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Stirring our community’s cultural pot

30 Mar

By Robert Bush
ASC President

ASC President Robert Bush.

ASC President Robert Bush.

I think Charlotte-Mecklenburg is the perfect example of a cultural jambalaya. Some residents came to work in the thriving financial sector, while others came as the result of other corporate ventures. When blended with lifelong Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents, these distinctive groups create a tremendous amount of social diversity. It’s what makes Charlotte such a unique place to live, work and play.

Just like any good jambalaya, the ingredients in our community’s pot (with so many different social perspectives and backgrounds) inherently need a unifying base. A stock, of sort, to bring everything together harmoniously, so every resident enhances the community and complements other residents, while still retaining their individuality.

The stock needed to build a unified community is often challenging to find in a region as diverse as Charlotte-Mecklenburg. A perfect example of that difficulty was in the Matthews community of Crestdale. As one of the nation’s oldest historically African-American communities (established by former slaves after the Civil War), Crestdale has deep ties to its rich historical legacy. However, like many aging communities, economic challenges caused many of the last few generations to leave seeking better opportunities, and they never returned.

An old picture of children that grew up in the Crestdale community from the short video "Tank Town: An Oral History of Crestdale."

An old picture of children that grew up in the Crestdale community from the short video “Tank Town: An Oral History of Crestdale.”

Time had eroded the community’s residential base to just a small core of its original families. Then, in what some lifelong residents originally viewed as an intrusion, the federal government began to send them new residents. Montagnard families from Vietnam were relocated to the community due to their assistance to U.S. troops during the ‘60s and ‘70s. During same time as the relocation, Habitat for Humanity began to build homes in Crestdale, which brought another influx of residents.

An old family picture from the Crestdale community from the short video "Tank Town: An Oral History of Crestdale."

An old family picture from the Crestdale community from the short video “Tank Town: An Oral History of Crestdale.”

Many would assume the new life in the neighborhood was all it needed to revive itself to its former glory, but without any ties to one another, the established and new residents found little reason to interact, let alone thrive as a cohesive community. That’s where the Arts & Science Council (ASC) found its window of opportunity.

ASC has always focused on connecting people to the arts, sciences, history and heritage that surround them, so it is a natural fit for ASC to build the bonds of community whenever possible by supporting culturally related projects, and Crestdale was the perfect place to do it. The individual histories, music and visual artistry that Crestdale’s multitude of ethnic backgrounds brought to the community would ultimately be the stock that bound them together with the help of ASC and The Light Factory.

A complex project that incorporated visual art, quilting and oral histories gave residents the platform and the freedom to share their stories, heritages and individual personalities in a way that was not obstructed by ethnic, language or social barriers. The end product was displayed at The Light Factory in an exhibit that most would say was as beautiful in its creative process as it was in its final result. Thanks to the connective power of culture, Crestdale now has the social bonds needed to find its new sense of identity.

We are all in this pot together. We must retain and support the cultural programs, organizations and institutions that strengthen the bonds of our community. ASC is adding a dash of creativity and a pinch of innovation to the stock. With your support stirring the mixture, we have the perfect recipe to keep our cultural jambalaya rich and diverse for years to come. ASC is You & Me.

Tank Town: An Oral History of Crestdale

Addressing the question of cultural relevance

16 Mar

By Robert Bush
ASC President

ASC President Robert Bush.

ASC President Robert Bush.

If it were possible to put a mirror in front of all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural experiences, you should see a familiar face – your own. I, along with ASC’s staff and cultural partners, are always working to ensure the image in the cultural mirror is a reflection of you. That keeps one question at the forefront of our minds: “What’s culturally relevant, and how can we find innovative ways to support and share those experiences with donors, residents and visitors?” That question has an evolving answer, and that’s what makes my job fun.

As we become a more diverse community, the question of ‘cultural relevance’ becomes an even more important issue. While traditional experiences and programs are still appreciated, ASC recognizes that our community is begging for more; more diversity, more access, more inclusion, more innovation and more engagement. Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s new Cultural Vision Plan addressed those issues by directing the arts and cultural sector to take a deeper look at the face of our community and find ways to do more where it is needed, as well as reflect the diversity of voices and culture expressions surrounding us.

Theatre Charlotte is a cultural partner that has already taken a step toward understanding new reflections in our cultural mirror and finding innovative ways to meet the needs of the images it sees. The theatre’s 2011 production of The Glass Menagerie is a great example. By taking Tennessee Williams’ play, which traditionally has an all Caucasian cast, and casting it with all African-Americans, Theatre Charlotte found a new approach to tell a well-known story in a more diverse and inclusive way.

The Theatre Charlotte 2011 production of "The Glass Menagerie." (Theatre Charlotte photo.)

The Theatre Charlotte 2011 production of “The Glass Menagerie.” (Theatre Charlotte photo.)

Their non-traditional approach allowed them to show how Williams’ play could be seen from a different perspective. It enabled them to include the talents of actors that normally wouldn’t be cast in such roles. And in the end, their innovative approach exposed their usual attendees to a contemporary twist on a classic work. It also provided a welcoming atmosphere to new patrons that attended because of their support for the cast or their intrigue/curiosity of the new casting approach.

Charlotte Ballet is another cultural partner that is taking steps to ensure their programing is a true reflection of the changing face and tastes of our community. Associate Artistic Director Patricia McBride recently took George Balanchine’s Tarantella, a ballet he originally choreographed in 1964 with McBride in one of the featured roles, and restaged it with Charlotte Ballet’s Emily Ramirez and Jordan Leeper.

Tarantella was created more than 50 years ago, and although it is timeless in its artistry, audiences are not as enthusiastic. McBride recognized that change, casting talented young artists that would appeal to a new generation, and also adding her own intuition to the interpretation of Balanchine’s work – staying true to his original and addressing the preferences of today’s audiences, yearning for fresh, new work.

Like Theatre Charlotte, Charlotte Ballet and countless other cultural organizations and individual artists, I love trying to anticipate the cultural needs and desires of our community. I love helping create unique solutions used to meet those needs and desires. But most importantly, I love being a part of our community and seeing my reflection, alongside yours, in the great cultural experiences made possible through support from ASC.

I hope you see your reflection in the many cultural experiences and organizations that surround you. ASC is dedicated to making that kind of engagement happen for everyone.

From cultural sector recipient to supporter: a donor shares why she gives to ASC

1 Mar

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

ASC donor Lindsay Wright at Discovery Place. As a child attending summer camp at the science center, Wright and her camp mates would line up along the tile hand prints before starting their day.

ASC donor Lindsay Wright at Discovery Place. As a child attending summer camp at the science center, Wright and her camp mates would line up along the tile hand prints before starting their day.

Lindsay Wright didn’t know the field trips she went on as a public school student in Charlotte-Mecklenburg were supported by the Arts & Science Council.

She connected the dots as an adult. It’s why she gives to ASC.

“I’ve reaped the benefits of the Arts & Science Council and I want to make sure that others get that benefit as well,” Wright said. “One of the ways to do that is to give.”

Wright said she is a direct recipient of the projects, programs and organizations that ASC supports. Besides cultural field trips, she received scholarships to attend summer camps at Discovery Place and Mint Museum.

She remembers learning to draw at Mint Museum Randolph’s camp. And, after participating in camp at Discovery Place, she started volunteering there and at the science center’s sister organization, the Charlotte Nature Museum.

“I have run the space shuttle mission when they used to have it, I have run the IMAX and I have taken care of the aquatic animals at Discovery Place and I have taken care of the butterflies at the nature museum,” she said. “I mean, these are my memories as a child.”

Those experiences not only gave her something productive to do during her formative years, but they motivated her to continue learning about and taking interest in topics that maybe she wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.

“That led me to college, it led me to living abroad, it led me to exploring even beyond all of that – the reach of the world, really – and I think that that background is what made me do that,” she said.

Now settled in Charlotte, Wright continues to be involved in the cultural sector.

She’s been a shareholder in ASC’s Community Supported Art program, which connects local artists to local supporters. She volunteers her time in the sector and is a member of ASC’s Young Donor Society, a group of donors ages 40 and under that give generously to support the cultural sector broadly.

Nights out with friends revolve around museums, gallery openings or the latest local theater production.

She’s seen firsthand how the cultural sector has not only impacted her life, but how it’s helped the city and the region transform and attract newcomers.

“Growing up, nobody came uptown. We were not on the top of anybody’s list,” she said. “That’s totally changed now. A lot of that has to do with what the cultural sector has done to make the city vibrant, make it a place where people want to go and to give them something to do uptown besides working nine to five and then going home.”

The sector consists of so many great artists, organizations, educational opportunities and festivals that it’s impossible to support them all individually, Wright said.

“I like ASC because it touches all of those areas,” She said. “There’s no other place where your giving can have as much of an impact.”

You can make a gift to ASC at the following link: http://bit.ly/GivetoASC.

Show Your Support for ASC on Social Media

ASC asks the community to participate in the upcoming ASC is You & Me week, which is March 9-13. The purpose of the week is to raise awareness about the ASC Annual Fund Drive, show how dollars from the campaign impact cultural organizations and individual artists, and highlight how the cultural sector in enriches the quality of life for Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents and visitors.

To participate, be sure to like ASC on Facebook (Facebook.com/ASCCharlotte) and follow @ASCCharlotte on Twitter. You can also show your support on Facebook by changing your cover photo to one of the ASC is You & Me-themed cover photos that will be posted on ASC’s page by March 6. To join in the conversation, use the hashtag #ASCYouandMe (it can be used on both Facebook and Twitter).

Connecting with culture

30 Jan

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

ConnectCulture-2018

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 http://artsandscience.org/supportingasc. Every gift matters.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thank You From ASC

29 Jul

By Robert Bush
President

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.

A community appeal from ASC

12 Jun

From 2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive Chair Richard T. “Stick” Williams and ASC President Robert Bush

Whether you live, work, go to school in or visit Charlotte-Mecklenburg, you benefit from the organizations and programs supported by dollars from the Arts & Science Council (ASC).

For that reason, back in January we asked the community to dig deep to help ASC reach its 2014 Annual Fund Drive goal of $6.9 million to sustain the cultural sector. And it’s why we’re asking you to dig a little deeper to help ASC reach its goal.

2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive Chair Richard T. "Stick" Williams.

2014 ASC Annual Fund Drive Chair Richard T. “Stick” Williams.

The public portion of ASC’s campaign was scheduled to end April 30. In May, ASC worked to wrap up remaining employee campaigns as well as finalize corporate and foundation gifts. However, as of June 1, we have commitments for $6 million — $900,000 short of the goal.

In order to finish the job, ASC is making a special appeal to the community to help us reach our annual campaign goal by June 30.

Reaching this goal is vital. Fewer dollars to ASC means fewer dollars to support cultural groups that have suffered more than a 40-percent reduction in funding since 2009. It also brings less cultural programming; cuts to grant funding that provides greater access to arts, science and history experiences; and possibly the elimination of cultural events our community has grown to cherish.

This year’s $6.9 million goal represents a 7-percent increase over the $6 million in unrestricted dollars and $450,000 in education funding ASC raised for the cultural community in 2013. Last year’s campaign fell $500,000 short of its unrestricted-gifts goal, resulting in a 4-percent cut in operating support to organizations.

ASC President Robert Bush.

ASC President Robert Bush.

The Annual Fund Drive campaign cabinet believes ASC can fill the gap by extending this opportunity for individuals and companies to donate.

Please remember – and tell your friends – that every dollar to ASC matters. Individuals can make a gift online at ArtsAndScience.org or can mail a check to Arts & Science Council, 227 W. Trade St., Suite 250, Charlotte, NC 28202. If you have already given, please consider giving a little more. If you just haven’t gotten around to making your pledge, please make it happen by June 30.

Thank you to all of the campaign volunteers for your hard work to date and to those individuals and companies that have donated to ASC.

For 56 years, our community has rallied together to raise the funds that have built and sustained our arts, science and history organizations. Together we can meet this challenge again.

ASC is You & Me!

 

Arts and Culture: Supplying much more than meets the eye

24 Apr

By David Currence
Marketing Manager

Image

You might think about arts and culture as only museums, galleries and theaters.

But here’s a new way of thinking of them – as job creators, economic stimulators and active contributors to the local business community.

Nonprofit arts and culture are a $202.8 million industry in Charlotte-Mecklenburg – one that supports more than 6,200 full-time equivalent jobs, generates $144.6 million in household income for local residents and delivers $18.1 million in local and state government revenue.

Don’t worry about those facts and figure, just remember this: the arts mean business.

The common misconception is that communities support the arts and culture at the expense of local economic development. But the reality is leaders who care about their community and its economic vitality should feel good about investing in the arts.

It’s an investment in an industry that creates local jobs, generates government revenue and spends its dollars in its own backyard. As Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s chief advocate and supporter for arts and culture, the Arts & Science Council (ASC) is the primary investor for many of the cultural experiences that enrich all of our lives. Therefore, supporting ASC is the wisest investment of all because ASC is you and me.

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