Africa Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness

3 Oct

*UPDATE - “Africa Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness” has been postponed until November 2014.The new dates are now Thursday, November 20th through Saturday, November 22nd.

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Africa Umoja USA 2

“Umoja,” loosely translated, means “together” or “unity.”

And, with the rhythmic beating of drums, jubilant dancing and infectiously delightful songs, there may not be a better example of the spirit of togetherness than Africa Umoja, which unites 32 of South Africa’s brightest and most versatile young performers in an uplifting and energetic stage production.

A colorful celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the end of apartheid in South Africa and a testament to the indigenous South African people and their music, “Africa Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness” comes to Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts.

Africa Umoja traces the evolution of South African music and dance from the earliest rhythms to the club sounds of kwaito, the African version of hip-hop that became popular around the time Nelson Mandela took office as South Africa’s president in 1994.

There are traditional love songs, lullabies, musical expression of rural life and songs that reflect the pain of the migrant laborers and their families.

There are also the reminiscent sounds of the vibrant jazz that forced its way free from the constraints of the time and the gospel hymns symbolic of the faith and courage that saw black South Africans through some of the country’s stormiest historical passages.

But, from the forced removals and relocation of black people that occurred when apartheid went into effect in South Africa in 1948 to the “Rainbow nation” optimism of post-apartheid South Africa, Africa Umoja is an explosion of song and dance that will have audiences stomping their feet and clapping along.

Opening night s ASC Night at Africa Umoja. Arts & Science Council donors that have registered their Connect with Culture card were emailed a special discount code to receive 20-percent off their tickets on the Tuesday, Oct. 14 performance. You can register your Connect with Culture card here.

For tickets or more information about Africa Umoja, click here.

Africa Umoja USA

iCreate

3 Oct

By Amy Bareham
Cultural and Community Investment Intern

Jonathan Grauel.

Jonathan Grauel.

Innovation is today’s buzz word. It has become one of those foundational pillars on which we place dreams for improved education, community and technology. Although we do our best to dress it up with highbrow jargon, innovation at its simplest is people thinking creatively.

Charlotte artist Jonathan Grauel is one such thinker.

A graduate of East Carolina University and former tutee of renowned artist Bob Rankin, Grauel is quickly developing his own legacy as a local creative. His ability to think outside the box – or rather his ability to draw new boxes of all shapes and colors – enables him to take snippets of reality and filter them through imagination, thereby making entirely original artwork with a timeless message.

Grauel’s career began in those formative childhood years when he “enjoyed visual things” and found himself constantly sketching, drawing and doodling. After receiving a BFA in painting and toying with sculpture, Grauel married the two disciplines by painting with three-dimensional figures.

In 2007, Grauel was injured in a garage shelving project and suffered the loss of a finger. OrthoCarolina hand specialist Glenn Gaston was instrumental in preserving Grauel’s range of motion, but the future of his painting career was uncertain.

Fortunately, Grauel’s art cultivates a spirit of hope, evident in the digital turn his art took after the accident. Using an iPad, he found a new vehicle for self-expression and community engagement but is still able to paint traditionally as well. The process for both styles is not dissimilar.

“I start off by responding to what [is] going on around me, I put down a couple words that I hear,” he said. “I

A digital creation by Jonathan Grauel.

A digital creation by Jonathan Grauel.

might start off with a shape from a cup on the table…and that will lead to other lines and shapes that…will play off of each other and spiral up.”

Layering color palettes with shapes enhances the dialogue Grauel can have regarding the final product.

“One of my best painting teachers in college, Paul Hartley…was great and encouraged in me the idea of layering and visually stepping back and seeing the shapes and how they interact…That really resonated with me and stuck,” he said. “Even now with the iPad or when I’m painting with acrylics I’m stepping back…there’s this constant kind of movement of stepping forward and back.”

Grauel is passionate about sharing his art with the community and his affinity for layering also allows collaborative projects to flourish. His work was selected for the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) inaugural year of ArtPop!, which displays the work of local artists on Charlotte-area billboards, and he is also one of the nine artists participating in ASC’s Fall 2014 Community Supported Art (CSA) program.

His ArtPop! piece, currently displayed off Bill Lee Freeway and Reames Road in Charlotte, began in a fifth-grade classroom.

“A lot of them had never touched an iPad so at the end of the session I said okay, everyone come up here and you each get 60 seconds to make marks,” he said. “Each one had to layer on top of each other’s marks and then I took that and built a village on top of it using their colors.”

These villages feature in many pieces and are inspired by “the places that we go emotionally, spiritually [and] physically.” Grauel explained that he tries to create surreal landscapes that might tap into what other people are going through. The landscapes have adapted a language all their own he says.

“Arches are decisions, the rooks and the towers tend to be security,” he said. “If I look back over time [they are] a journal of my emotional health and everything else and may have something other people can relate to.”

Being influenced by his external world in this way brings unique animation to every piece. There are recognizable elements in his work that makes it accessible.

To appreciate Grauel’s work, it is important to appreciate innovation in its purest form.

“Everyone wants to think that art is just this high education sort of deal and entertainment,” he said. “We get pigeon holed into that…I go to a show and I have these people that surprise me…it’s not so much an age as much as outlook on things and on the world. They’re interested in the shape and they’ve been able to get past the oh it has to look a certain way to oh wow there’s a story [here]. Anyone who’s willing to hear that story is willing to delve into [the art].”

Click here to view more of Grauel’s work.
Click here for a link to the ArtPop! Driving tour.

Sweet Home Carolina

29 Sep

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

Fall 2014 Community Supported Art artist Clayton Joe Young.

Fall 2014 Community Supported Art artist Clayton Joe Young.

There’s a place we Carolinians go to escape where rocking chairs abound and front porches whisper stay awhile. This place is where CSA participant Clayton Young was first captivated by photography and it is called Appalachia.

Something about the mountains begs for our undivided attention. Their stalwart presence invites us to breathe a little deeper and reconnect with our roots. Young’s photography enables us to do just that, resurrecting the folklore of seasons long ago and integrating it into our present with poetic effortless.

Originally from Davidson County, Clayton Young spent ample time with his grandparents before tackling adulthood – namely college and a trip out West. Although Young bought a secondhand camera for this trip, it wasn’t until he returned to Appalachian State University for his MBA that he actually took a photography class. Within a semester, he had changed his major to photography and began exploring the mountains for stories to capture. He formed deep relationships with the locals, meeting people who lived off the land and invited him to talk of simpler days. “I felt like I was walking back in time,” said Young.

After a short stint in photojournalism, Young received his MA and MFA from SCAD and embarked on a study of nostalgia. “I tried to figure out how I could turn the camera more inward and express myself, the way I see things…they originally thought [nostalgia] was a disease…a longing for the past. But when you get there…the places aren’t even the same…your memory is kind of selective – there’s a little bit of folklore thrown in there and I kind of played off that too.”

CSA shareholders will get to travel down memory lane with Young’s project which features Charlotte

An example of Clayton Joe Young's work.

An example of Clayton Joe Young’s work.

architecture. At first glance, his images may appear to be Instagram art and that’s kind of the point. “I’ve created 10 new images, 5 of each, and they’re all of a historical structure in the Charlotte area…I want people to see it and put the pieces together – the story behind it and what happened to it. The pictures themselves are…an ode to Instagram. It’s like an organic feel to Instagram. I’m actually using…antique cameras to take them.”

Us amateurs may recognize that aged, vignette feel from our favorite photo sharing app, but Young is using a different approach to create vintage prints. He’s modified a Pringles can because of how the plastic lens keeps the light out, altering the quality of the photo and giving it a new aesthetic. These prints in particular are a fusion of yesterday and today.

It’s evident that Young is a preservationist of both yesterday and today, documenting what may otherwise go unnoticed. The question we now face as curators of our own stories is where’s our Appalachia and how are we capturing it?

Check out more of Young’s work here.

Cultural and nonprofit organization placements for 2013/14 CLT grads

25 Sep

Compiled by Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

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

The Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) Cultural Leadership Training (CLT) program identifies and prepares emerging leaders to serve cultural organizations and nonprofits across our community. ASC is pleased to announce the following cultural and nonprofit organization placements for 2013/14 CLT graduates:

Rachel Banks, Carolinas HealthCare System – Possiblity Project
Courtney Channell, GreerWalker, LLP – Possibility Project / Playing for Others
Jessica Churchill, Bank of America – Children’s Theatre
Whitney Combs, Queens University of Charlotte – Mint Museum
Melissa Countryman, JE Dunn Construction – Children’s Theatre
Michael DePalma, Duke Energy – Theatre Charlotte
Adam Doerr, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, PA – Sustain Charlotte
Bernadette Donovan-Merkert, UNC Charlotte – Community School of the Arts
Mary Ellen George, Carolinas HealthCare System – Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Amanda Guile, civic volunteer – Clayworks
Robert Hall, U.S. Trust – Carolina Raptor Center
Kate Hussmann, Charlotte Hornets – ASC
Melissa Kennedy, Duke Energy – Possibility Project
Steve Kinney, North Highland – Blumenthal Performing Arts
Candice Langston, UNC Charlotte, College of Arts + Architecture – Carolina Raptor Center
Sasha Levons, Helen Adams Realty – Community School of the Arts
Elizabeth Nagari, CMS/South Mecklenburg High School – Mint Museum
Tyler Niess, Crescent Communities – Levine Museum of the New South
Patrick Paige, Jenkins-Peer Architects – Festival in the Park
Erin Pais, Wells Fargo Securities – Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Joy Pinchback, Wells Fargo – Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte
Sara Piner, Bank of America Global Capital Management – Community School of the Arts
Josh Pittman, Grant Thornton LLP – Theatre Charlotte
Scott Shail, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP – Community School of the Arts
Ziya Tarapore, civic volunteer – Mint Museum
Mike Vasaune, Wells Fargo – ASC
Luke Volkmar, Neighboring Concepts – Carolina Raptor Center
Stephanie Walker, Grant Thornton LLP – Carolina Raptor Center
Justin Wilkes, Elliott Davis PLLC – Jazz Arts Initiative

The nine-month CLT program gives participants a deeper understanding of the cultural community through educational sessions and cultural events and programs. Participants serve one-year apprenticeships or as board or committee members of local cultural organizations and nonprofits at the conclusion of the program.

Keep calm and mold on

24 Sep

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

Julie Wiggins.

Julie Wiggins.

As I sat in Julie Wiggins’ studio, I decided the way she imprints clay with careful designs is one big metaphor for how she imprints people with her quiet observations. She is one of those singular people who truly appreciates the mundane and knows the importance of reflection. A graduate from Eastern Carolina University, Wiggins was exposed to pottery through a college friend – a friend ultimately responsible for pushing her towards a degree in ceramics.

The budding potter went on to pursue graduate work as a student of the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute in China, where porcelain was discovered a little over 1,000 years ago. Although my knowledge of Chinese pottery is severely limited, I enjoyed Wiggins’ thoughts on notorious artist Ai Weiwei and female oppression.

“They [China] have such a turbulent history that I think he’s [Ai Weiwei] really speaking to the suffering of people and what they’ve gone through…so having lived there, I get that,” Wiggins explained.

“The thing that fascinated me studying in China was as an American and a woman I am the decorator and the glazer and the firer. There, they specialize in one area. I was very aware of my freedom of expression and how lucky I am to be able to make what I love. And people support me doing that.”

Most women in the Jingdezhen area can only focus on Yixing teapots because these can be made in the home and allow women to fulfill all of their domestic obligations as required by societal standards.

After returning to the States and being studio manager of Clayworks, Wiggins felt it was time to focus on full-time artistry. With two electric kilns and a close community of fellow potters – including previous Arts & Science Council Community Supported Art (CSA) participants Terry Shipley and Amy Sanders – Wiggins is able to create functional pieces with rich detail. Her trademark style is marked by feminine shapes and designs which help fulfill her goal as a potter: to encourage people to use beautiful pots in the home every day. While she doesn’t use many of her own pieces in the house, she does own an extensive collection of other artists’ work.

“It brings me a lot of joy to remember that person and the connection we have,” she said. “I’m constantly studying the pots in my home to help me refine the pots that I make.”

A passion for arts education means Julie can enable others to refine their ceramics skills. Prior to the great China adventure, she worked as an elementary school art teacher and continues to mentor students through an outreach program for Mecklenburg Catholic schools.

“I think it’s very important,” she said, “me being a working artist present in a kid’s creativity and help[ing] foster that…Had I had a program like this and someone really shown me that I had other talents at a young age, things could have been a little different. Plus it gets me out of the studio so I don’t take myself too seriously.”

Rest assured you really won’t find a humbler soul than Wiggins.

So what can CSA shareholders expect from her at the first pick-up event? A handcrafted tumbler with drawings

An example of Julie Wiggins' work.

An example of Julie Wiggins’ work.

that Wiggins will incise using an Exacto blade. The imagery will be of native birds, flowers and food representative of North Carolinian culture. These tumblers are symbolic of reverting to old traditions – utilizing pottery in the home is evocative of simpler living.

Wiggins hopes Charlotte understands what it means to press pause and really connect with art.

“We’re such a vibrant, lush area…Romare Bearden Park is another stunning example of where we need to keep going. The elements of water and sound…and then to see people coming together and playing…laughing aloud, they’re not on their cellphones…realizing art in the everyday is slowing down.”

If you’d like to see more of Wiggins’ work, her local ceramics group Thrown Together Potters has a sale October 4th- 5th. Visit her website here.

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

28 Aug

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arts refuse to be ‘Spiral Bound’ in upcoming documentary

28 Aug

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

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

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

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

(Click here to see the trailer.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Barbara Ann Temple.

Dr. Barbara Ann Temple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets to the Charlotte world premiere of “Spiral Bound” are $10 adults and $8 students and are available at CarolinaTix.org. Tickets to the Davidson premiere event are $10 adults and $5 students and available at Davidson.edu/the-arts/ticket-office.

For more information about the documentary, visit www.spiralboundmovie.com.

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