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Culture For All. Yes, Please!

2 Sep

By Amy Mitchell 
Communications Manager 

Culture For All. Why? Because here at ASC, we believe that everyone should have access to arts, science, history/heritage experiences that educate, entertain and enrich their quality of life.

ASC’s Cultural Free For All, presented to the community by Wells Fargo, addresses the role access can play in not only connecting people to their passion(s), but providing unique opportunities for them to discover and experience something new.


Cultural Free For All includes Symphony On Tap, a free Charlotte Symphony performance; Culture Feast, an evening of dinner, drinks, cultural experiences, and a free dance party with music by A Sign of the Times; and the return of ASC’s Connect with Culture Day, featuring free access to museums and cultural activities throughout the county.

Symphony On Tap
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 ∙ 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Belk Theater, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, 130 N. Tryon Street, Charlotte

orchestracwglgEnjoy a free hour-long season preview concert by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. A brass ensemble will perform during a kickoff “fanfare” in front of Belk Theater at 5:30 p.m. Appetizers and drink specials will be available throughout the evening.

How to participate in Symphony On Tap: Click here to reserve free tickets online, and be entered to win free Charlotte Symphony tickets.

Culture Feast
Friday, September 18, 2015 ∙ 6:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
On S. Tryon Street, between Martin Luther King Blvd. & Levine Avenue of the Arts

Purchase dinner tickets at

Share a community table and enjoy the ultimate cultural street party on South Tryon. During the ticketed dinner you’ll be surrounded by unique cultural happenings, then dance the night away at a free-for-all performance by A Sign of the Times on the street at Levine Center for the Arts. Cultural happenings during the feast will be provided by Charlotte Museum of History, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Inspire the Fire, Opera Carolina and Carolinas Latin Dance Company.

The dinner menu includes a Southern-style dinner of baby arugula salad, mesquite grilled chicken breast, cheddar grits, cider braised collard greens, mustard greens, and Swiss chard, baskets of house-made buttermilk biscuits and cornbread with honey butter, fresh banana pudding plus select beer and wine. Vegetarian option available.

How to participate in Culture Feast: Click here to purchase dinner tickets, must be 21 or older. Then stay for the dance party at 9:00 p.m. No ticket or registration necessary for the dance party.

ASC Connect with Culture Day
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Various times and locations
For a complete list of experiences and details visit

ConnectCulture-2018Explore diverse arts and culture experiences across Mecklenburg County for free on Sept. 19. The day will feature museums open free of charge during select hours and cultural activities taking place throughout the county to bring everything from opera and theatre to dance and jazz closer to where people live.

How to participate in Connect with Culture Day: No ticket necessary for Connect with Culture Day experiences. Be sure to visit for complete details on each experience before you go. Clayworks, Inc. Muddy Fun and Handbuilding classes require pre-registration, and space is limited. Plan to arrive early, as space may be limited at various locations and ASC cannot guarantee availability.

The Cultural Free For All generates awareness about what Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural community has to offer. It also kicks off ASC’s annual giving campaign.

Breakin’ Convention to reach new audiences

2 Sep

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Jonzi D, creator and artistic director of the Breakin' Convention. Photo credit: Paul Paul Hampartsoumian.

Jonzi D, creator and artistic director of the Breakin’ Convention. Photo credit: Paul Paul Hampartsoumian.

You may already know that the London-based Breakin’ Convention is coming to Charlotte for the first time in October.

However you might not know why it matters.

Yes, it will be another in a long list of acclaimed performances to come through the city, and one that should fill the seats at Knight Theater at Levine Center of the Arts.

It will also be the second time the international hip-hop festival, created by London’s Sadler’s Wells, has come to the United States (the first being 2013 at Harlem’s Apollo Theater) – another feather in the city’s cap.

But the two-day event, presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts, is another example that cultural organizations are continuing to embrace, create, seek out and provide programming that is relevant and innovative – one of the pillars of the community’s Cultural Vision Plan.

It’s been a longtime focus for Blumenthal, said Tom Gabbard, president of Blumenthal Performing Arts.

Blumenthal Performing Arts President Tom Gabbard.

Blumenthal Performing Arts President Tom Gabbard.

“I think for us, we first and foremost want to see an audience come here over the course of the year that looks like Charlotte, and I mean that in its broadest sense,” said Gabbard, who has been unabashed in stating his desire to see Breakin’ Convention attract audiences that have never stepped through the doors of a Blumenthal venue.

“One of the attractive things about this festival, and it defies people’s perspective of hip hop in the U.S. a bit, is it’s a very family-friendly event, the kind of thing multiple generations can enjoy together.”

The event connects to the roots of hip-hop, said Jonzi D, creator and artistic director of the festival.

“It’s about peace, love, unity and having fun, things hip-hop was founded on 40 years ago – not the images we see today,” Jonzi said at an introductory luncheon for the convention back in May.

As such, the festival will celebrate hip-hop culture with live DJs, graffiti, dance workshops, free outdoor performances at Levine Center for the Arts and accomplished hip-hop dance stars from around the world inside Knight Theater.

Breakin’ Convention will also tap into the underground talent in the Charlotte region by including local BBoy, BGirl and other dance crews and artists in the festivities.

“There’s an opportunity to recapture that tradition that wasn’t a mega-music tradition,” Gabbard said. “When it started, it was on the street, it was in community centers. It was a grassroots activity.”


Want to Go?

Breakin’ Convention, the renowned international festival of hip-hop dance, invades the Queen City this October. Direct from London’s Sadler’s Wells theatre, the festival will feature performances by hip-hop stars from around the globe and from the neighborhoods of Charlotte at Levine Center for the Arts Oct. 9-10. Tickets for the Friday and Saturday night shows at the Knight Theater are $19.50-$59.50. Click here to purchase tickets or for more information.

A public approach to public art

2 Sep

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Lake Norman artist Dana Gingras at work on the public artwork for Charlotte's Grove Park neighborhood. The work will be installed this  month.

Lake Norman artist Dana Gingras at work on the public artwork for Charlotte’s Grove Park neighborhood. The work will be installed this month.

The public part of “public art” can refer to more than the accessible location.

It often references the multitude of voices involved in the public art process.

For Lake Norman artist Dana Gingras, who is creating artwork for the East Charlotte neighborhood of Grove Park, the chorus included representatives from the neighborhood association, the city and the state department of transportation.

“Taking everybody’s viewpoint into consideration and still producing something that I’m proud of and that is visually stimulating presented challenges but also had me thinking in different ways” Gingras said.

“I always explain to people, it’s a lot of inspiration but it’s also a lot of careful planning and following the guidelines that were set forth.”

But instead of considering rules and regulations to be limiting, Gingras used them as motivation to push himself creatively.

The result is a stunning corten steel and stainless steel sculpture titled Ascension, a piece that is both a subtle nod to Grove Park’s mining history and to the area’s forward progress.

A look at Ascension in artist Dana Gingras' Lake Norman studio. The public artwork will be installed in Charlotte's Grove Park neighborhood this month.

A look at Ascension in artist Dana Gingras’ Lake Norman studio. The public artwork will be installed in Charlotte’s Grove Park neighborhood this month.

The artwork will be installed near the intersection of W.T. Harris Boulevard and North Sharon Amity Road this month as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative launched by the City of Charlotte, the Public Art Commission and ASC.

“The neighborhood wanted something that connected the past to the future and something that rose up and provided a sense of hope,” he said. “I wanted to make it accessible and appreciated by a broad spectrum.”

In addition to bringing public art to areas without city-sponsored work, the creative partnership initiative also intended to help local artists build their skills in the realm of public art.

So in addition to being personally rewarding, it was a professional development opportunity as well, Gingras said.

“Being able to deal with so many different agencies was a good learning experience,” he said. “The physical build was the easiest part, that’s what I’ve spent 20 years doing. A lot of the growth was on the management side and learning how it affects the people in the community also.”

It led to the piece evolving into something bigger than the artist initially imagined.

“To see how excited the community was about it and to hear all of the ideas they had – and they were all over the board – since they were so excited, it made me more excited,” he said. “I hope it brings more interest to the area and that it gets more people excited about the area.”

Through the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative, intended to bring more neighborhood-based public art to the city, the Charlotte neighborhoods of Elizabeth, Grove Park, Reid Park, Sedgefield and the Shamrock Drive Corridor will receive new public artworks.

A new take on classical music relevance

2 Sep

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Sphinx Virtuosi, presented by Knight Foundation, ASC and Blumenthal Performing Arts, will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3301 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte.

Sphinx Virtuosi, presented by Knight Foundation, ASC and Blumenthal Performing Arts, will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3301 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte. Photo credit: Kevin Kennedy.

When the Sphinx Virtuosi performs, its sound rivals many fully professional orchestras.

It just doesn’t fit the stereotypical image some folks have of traditional classical music ensembles.

Consisting of top alumni of the national Sphinx Competition for young black and Latino string players, Sphinx Virtuosi is a conductor-less professional chamber orchestra that is challenging perceptions about classical music in the United States.

You can see and hear why when the group performs in Charlotte on Thursday, Oct. 1, at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. Its program, “Inspiring Women,” will feature a collection of works written by women composers and inspired by great women.

The theme pays tribute to composers throughout history whose works are seldom heard but merit awareness and recognition, along with repertoire already well loved by audiences.

It’s a fitting match – the works of women composers, often overlooked in classical music, being performed by black and Latino musicians, traditionally underrepresented in professional orchestras.

It’s a timely one, too.

Conversations abound about how to make classical music more relevant to a contemporary audience. One possible way to increase the classical music audience is to encourage talented young instrumentalists of color to pursue classical music.

Encouraging those musicians to play the more seldom presented works by women and composers of color, in addition to masterpieces by Bach, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Mozart and others, wouldn’t hurt either.

It’s not traditional, but then again, neither is the Sphinx Virtuosi.

Want to Go?

Sphinx Virtuosi, presented by Knight Foundation, ASC and Blumenthal Performing Arts, will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3301 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte. Tickets are $8. Click here to purchase tickets.

Branding Charlotte as a cultural queen

28 Jul

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Our suggestion? Build Charlotte's brand around arts and culture.

Our suggestion? Build Charlotte’s brand around arts and culture.

There’s been a lot of talk about Charlotte’s brand, or lack thereof.

There’s “no denying that what Charlotte lacks relative to more established cities is a unique identity,” opined Charlotte Agenda.

A Chamber of Commerce tour of Nashville in June reminded Charlotte leaders “yet again that Charlotte hasn’t determined its own” brand, according to a Charlotte Business Journal editorial.

“If Nashville is ‘Music City,’ then Charlotte is…” read a headline from The Charlotte Observer.

How about “Queen of Arts”? After all, the Queen City is named after Queen Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whose sculpture greets visitors at the airport.

The city already has cultural royalty in Charlotte Ballet Associate Artistic Director and Kennedy Center Honoree Patricia McBride and Charlotte Symphony Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, who conducted the London Chamber Orchestra during the marriage ceremony of Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, in 2011.

Plus, the show that broke box office records at Blumenthal Performing Arts in August 2013? That would be “The Lion King.”

Okay, we admit “Queen of Arts” may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but our suggestion that Charlotte build its brand around arts and culture is not. After all, the arts have played a crucial role in making the city what it is today.

A history lesson: Back in the mid-1970s, building Charlotte’s cultural infrastructure became an economic development strategy to attract business.

The reason you need to come to Charlotte, businesses looking to relocate have long been told, is because of the strength of our cultural sector.

“We don’t have mountains – we’re two hours away. We don’t have beaches – we’re three hours away,” said ASC President Robert Bush. “We also didn’t have any professional sports teams at the time, so the city and the county and the Chamber of Commerce decided that arts and culture was going to become the calling card when Charlotte went out on economic development visits.”

The resulting cultural plan proposed 40 years ago led to the creation of uptown cultural destinations Discovery Place, Spirit Square, The Afro-American Cultural Center (now the Gantt Center) and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

An uptown Mint Museum and an artist colony research and development area (McColl Center for Art + Innovation) were also envisioned, though they came later.

“They are what drove the growth of this community in many ways from an economic development standpoint,” Bush said.

We know the arts have been and remain central to driving economic development. We know residents expect the cultural sector to connect people and strengthen community – it’s what they told us in the Cultural Vision Plan.

We know arts and culture matter in Charlotte. Now we need to show it by integrating the arts into every aspect of our lives, from showing up to support original, innovative works to making culture central to pre-K-12 education. That’s how you build a brand.

So, with that in mind, here are four fun ideas to make Charlotte stand out through arts and culture, and four potential cultural taglines for the city.

Have your own ideas? Let us know on Twitter @ASCCharlotte.

Four Far Out Ways to Make Charlotte Stand Out Through Culture
1. Establish a premier Fringe Festival. It would celebrate challenging and innovative art and introduce the community – and the nation – to what’s next on the horizon.
2. Create an annual dynamic temporary public art exhibition that connects the city. Imagine Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates,” the temporary exhibit of “[f]ree-hanging, saffron-colored fabric panels” that created “a visual golden river” along 23 miles of New York’s Central Park in 2005, only annually and in Charlotte.
3. Get behind the wheel of an artmobile. Picture a mobile arts network that would bring arts and science to you no matter where you live in the city or the county. Traveling music, dance and theatre shows, artmobiles, filled with art-making materials and artists to spark hands-on creativity, would be among the familiar sights that build livelier and stronger communities.
4. Two words – lightsaber battle. It’s been done before, but ours would be cooler and in Bearden Park. An exhibit that tackles the science of “Star Wars” would add to the fun.

Four Cultural Taglines for Charlotte

1. Charlotte – Queen of Arts
2. Culture City, USA
3. Charlotte – Create Your City
4. Charlotte – Our City, Our Canvas

Cultural festivals offer weekend fun

28 Jul

Compiled by Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Festival in the Park

Festival in the Park returns to Charlotte’s Freedom Park Sept. 25-27. Photo credit: Festival in the Park.

Saturdays in the park.

We think it’s cultural festival time.

A dated reference? Sure, unless you’re a Chicago fan. But the start of the cultural festival season means we have several Saturdays – and Fridays and Sundays – to look forward to.

ASC supports festivals throughout the year primarily through Cultural Festival Grants and Town Initiative Grants, with one upcoming festival receiving an ASC Cultural Project Grant to support a huge crowd-painted mural.

Cultural festivals increase access to arts, science, history and heritage offerings and strengthen the quality of cultural programming in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

They’re also why, over the next couple of months or so, you’ll find people dancing, people laughing, artists selling their work.

Okay, maybe that’s taking it too far. But we’ve been waiting such a long time for Saturdays.

Here are six upcoming festivals you won’t want to miss.

Charlotte Pride Festival
Noon-10 p.m. Aug. 15 and noon-6 p.m. Aug. 16.
Where: 100-400 blocks of South Tryon Street.
What’s Happening: The two-day cultural festival includes national, regional and local entertainers, musicians and bands, and over 150 exhibitors. On both days of the festival, Pride-goers can “Paint Your Piece of Pride!” with artist Edwin Gil at the corner of South Tryon Street and Levine Avenue of the Arts. All will be able to pick up a brush and begin filling in a blank canvas in creating a painting that represents Pride in the Queen City. “Paint Your Piece of Pride!” is supported by an ASC Cultural Project Grant. Admission: Free.

Sunday Afternoon in the Park
1-6 p.m. Aug. 23.
Where: Wilgrove Park (aka Mint Hill Park on Wilgrove), 5233 Wilgrove-Mint Hill Road, Mint Hill.
What’s Happening: The event will offer art of all types, music and food. Plan to bring a blanket or chairs and spend the afternoon in the shade of majestic oak trees. Presented by the Town of Mint Hill, in conjunction with ASC.
Admission: Free.

21st Annual Festival of India
Noon-7 p.m. Sept. 12-13.
Where: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.
What’s Happening: The annual cultural festival showcases the diversity of Indian dance, food, art, music and Bollywood entertainment. There will be yoga demonstrations, henna tattoos available, traditional dances in front of Belk Theater on North Tryon Street and more. Presented by the India Association of Charlotte.
Admission: $7 at the door, $6 online at, free for kids younger than 10 years old.

‘Tawba Walk Arts & Music Festival
2-8 p.m. Sept. 19.
Where: Downtown Cornelius.
What’s Happening: The multidimensional, eclectic art crawl snakes through the heart of Cornelius and features dozens of local vendors, live street performances, shopping, food and more.
Admission: Free.

Festival in the Park
4-9:30 p.m. Sept. 25, 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 27.
Where: Freedom Park, 2435 Cumberland Ave., Charlotte.
What’s Happening: For more than 50 years, this Charlotte tradition has been seen as the last push of summer and a celebration of the fall to come. Local artisans, bands and crafts of all sorts are presented in a fun outdoors fair-like atmosphere. Festival in the Park features 180 artists and craft exhibitors and nearly 1000 entertainers.
Admission: Free.

25th Annual Latin American Festival
When: 4-10 p.m. Oct. 10 and noon-8 p.m. Oct. 11.
Where: Symphony Park, 4400 Sharon Road, Charlotte.
What’s Happening: Headlining the 25th annual event will be Mexican ska band Panteon Rococo, legendary salsero Ismael Miranda and returning the multi-Grammy award winning Colombian rock group Aterciopelados. The festival will also feature traditional dance performances, a diverse selection of Latin American food, a marketplace of authentic handmade crafts, and some of North Carolina’s best Latino visual artists. Presented by the Latin American Coalition.
Admission: One-day pass $10, two-day pass $15, free for children 10 years old and younger.

Three ways ASC is supporting regional artists

28 Jul

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Here’s a statistic for you:

More than two-thirds of Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents believe that individual artists contribute to our community’s quality of life, according to a 2015 Urban Institute Cultural Life in Mecklenburg County Survey.

Count us among the two-thirds here at ASC.

A strong community of individual artists is critical to the success of our cultural community. It is one of the main reasons why ASC is currently offering three opportunities for creative individuals that live and work in the 11-county greater Charlotte region to further their artistic development and engagement.

Here’s a look at the programs and how they have already benefited three local artists.

“One issue you run into as an artist is networking”

2015 ArtPop artist Jason Woodberry in front of his ArtPop billboard.

2015 ArtPop artist Jason Woodberry in front of his ArtPop billboard.

ArtPop showcases the work of local artists on billboards across the Charlotte region through an ASC partnership with Adams Outdoor Advertising. Here is 2015 ArtPop artist Jason Woodberry’s take on how the program has helped his career.

Being a part of ArtPop has been an extremely beneficial experience, especially for a young artist such as me. The one issue you run into as an artist is networking, not just with other artists but people that are established and educated in the art business. Through ArtPop, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting individuals who have won numerous grants, toured internationally, even gallery owners. The insight is priceless.

There is also a personal sense of accomplishment. Anytime I discuss my art with someone and they see the “Dark Matter” image (featured on Woodberry’s ArtPop billboard) I always get the reaction of “Wow! I’ve seen that! That’s you?”

Just to know that every day your art is being seen by someone – talk about branding.

Connecting to patrons and peers

2015 Community Supported Art artist Micah Cash (standing) connects with local arts patrons at a CSA event at Wing Haven.

2015 Community Supported Art artist Micah Cash (standing) connects with local arts patrons at a CSA event at Wing Haven.

ASC’s Community Supported Art (CSA) program supports artists in the creation and promotion of new work and establishes relationships between the artists and local collectors and patrons. Micah Cash, a 2015 CSA artist, details what he took from his participation in the program.

The Community Supported Art Program provided an opportunity to create a new body of work that remained true to my conceptual focus. I had many opportunities to speak to patrons and answer questions about my work, process, and studio practice.

In addition, the CSA program allowed me to build lasting relationships with collectors and peers.

This local artist is “All Shook Up”           

2015 Regional Artist Project Grant recipient Caroline Coolidge Brown with a printing press she was able to purchase with her grant.

2015 Regional Artist Project Grant recipient Caroline Coolidge Brown with a printing press she was able to purchase with her grant.

Regional Artist Project Grants provide an award for individuals and groups of unincorporated artists to attend a professional development experience or purchase/rent a piece of equipment. Here’s how a 2015 RAPG has benefitted recipient Caroline Coolidge Brown.

Thanks to an ASC Regional Artist Project Grant, I am now the proud owner of Elvis, a tabletop printing press perfect for printing linoleum, intaglio and monotype plates. The press allows me to print much larger plates than ever before. I’m working full-swing in this medium and am busy creating a series of botanical prints that will be featured in a Ciel Gallery exhibit in November.

The grant has also:

  • Inspired me to take a class at CPCC to hone my printmaking skills
  • Connected me to other printmaking artists
  • Fostered experimentation with monoprints
  • Provided me professional recognition as a valued artist in Charlotte
  • Brought a new spark to my studio practice!

As Elvis would say, “Thank ’ya very much!”

Are You an Artist Who Wants to Apply for One or More of These Opportunities?

Local and regional artists are invited to apply for the 2016 ArtPop and Community Supported Art programs, as well as for a 2016 Regional Artist Project Grant. All three calls are open to artists that live and work in Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Rutherford, Stanly, Union or York (S.C.).

For more information or to apply, visit one of the following links:


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