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Connecting with culture

30 Jan

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager


The Arts & Science Council’s Annual Fund Drive, currently underway, is about sustaining Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s vibrant cultural sector.

It’s one reason ASC kicked off its fund drive with Connect with Culture Day, which saw thousands participate in cultural experiences around the county.

The day started ASC towards its goal of raising $6.1 million to support neighborhood cultural programs, festivals, individual artists, and the sector and the operations of 20 organizations in fiscal year 2015-16. Look below for ASC’s slideshow of images from the day.

And please support the ASC fund drive. To give, visit Every gift matters.

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Charlotte Scene acts on behalf of our fair lady

30 Jan

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

Charlotte Theatre Scene

Something about Charlotte is bewitching – just ask the myriad of people who serve her tirelessly. The theatre community has fallen for her especially hard, seeking to deliver performances that entice her community and foster a deeper appreciation for the stage. What’s a production company supposed to do, though, when money is tight and the show must go on? Local theatre groups have banded together under the consulting expertise of Josh Jacobson, deciding to share their brainpower as a means of reaching people like you.

I spent some time discussing the project with Jacobson and Donna Scott, Artistic Executive Director of participating group, Donna Scott Productions.

The initiative itself is called Charlotte Scene and encompasses three objectives: increasing advocacy, awareness and resources. Jacobson, who previously worked in administration for the Manhattan Theatre Club and the Julliard School, has firsthand knowledge of the arts sector’s intricacies. Approached by the Arts and Science Council to facilitate dialogue between the various companies involved, he realizes the value of theatrical experience. More than anything else, Jacobson believes in the practicality of cooperation.

“Charlotte Scene…is really in service to the first goal of awareness. It’s funded [in part] by the Knight Foundation [and] an opportunity…for them [local producing companies] to share advertising expenses,” he said. “There’s a lot that can happen from cross-pollination.”

In response, the obvious question seemed why haven’t we done this before? Why has it taken so long to implement a strategic advertising plan? Jacobson explained that plenty have noticed the need, but limited finances have choked out progress. “I think it’s hard…the challenge of we have ambition but we’re already overworked staff and volunteers and artists, this just adds to the plate. What we tried to impress is it will always be an overworked, under-resourced community unless we do something about it. It’s really about prioritizing it.”

Scott agreed, explaining, “I think perhaps as producers we have just all stayed very focused on our own seasons and upcoming projects which is an easy thing to do–everyone stays very busy. But times have changed for the arts and I think the majority of theatre companies have had to rethink how they attract and serve their audiences to stay in business.”

What Jacobson wants is for the theatre family to find their momentum and take ownership of the initiative, although he recognizes the need for a “convalescing of [Charlotte Scene] into an organizational bottle.” Essentially, an overarching coordinator is still necessary to sustain the initiative.

Most fascinating for me, was Jacobson’s analysis of Charlotte’s demand issue. He cited the cultural boom of the 60s and 70s – specifically the way organizations cultivated a hunger for art. “You [are] a business like any other business and if there’s not a demand for your product and it’s allowed to die, whose fault is that? Is it the community’s fault for not giving you resources or is it the company’s for not creating demand for the product? That’s a tough love moment. There’s truth in both camps…we do also have to understand our audiences…we need to be informed by the things around us.”

In an ideal world, theatre wouldn’t need to fight for its place on the classical art shelf. I asked Scott about her dreams for Charlotte’s theatrical future, and she shared hopes for theatre expanding “into all corners of our city and popping up in new, nontraditional venues and spaces.”

Uniting under their mutual love for our city, Charlotte’s theatres desire, like Scott, “that Charlotte is thought of as a regional center with a vibrant theatre scene known for [its] high quality, vast opportunity and strong sense of community.” Good love is reciprocal, so let’s return the favor and partake in the drama.

Visit to buy tickets for this season’s biggest shows.

ArtPop sparks imagination

30 Jan

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Artist Jason Woodberry in front of his 2015 ArtPop billboard.

Artist Jason Woodberry in front of his 2015 ArtPop billboard.

Creativity in its purest form.

That’s what Jason Woodberry’s digital illustration of a young child blowing sci-fi-inspired bubbles signifies.

“The overall idea is the birth of imagination,” he said. “It’s that imaginative free spirit aspect that allows us to create the craziest things.”

The piece, titled “Dark Matter,” is one of the 20 artworks selected for the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) ArtPop program. The second-year program will showcase the work of local artists on billboards across the Charlotte region throughout 2015, thanks to an ASC partnership with Adams Outdoor Advertising.

The feeling of seeing your work displayed on a billboard can be hard to describe.

“For a moment, you’re like, wow, that’s mine – who else is looking at it?” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘I made this in the corner of my apartment on an Ikea desk.’

“It’s humbling just to have people like your stuff, especially when it’s on a billboard. That kind of validates you in one way or another.”

The 2015 ArtPop billboard of Jason Woodberry.

The 2015 ArtPop billboard of Jason Woodberry.

It’s been a long time coming for Woodberry to reach this point in his career. Originally from Virginia Beach, he was pursuing a music career and working at a home improvement store when decided to move to Charlotte on a whim in 2006.

He took his last paycheck, packed as much as he could fit into three suitcases and bought a Greyhound bus ticket.

“It was leap of faith,” he said. “I realized that if I’m going to try to maximize my potential, it wasn’t going to happen where I was.”

He also realized the music business wasn’t for him, and his move offered the lifelong fan of comics and anime the opportunity to pursue another passion – visual arts.

Woodberry met local graphic artist Marcus Kiser a year or two after moving to town and learned that the two shared the same interests. Kiser became a mentor to Woodberry, helping him find his niche.

“Comics and cartoons – ’80’s cartoons – probably had the most influence on my art style,” said Woodberry, recalling such childhood favorites as “The Transformers” and “SilverHawks.” “They weren’t as literal.”

His ArtPop piece meshes those comic sensibilities with elements of science fiction, such as the noticeable markings on the child’s face and the space-like atmosphere found in the bubbles. His six-year-old son’s unencumbered creativity inspired the piece.

“When my son draws something, he’ll present it to me like, ‘Look what I drew.’ In his mind, he’s not thinking ‘Am I going to get 30 Facebook likes?’” Woodberry said. “Despite being at the mercy of everybody watching, he obviously doesn’t care. I wish we could all be that way.”

The competition is on for ASC Community Supported Art shares

30 Jan

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

For Ben Thorman (left) and Mark Milazzo, the sale of Community Supported Art shares means more than an online contest to secure limited edition works of art by nine talented local artists.

For Ben Thorman (left) and Mark Milazzo, the sale of Community Supported Art shares means more than an online contest to secure limited edition works of art by nine talented local artists.

When shares of the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) spring 2015 Community Supported Art (CSA) program go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, there will be a race to snap up shares before they’re all gone.

Only 50 are available and last fall’s sold out in record time.

But for Mark Milazzo and Ben Thorman, the sale of CSA shares means more than an online contest to secure limited edition works of art by nine talented local artists.

It marks the renewal of a friendly rivalry that dates back to before ASC’s inaugural CSA season in the fall of 2013.

That’s according to Katherine Mooring, ASC’s senior vice president of program and services. Milazzo’s and Thorman’s spouses, Brandy and Sandi, respectively, told her their husbands were jockeying for position well before the first shares went on sale.

“I still think the competition was egged on by Katherine,” Thorman said. “She said, ‘You may or may not care, but if you do, here’s the exact time you registered and here’s when Mark registered.’”

Regardless of how it started, the longtime friends have since competed about nearly every aspect of the CSA program, from who buys the first share to who puts their new artworks up in their homes first.

IMG_4830Last fall, Thorman purchased his CSA share 15 seconds before Milazzo. So Milazzo showed up 45 minutes early at the first of three pick-up events where patrons can mix and mingle with the artists.

“To me, it was like, if you’re going to be me on the draw, then I’m going to beat you here,” Milazzo said.

Competition aside (they don’t keep score anyway), the friends share an appreciation of art and enjoy engaging with CSA artists at pick-up events to learn about the artworks they’re taking home. Both have sought out the artists afterwards, visiting their studios to purchase additional pieces.

“I always want to try to understand what the artists were trying to do and you have that opportunity because you can talk to the artist right there,” Thorman said. “We instantly have one thought of what a piece is and you talk to the artist and they’re like, well, this is where I was going.”

The interaction with local artists makes the pick-up events special, they said. Held at cultural and/or culinary venues, the exclusive events feature the mystery of opening shares, hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine, and entertainment.

A mixed media painting by Rebecca Haworth that Milazzo received as a fall 2013 Community Supported Art shareholder.

A mixed media painting by Rebecca Haworth that Milazzo received as a fall 2013 Community Supported Art shareholder.

“It’s kind of like Christmas for three months,” Milazzo said. “Once a month you’re getting presents and you don’t know what’s in the bag or what’s in the wrapping paper or the box, so when you open it you’re pleasantly surprised.”

It makes for a great series of art-filled events that bring the two friends together.

“As much as we have our busy lives and go in different directions,” Thorman said, “we know that with the picks, we’re going to get together at least three times and be able to catch up.”

And compete for CSA bragging rights.

Don’t Miss Getting Your Share!

ASC will begin selling member shares of its spring 2015 Community Supported Art (CSA) program at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, at Shares are $500 and only 50 will be available. Nine local artists have been commissioned to create limited edition artwork specifically for the program. Their work will be boxed and distributed as shares to CSA shareholders at pick-up events in March, April and May. Shareholders will get three artworks at each event and will have one artwork by each artist by the end of the season.

In addition to the opportunity to learn about the processes and creative practices of the selected artists, meet and mingle with other arts patrons, explore a variety of creative disciplines and support artists in the evolution of their careers.

The program artists, selected by a jury of local arts professionals, are:

Emily Andress – paintings
Natalie Bork – fused glass
Janet Burgess – visual 3D
Leigh Anne Carter – paintings
Micah Cash – photography
John Dearing – wearable art, cyanotype images
Marcee Musgrove – mixed media
Lauren Puckett – stained glass
Tim Sheaffer – pottery


Blumenthal announces newest Center Stage honorees

20 Jan

By Elise Esasky
Public Relations Manager, Blumenthal Performing Arts 

Blumenthal Performing Arts awarded three Center Stage Awards to community leaders during its annual meeting on Jan. 14 in Booth Playhouse at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

Center Stage awards are presented to individuals or organizations whose service or partnership with Blumenthal Performing Arts has furthered the mission, reach and improved the programs Blumenthal provides to the community.

Charlene McMoore with Henry and Rene Justice and Joyce Ford. (Courtesy Blumenthal Performing Arts.)

Charlene McMoore with Henry and Rene Justice and Joyce Ford. (Courtesy Blumenthal Performing Arts.)

Charlene McMoore

Charlene McMoore is a Charlotte native, and is a Project Manager in the IT Department at Duke Energy. She was a volunteer at Spirit Square in the 90’s before Blumenthal Performing Arts came into existence in 1992. Soon after that, she joined Blumenthal’s newly formed volunteer program. She has been a committed and faithful volunteer who always works more than her required number of events each month, and she provides excellent customer service to Blumenthal patrons. Last year alone, McMoore provided more than 200 hours of volunteer service. She says she enjoys volunteering at BPA because it provides a great atmosphere to meet and be of service to a variety of people in the community who attend events in Blumenthal’s six theaters.

Rebecca Henderson with Rick Puckett and Tom Gabbard. (Photo courtesy Blumenthal Performing Arts.)

Rebecca Henderson with Rick Puckett and Tom Gabbard. (Photo courtesy Blumenthal Performing Arts.)

Rebecca Henderson

Rebecca Henderson is completing six years of service as a trustee. During her tenure, she steadfastly worked as a volunteer fundraiser every year on the corporate campaign and she was very successful. Over the past six years, Henderson helped raise more than $500,000 for Blumenthal’s education and outreach programs, during the most challenging economic years in memory.

Mary Nell McPherson with Tom Gabbard and Rick Puckett. (Courtesy Blumenthal Performing Arts.)

Mary Nell McPherson with Tom Gabbard and Rick Puckett. (Courtesy Blumenthal Performing Arts.)

Freedom School Partners (accepted by Mary Nell McPherson)

Freedom School Partners is a non-profit organization that provides Charlotte area literacy based summer education programs to prevent summer learning loss for students in grades K-12. They are the largest provider of Freedom Schools in the Nation: a full 10% of the nation’s total Freedom School scholars and interns are served in Charlotte Mecklenburg. While many schools today are focused on STEM, Freedom School Partners believe STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Math) to be the key to a child’s success. Each summer they incorporate performing arts opportunities to broaden their scholars’ creativity, social and emotional intelligence and to inspire them to dream big.

Through a partnership with Freedom Schools in FY14, and fueled by the generosity of thousands of constituents, BPA increased access to a Broadway performance for families and kids least able to afford a ticket by 400%.

Blumenthal Performing Arts serves the Carolinas as a leading cultural, entertainment and education provider. For more information, call (704) 372-1000 or visit Blumenthal Performing Arts receives operating support from the Arts & Science Council and the North Carolina Arts Council. Blumenthal Performing Arts is also supported through the generous aid of its sponsors including, PNC Bank, sponsor of PNC Broadway Lights; and US Airways, official airline of Blumenthal Performing Arts.

2015: Resolve to be a part of the cultural vision

2 Jan

By ASC Staff


The community has a vision for the New Year – in fact, not just a vision, but a complete cultural vision.

It’s why, to help everyone commit to creating a vibrant cultural life in 2015, we’re sharing 13 cultural resolutions we think you’re going to want to keep.

Build Community

  • Be culturally curious – seek and experience a play, concert, festival or workshop that is outside your normal interests.
  • Find at least one person that has not experienced a cultural opportunity that you regularly enjoy, and invite/treat them to an experience. Be their guide and help make them feel comfortable and engaged.
  • Participate in the free Connect with Culture Day on January 10, 2015. Visit on January 5, 2015, for complete details.
  • Share your cultural resolutions with family and friends and encourage them to do likewise.

Be Culturally Innovative and Relevant

  • Connect with ASC via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram) and have an ongoing conversation about the cultural community and its future.
  • Take a selfie with a piece of public art and share it.
  • Sign up for CulturePicks! on to know what’s happening each week, and participate in at least one activity that interests you.
  • Visit at least two festivals based on ethnic cultures that are unfamiliar to you.
  • At least once a week, take a moment to sing, dance, draw, paint, etc. Free your creativity!
  • When searching for gift ideas throughout the year, give the gift of a cultural experience. Buy tickets to museums, plays, concerts, etc…memorable experiences are priceless, they last a lifetime, and they are also GREEN.

Spark Creative and Critical Thinking

  • Engage your child(ren) or a child you know in at least one cultural activity per month.
  • Find private music, dance and art teachers in your neighborhood and give your child(ren) an introduction to each form with a single lesson. You never know what untapped talents they may discover.
  • Experience and support the elementary, middle and high school science fairs as well as art, music and theatre productions in your community, regardless of whether you have a child(ren) participating in them.

    Image created by Sean Busher.

    Image created by Sean Busher.

Creating opportunity in South End

29 Dec

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

“Create your own opportunity.”

For most folks, it’s just something people say. But for others, they are words to live by.

Just ask any of the entrepreneurs or artists in Charlotte’s South End, a place where making your own way has helped the historic neighborhood redefine itself.

Or talk to any member of Donna Scott Productions, which is bringing live theater back to the edge of town.

They’ve all created their own opportunities and, in turn, are providing opportunities for others in the emerging arts district.

“It seems like there is a possibility for a lot of theater people to be able to work here and this is the first step,” said Donna Scott Productions founder Donna Scott. “That’s how I think of it, if we get a good response.”

Donna Scott Productions - (from left) Glynnis O’Donoghue, Donna Scott and Tonya Bludsworth.

Donna Scott Productions – (from left) Glynnis O’Donoghue, Donna Scott and Tonya Bludsworth.

A Theatrical Return to South End

Donna Scott Productions, which consists of Scott and producing partners Tonya Bludsworth and Glynnis O’Donoghue, recently received a $5,000 Cultural Project Grant from ASC to help produce a series of theatrical events in nontraditional venues in South End in partnership with Community Trust, Charlotte Center City Partners and the South End Historic District.

The series will kick off in January at the Charlotte Trolley Museum with a staged reading of the critically acclaimed comedy “Carrie Ann’s Kiss” and will continue in late February and early March with the historical comedy “Shiloh Rules” by Doris Baizley.

“We definitely wanted to do something that is audience engaging,” Bludsworth said. “And having that humor built in – no matter what we’re doing, whether it’s a piece with a message, we all want it to come through with humor.”

The return of theatre to South End will mark Donna Scott Productions’ 10th anniversary. The first show Scott ever produced was “The Body Chronicles” in 2005, coincidentally at the old South End Performing Arts Center (formerly the Charlotte Cutlery Co. warehouse).

That space was converted into a daycare center not long after the production, “so to my knowledge, there hasn’t been anything here in 10 years,” Scott said.

An Opportunity to Work Together

“Carrie Ann’s Kiss” will also be Bludsworth’s and O’Donoghue’s first shows as partners in the theatre company.

Bludsworth hired Scott as an actress in the show’s original run in 2006. The two worked together again on “Aphasia,” Scott’s first film effort as an executive producer, in 2010 and Scott then co-produced Bludsworth’s “Least Likely Friends” in 2013.

“We’ve just always worked well together,” Scott said.

Scott forged a friendship with O’Donoghue after seeing her performance as an actress in 2008 (“I was like, ‘Who is she, because she’s pretty fabulous,” Scott recalled) and after seeing the short piece O’Donoghue wrote for the Theatre Charlotte themed reading and performance series Just Do It in 2012.

This summer O’Donoghue approached Scott about working together; Scott and Bludsworth had already been talking about ways to continue collaborating. It made sense that they all work together under the Donna Scott Productions umbrella, they said, and they locked in the partnership after realizing there might be an opportunity to work in South End.

Flying the Flag for South End

IMG_4748That came when a friend introduced Scott to Tobe Holmes, director of Historic South End. Holmes told Scott there were several neighborhood spaces that could be used for theatre.

The invitation was one Scott couldn’t refuse.

“When somebody opens a door really widely in front of you, you better be ready to run on through and figure it out,” she said.

The trio was drawn to the Trolley Museum because of its openness and its location in the heart of South End. It does possess its challenges – the walls are primarily glass and the company will have to bring in lights and a sound system for shows.

But that’s where the company’s grant from ASC comes in, helping cover some of those upfront costs, Bludsworth said.

“We’re bringing [theatre] back here but in the arts community, it takes a lot of people to make it happen,” she said. “It takes ASC helping finance those things because none of us are independently wealthy doing theater.”

The lesson, O’Donoghue said, is that when you work to create your own opportunity in the culture sector, you find that people in the community and organizations like ASC are willing to help.

“I feel like we pushed the idea and all of this stuff started falling into place,” she said. “It’s like Donna Scott has the flag and is like, ‘Let’s do it,’ and people and opportunities are drawn to that.”

“We’re bringing that flag to South End and I dig it.”

Check Them Out

Donna Scott Productions will present a staged reading of the play “Carrie Ann’s Kiss” at 8 p.m. Jan. 30-31.

It will present the historical comedy “Shiloh Rules” at 8 p.m. March 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14. Both productions will take place at the Charlotte Trolley Museum, 1507 Camden Road. For more information, visit



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