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

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.

Skyon Tryon signals rebirth of North Tryon Corridor

2 Jul

By: Bernie Petit
Communications ManagerIMG_3843

A subtle new temporary public artwork can be considered an early sign of the planned transformation of the North Tryon Corridor.

“Skyon Tryon,” created by artist Sheila Klein and installed the first week of June, is a public art installation on the underside of the I-277/North Tryon Street Bridge – the gateway into the corridor from uptown Charlotte.

If you’re in front of the McColl Center of Art + Innovation and looking away from uptown, you’ll see the bridge, located between 11th and 12th streets.

The horizontal ribs of the underpass were painted in a manner that forms a circle in the center of the space, or the sun of “Skyon Tryon.” The hue of blue used references the sky and helps define the volume of the space, according to Klein.

“This project serves to make you aware,” she wrote in her artist statement, “that the city is being developed as a new corridor to the north down Tryon, that pedestrian and bicyclists experience of the roadway is important.”

IMG_3924In 2013, the Arts & Science Council (ASC), in partnership with the City of Charlotte and McColl Center, commissioned Klein to create a public art project integrated within the future North Tryon streetscape project, which will be located just outside the I-277 loop and will include Charlotte’s first Greenroad (a certification similar to LEED for buildings).

In conjunction with the streetscape project, expected to begin in 2016, Klein was asked to create an interim work to serve as a more immediate sign of the revitalization taking place in the area.

It was an area with which Klein had become familiar. During her fall residency at McColl Center, she would walk the stretch between uptown and the underpass that connected it to North End – another name for the North Tryon corridor.

“The walk was short and very unpleasant,” Klein said. “This gave me the idea to begin the process of linking North Tryon to the center city.”

IMG_3945Klein’s atmospheric piece creates a brighter, cleaner, crisper place beneath the underpass. With the help of local contractors to complete the project – ProTec Finishes for the paint job and United Construction for traffic control – Klein also created a space that enhances the experience of those passing underneath.

“This art intervention is something to think about, to see and equally to sense,” she said. “My hope is that Skyon Tryon serves to expand the thinking about art, place and structures. Both what they are and what they can be.”

The temporary public art project is funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Our town grant and ASC. In-kind donors are United Construction and McColl Center. Supporting partners are NCDOT, the City of Charlotte and North End Partners.

“There have been a lot of things happening under the radar in North End,” said Tony Kuhn of Vision Ventures and North End Partners. This is a very visible sign of the future and the progress happening in the corridor.”

ASC Summer Camp Empowers Children Creatively

2 Jul

By David Fowler
Communication Intern

A love of learning and a love of school should be the same thing, right? However, many times our education system fails to reach every student and get the most of them creatively. There are restraints in terms of state-set curriculum and measuring achievement based on standardized testing scores.IMG_2770

At Studio 345, the Arts & Science Council (ASC) Digital Media Literacy Camp has lifted these educational restraints and campers are encouraged to explore what makes them tick creatively. Split up into three two-week sessions, the camp is designed to empower students to improve their literacy skills through the arts. Led by master-level insturctors campers will learn to work with various digital technologies including DLSR cameras, computers movie editing software, and more through project-based learning.

Camp director Crystal Lail says that by giving campers the freedom to decide what to focus their creative energy on based on their interests allows them to take ownership of their work and the things they create.

“By focusing on interest and choice we empower the campers to create things that they care about using the medium that appeals to them most,” says Lail. “It is the single greatest benefit of not having any state-set curriculum.”

Morelia Trinidad, a high school senior, works with Abekh El, a second grader, during one of the camps break-out sessions. During these sessions, students are free to choose any activity they want to participate in, with options ranging anywhere from creating original works of Claymation to building their own Rube Goldberg machines among others. Morelia is helping Abekh shoot and edit video in order to create an original mini-movie.

Morelia and Abekh edit an original short film at ASC Summer Camp

Morelia and Abekh edit an original short film at ASC Summer Camp

“We’re all learning how to take pictures and videos so we can show them off and everyone can see what we did,” says Abekh, too excited to sit still. “Sometimes it makes me feel shy, but it’s a cool feeling.”

When asked to compare Studio 345 and Digital & Media Literacy Camp to traditional school, Morelia, who has been involved with Studio 345 since her sophomore year, calls school limiting. “At school there is a lack of freedom, and not enough focus on individual creativity. Here at the studio, things are different.”

There are still two sessions of camp left this summer. If you’s like to give your child an opportunity to grow creatively and take ownership and pride in what they learn and create, then be sure to register them for one or both of the upcoming sessions.

A Hidden Perspective

23 Jun

By Scott Walker Cunningham
Education Intern

Photo by Scott Walker Cunningham.

Photo by Scott Walker Cunningham.

“Scott, want to look at my song I wrote?”

Da’Quan asked for my attention on Wednesday morning in the photography and digital media room at Studio 345 for the third day of the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) Digital and Media Literacy summer camp. The low-lit room showcased high-quality equipment including DSLR cameras and MacBooks for each student, professional photography lighting and printing gear along the cool gray walls, and a large, flat-screen like projector at the front of the room displaying the day’s schedule. The place seemed prepared for a professional seminar.

Instead, the mechanized meeting room pulsed with vibrant young toddlers busily writing in notebooks on a Technicolor of yoga mats across the floor, young teens on apple red and green seats seeing what the other bought off the app store last night, and high school students sleepily acclimating to the energy levels of the room. Through the early blur before the morning meeting, Da’Quan walked up to me with a few verses and a chorus drafted in a notebook filled with his songs.

I met Da’Quan only two days before, and already he wanted to share the deeply personal if not a bit disjointed rendition of emotions that are high school song lyrics. It struck me how willingly he opened himself up along with his binder, asking for some communication through my simple set of eyes and a smile to say, “This is good. You should keep working on it.”

Now I think back on the color, energy, and untapped talent of that entire room. As an intern at the ASC, and immersed in the pedagogical conflicts of our day as a member of Allison Dulin of Davidson College’s Education Scholars Program, I wonder what impact I can make for the kids I work with, and what sort of form that should take.

Too new to the game to understand the complexities of meeting the needs of our young, I’ll steal an elegantly simple answer from my supervisor, ASC Vice President of Education Barbara Ann Temple, Ph.D., who told me, “Every student deserves dignity and respect as a human being.”

Muffled by the flood of neon research lit statistics on the increasing achievement gap of our day, it’s easy to forget that every individual owns a voice that can often go unheard. While we need specialists, initiatives, and outreaches for supporting the future of academic development, sometimes students want a chance to share their words as well.

Let’s remember to listen.

Scott 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.

Taking a New Look at Charlotte’s Creeks

17 Jun

By: David Fowler
Communication Intern

Seattle has Mt. Rainier and the Puget Sound. San Francisco and Oakland are fondly referred to as the “Bay Area.” The beautiful ridges of the Rockies are visible from Denver. New York City boasts one of the largest harbors in the world. Many of the great cities in this country have some geographic landmark that helps define them and tell their story. So, what does Charlotte have? Creeks.

The history of the city of Charlotte begins at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets. Many years ago, Trade and Tryon were Native American trading paths. Trade and Tryon are located where they are because they run along the high ground formed by nearby creeks. Many people fail to realize the significant impact that the creeks have had in Charlotte’s history.

Mary Newsom, Associate Director of Urban and Regional Affairs at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, is one of the leading minds behind a project called City of Creeks designed to celebrate the creeks of Charlotte. City of Creeks, which is expected to launch in the spring of 2015, will combine hard science, heritage, and the arts to highlight the importance of the creeks in the area and engage the public on the topic in a new way.

“There seems to be this civic angst about the lack of a distinctive land form in Charlotte. We don’t have a mountain or a harbor or a bay,” said Newsom. “What we have is creeks.”

The project will consist of written and published narratives of three different creeks in the area. These narratives will analyze in depth the current state of the creeks as well as explore the history and heritage of the creeks and the impact they’ve had on the community. In addition to these publications, artists in the area will create pieces of art influenced by the profiles and scientific findings in the creeks studied.

The goal of the project is to celebrate the creeks of Charlotte while also engaging locals in local environmental issues.

“The artists that work with us will put together gallery exhibits in the UNC Charlotte gallery uptown,” said Newsom. “They will also be out in the community, taking their art and our message to the people in order to engage and educate them.”

City of Creeks is year two of KEEPING WATCH, a three year collaborations between the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture. KEEPING WATCH is designed to explore three different environmental issues and engage citizens in public discourse. For more information on KEEPING WATCH, visit


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