Educators are taking this approach towards student accountability more often than ever before. Monument Mountain Regional High School used a student-driven method of teaching by giving students the freedom to select their own projects, course content, and timelines. The program naturally encountered difficulties, but also found success that went far beyond what some thought possible.

“There were so many moments where you could see students being inspired[....]And they learned that with that much control comes a great deal of responsibility, to manage time and be accountable,” says Mike Powell, the main advisor of the pilot project.

My decision to let my students manage their own work felt undeniably risky. I could not know if they would meet their deadline, or if our class would be left without anything to present on the last day of camp. To my surprise, however, they turned in all of the required materials by the final day. In my opinion, that experience of pure accountability will benefit them immensely in the future.

“The idea was that it was for students who could manage their time well, were looking for something more than the traditional program, and had a passion for learning,” said Powell.

I think many students have that passion for learning, so long as we allow them to pursue their passions while still guiding them gently along.


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.

An Investment Worth Making: A Future Pop King?

9 Jul

By Scott Walker Cunningham
Davidson College Education Scholar

2014 Digital and Media Literacy Camp student Abekh El

2014 Digital and Media Literacy Camp student Abekh El

“Do you like your name, Abekh?”

“I don’t like it. I like Jackson 2.”

“Do you feel a certain way when you dance?”

“I just love dancing. And when I dance I feel like I’m famous.”

I overheard this hallway conversation between seven-year-old Abekh El and 17-year-old Morelia Trinidad as they collaborated on a 30 second film showcasing Abekh’s self-proclaimed dance skills.

The project was for a breakout session at Studio 345’s Digital & Media Literacy camp that Abekh enrolled in and Morelia worked at as an intern. Breakout sessions offer afternoon courses that students sign up for by preference, customizing learning experiences for participants. The options this time around included Claymation, piñata making, cup stacking, and movie making. Abekh and Morelia picked the last one.

Dressed in a dark, felt hat and leather shoes, Abekh spun around the room, liable to fling off his hat or spring onto his toes in a Michael Jackson-like manner at any moment. These moves were almost always accompanied by an impressive hip gyration. Once, he even moon walked the near quarter mile from 7th Street Market back to Studio 345.

During more sedentary activities, Abekh was often difficult to settle down. But in the white-walled hallway with cameras rolling, the setting seemed natural for him. Abekh came alive as the music echoed off the walls. He slid, spun, pounced, and clapped between beats. No one was telling him to sit down, and for six straight minutes he danced like the King of Pop was watching in the corner. It was beautiful.

Feeling the groove, Abekh shows off his best moves.

Feeling the groove, Abekh shows off his best moves.

While stories of young talent like Abekh’s are not rare, his opportunity to cultivate those talents in programs like Studio 345’s is much less common. Research shows that this proves true for both Charlotte and the nation as a whole.

The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) produced a report in 2009 on the benefits of and needs for afterschool programming. In 2006, “86% of the providers surveyed [by the Afterschool Alliance] said that children in their communities who need after school programs do not have access to them.”

The national statistics correspond on a local level as well.  In 2011, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Out of School Time Task Force reported around 28,000 of the 140,000 youth in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County (CMC) that were enrolled in afterschool programming.

They also found “an estimated 35,000 additional youth [that] could benefit from afterschool programs,” leaving only 44-percent of students in need enrolled in programming. The demand exists in the CMC community for more programming, but the supply seems short.

The benefits such programs have on students are well documented by researchers. NIOST finds that arts-focused afterschool programs “can increase academic achievement, decrease youth involvement in delinquent behavior and improve youth attitudes towards themselves, and others and their futures.” Despite these findings, the Out of School Time Task Force found only “10% of youth were enrolled in summer programs that year.…[and] an estimated 3,800 youth on waiting lists for free and subsidized programs.”

When the task force approached the listed afterschool providers about this unmet need, they found lack of financial support and shrinking subsidies as commonly cited factors. These providers, however, state that they could meet the needs of additional youth with better financial support, leading to stronger staff, better facilities, and larger enrollment capacities.

The afterschool sector needs both private and public support, but the apparent costs are not as taxing as they seem. Investors and citizens alike capitalize on the social benefits of better funded afterschool programming. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids notes how “[q]uality youth development programs can cut crime immediately into academic enrichment, wholesome fun and community service.”

There are also economic benefits in supporting education. NIOST notes the Rose Institute’s findings that “[e]very dollar invested in high quality afterschool programs save taxpayers on average $3.00.” The World Literacy Foundation also finds a 3.7% increase in long-term economic growth and 6% increase in per capita income for every year that the average level of education is raised, a demonstrated result of well-executed afterschool programming.  For anyone unfamiliar with economics, ask a banking friend. That sort of growth is significant.

Aside from the financial incentives, Teach for America-Charlotte intern, Nate Harding, illustrates the social responsibilities for all citizens in improving education opportunities for youth. “We are stake holders in the future of learning [….] Volunteer, donate, advocate – the form of support you choose to take is of little importance; what matters is that you take action.”

In Studio 345’s media lounge, Morelia edited Abekh’s video on Final Cut Pro, a skill acquired during her time at Studio 345. When I asked Morelia why she decided to enroll in the program two years ago, she said that in fourth grade, she and her cousin wrote screenplays for videos. She loved filming, and when she heard about the opportunity at the studio, she had to sign up.

“I felt lucky, you know? Not many kids get to run into things like this.”

Abekh sat beside her on a dark-leather bench. Both stared at the computer screen while she worked on the video’s transitions. Abekh jumped up from his seat every time he saw himself pounce onto his toes.

“That’s me! I did that.”

Constant mouse clicks ticked over the music like a metronome.

“Yeah,” said Morelia, “Lucky would be the word.”


Abekh giving all the right moves.

Abekh is by no means a criminal, but he's certainly smooth.

Abekh may not be the King of Pop (yet), but he already has some smooth moves.














Scott Cunningham is a rising junior at Davidson College with an interest in civic engagement, social entrepreneurship and the arts. His hobbies include creative writing, photography, acoustic guitar and most things athletic. He can be reached at scott.cunningham@artsandscience.org.

New leaders graduate into the cultural sector

2 Jul

By: Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

The Cultural Leadership Training (CLT) class of 2014 is poised to make its mark on our cultural sector.

Elizabeth Sheets of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Erin Pais of Wells Fargo Securities, Scott Martin of Wells Fargo Securites, Mary Ellen George of Carolina Healthcare System and Karen Cannon of Carolinas Healthcare System

Elizabeth Sheets of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Erin Pais of Wells Fargo Securities, Scott Martin of Wells Fargo Securites, Mary Ellen George of Carolina Healthcare System and Karen Cannon of Carolinas Healthcare System

On June 10, 2014, 30 of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s emerging leaders graduated from the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) innovative program designed to connect them with their cultural passion and prepare them to serve on boards of nonprofit organizations in Mecklenburg County.

At a ceremony on the stage of the Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts, the cultural grads celebrated the knowledge and skills they gained through the intensive, nine-month program.

With the graduation of the 2013-14 class, more than 280 CLT alumni have completed the program, many of whom are actively serving in leadership roles with local arts and cultural organizations, said ASC Vice President of Cultural & Community Investment Katherine Mooring.

“We are proud that, for nine years, this program has fostered talented leaders to support the cultural organizations that mean so much to our community,” Mooring said. “Each year we are amazed by the wide range of gifts, skills and knowledge possessed by the individuals who participate in CLT, as well as the depth of their commitment to supporting arts and culture in our community.”

Katherine Mooring of ASC, ASC President Robert Bush, Bob Bertges of Wells Fargo and ASC Board Chair and Piedmont Natural Gas Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Karl Newlin

Katherine Mooring of ASC, ASC President Robert Bush, Bob Bertges of Wells Fargo and ASC Board Chair and Piedmont Natural Gas Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Karl Newlin

CLT, described by a former graduate as “a backstage pass to all the cultural arts programs in town,” provides participants opportunities to deepen their appreciation of the sector, with cultural scavenger hunts and a “speed dating” session where they get to know local cultural organizations in a series of 10-minute conversations.

The emphasis, however, is on the legal responsibilities of boards, fundraising roles, arts advocacy, audience development, strategic planning, board/staff relations and how to be an effective board member. By equipping the next crop of local leaders with the tools to be productive volunteers and board members for cultural organizations, the entire cultural community stands to benefit.

“Cultural organizations gain board members and board apprentices who are better prepared to help them adapt, grow and succeed, which is important when you consider the challenges facing the cultural sector,” Mooring said.

Luke Volmar of Neighboring Concepts, Carolina Raptor Center Executive Director Jim Warren and Rober Hall of U.S. Trust

Luke Volmar of Neighboring Concepts, Carolina Raptor Center Executive Director Jim Warren and Rober Hall of U.S. Trust

The CLT program is supported in part through the generosity of Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP. Now that CLT class of 2014 members have figuratively turned their tassels signifying their graduate, ASC looks forward to welcoming a new class in September.


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