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Jumping in with both feet

7 Mar

Why This Matters: The arts, sciences and history can provide bridges to cultural experiences that enrich our lives.

By Robert Bush
ASC President

Robert Bush, ASC President.

Robert Bush, ASC President.

I was one of the lucky ones. My parents made certain that my sisters and I were exposed to a wide variety of cultural experiences – music, theatre, museums – but they also made sure that we were not afraid of the world and all that it offers. So, they regularly sent us away from home on our own – first with trips to visit aunts, uncles and cousins in towns which seemed so far away at the time (like High Point and Thomasville in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina), and then to week-long church camps. They even let us walk to school, shop along the main street area and go to the movies by ourselves in my hometown of Hickory. But, in June 1969, when I was 16 years old, the biggest adventure of my youth began. My parents put me on an Eastern Airlines flight at the old Charlotte Douglas Airport off Morris Field Drive to spend the next eight weeks living with a family in the historic city of Saltillo, the oldest post-Spanish conquest settlement in northern Mexico.

That total emersion into a different world with a different language, different music, different food, different everything, taught me many lessons and also set me on a path that defines my life to this day. I watched Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon on a big screen set up in the city square of Saltillo with thousands of Mexicans cheering that accomplishment for all of us. A few years later, I ended up majoring in Spanish in college and even taught high school Spanish before making the move to arts administration. The lessons I learned about my Mexican family, their lives and their culture became the foundation for how I approach life.

This blog provides too little space to cover the hundreds of examples from my life of how jumping in with both feet and without fear to experience another culture has taught and continues to teach me daily. I could recount the joy of learning to dance with Chuck Davis and the African American Dance Ensemble in Durham; hearing the Japanese drummers lead a festival audience through an exciting performance in Fort Wayne, Ind.; seeing flamenco dancers in Seville; potters from the Catawba Valley tradition opening a ground-hog kiln and pulling out their face jugs and swirl pots; experiencing actors in Belfast telling the harrowing story of life in Chile under Pinochet; and so many more.

Instead, I will focus on two experiences.

In 1988, I was the director of development at The Mint Museum and served as project manager for the Ramessess the Great exhibition – the largest cultural event in the history of this community. Over a four-month timespan in 1988 and 1989, more than 634,000 individuals visited the museum on Randolph Road for the largest exhibition of Egyptian antiquities ever to tour the United States. Many of you share memories of this extraordinary experience with me. But I also had the opportunity to lead a group of Mint members and others on a trip to Egypt, where we visited museums, archeological sites, mosques, churches, ancient temples and tombs, shopped in ancient marketplaces and cruised the Nile. We saw and learned about the lives of Egyptians past and present. It was a joyous sharing of how their culture and beliefs have shaped our culture and beliefs to this day.

More recently, in April 2011, I found myself in deep sadness. My older sister Carol had just passed away without warning. She shared with me this love of the world and of art and learning instilled in us by our parents. And, I was scheduled to lead a trip of ASC donors and others to Cuba. (I admit it had been a “bucket list” trip for me since that summer of ’69.) And so, I set out again, sad and confused this time, on another journey that would change my life.

Cuba 1

A scene from a trip of ASC donors and others to Cuba in April, 2011.

Travel to Cuba was difficult at that time. That is changing now that the U.S. and Cuba have re-established diplomatic relations. But, I cannot tell you how lucky I feel to have experienced Cuba before what I know will be a rapid and dramatic time of change. Yes, we were shocked to see new or restored buildings next to crumbling historic structures.

Cuba 2

A scene from a trip of ASC donors and others to Cuba in April, 2011.

Yes, we delighted in the vintage 1950 automobiles, a night at the Tropicana, and the artist studios, galleries and museums.

But the highlight was seeing Havana through the eyes of some Cuban-American immigrants who left their home in 1960 and made their first return with us. We saw their joy in reconnecting with the beauty of their homeland and their dynamic culture. We also experienced the warmth of the Cuban people.

Cuba 4

A scene from a trip of ASC donors and others to Cuba in April, 2011.

What does all of this have to do with ASC and our role in the cultural life of this community? It’s simple actually. Just like my life has been enriched by the bridges provided by the arts, sciences and history of this and many other cultures and countries, ASC works to ensure that our local cultural world reflects the richness and diversity of all who have chosen to make this place their home. ASC is helping build those bridges for all of us to learn more about each other through our cultural lives.

30 ways to celebrate National Arts & Humanities Month

2 Oct

Compiled by Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Not a day goes by when we don’t celebrate the arts in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

There’s good reason: Arts and culture mean more than $200 million dollars in economic impact each year in our community. They provide more than 14,000 jobs in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

And more than 3 million people attended performances, exhibitions, classes, lectures and films supported by ASC funding in the past year.

But, while the arts are central to our everyday lives, we take the whole month of October to commemorate the arts in a big way during National Arts & Humanities Month – the largest annual celebration for the arts and humanities in the nation.

logo color printout_6.14

National Arts & Humanities Month is a coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of culture in America. Since 1985, October has been designated to encourage all Americans to explore new facets of the arts and humanities in their lives, and to begin a lifelong habit of active participation in the arts.

In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the city and the county have proclaimed October Arts and Humanities Month and commend its observance to all citizens.

So, in honor of the 30th Anniversary of National Arts and Humanities Month, we’ve got 30 ways you can celebrate arts and culture locally.

1. Read a book. The 2015 Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Community Read encourages us to learn about what we’re reading, but also about the people with whom we’re reading.
2. Discover the Wall Poems of Charlotte. Here’s a great guide.
3. Stop and listen to a street musician.
4. Put your child’s artwork up on the refrigerator.
5. Take an art lesson.

6. Take in a theatrical production. There are too many options to list.
7. Go hear the symphony. The Charlotte Symphony’s “KnightSounds: Bachtoberfest III” pairs local beer with classical music.
8. Snap your picture with a new piece of public art. There’s Dana Gingras’ Ascension in East Charlotte, Jaume Plensa’s Ainsa III at UNC Charlotte Center City, Tom Joyce’s Thicket at Mint Museum Uptown and Hoss Haley’s Old Growth, being installed this month at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Fixed Base Operator Facility.
9. Take a public art walking tour. It’s a great way to get a new perspective of uptown.
10. Plant something. Wing Haven’s Fall Plant Sale happens Oct. 8-10.
11. Explore a local art gallery.
12. Sing in the shower…
13. …Or sing in the car. “
Don’t Stop Believin’” is a classic. So is “Nothing Compares 2 U,” though you probably won’t admit singing it.
14. Ask ASC President Robert Bush a question. Our 10 @ 2 Facebook question-and-answer series, which allows our Facebook friends and followers to ask Robert Bush their questions about the cultural sector, returns later this month. Like us on Facebook to watch for details.
15. Advocate for the arts. Advocating for the arts is essential in keeping our communities culturally enriched. Have your voice heard and stay current on legislation that directly impacts you by registering for the free advocacy tool VoterVoice.
16. Stay up-to-date on the latest cultural happenings. Sign up for weekly Culture Picks! powered by CharlotteCultureGuide.com.
17. Dress up for Halloween. Show off your costume creativity, conduct spooky science experiments and more at Science on the Rocks: Fright at the Museum.
18. Buy art from a local artist.
19. Attend a concert.

20. Go dancing. The Mint to Move Cultural Dance Night is a good choice.
21. Involve the family in the arts. One way is by going to Family Day at the Bechtler.
22. Check out a festival. There’s the Gandhi Unity Fall Festival, the 25th Annual Latin American Festival, the UNC Charlotte 40th Anniversary International Festival and Biketoberfest.
23. Make science.
Check out the Charlotte Mini-Maker Faire Oct. 10 at Discovery Place.
24. Hoot N Howl. The Carolina Raptor Center combines Dia de Los Muertos traditions with traditional Halloween games and crafts. And raptors.
25. Participate in the National Arts & Humanities Month #ShowYourArt Instagram campaign. Share your cultural life on Instagram with the tags #ShowYourArt, @ASCCharlotte and @Americans4Arts.
26. Learn what Pecha Kucha Night Charlotte is all about. Vol. 14 is Oct. 14 at The Chop Shop NoDa.
27. Stay on pointe. Join Charlotte Ballet for its season premiere, “Fall Works,” Oct. 15-17.
28. Board the ark. Or get swept up in the one-act performance “Noah’s Flood.” Three principals from Opera Carolina will be joined by 100 choristers from The Choir School at St. Peter’s and an orchestra of Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO) instrumentalists and CPCC Early Music Ensemble members.
29. Support the cultural sector. Support culture for all by giving to ASC, give to specific cultural projects through power2give.org and to the cultural organizations you care about.
30. Do The Worm or The Robot. Then head to the Breakin’ Convention at Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts on Oct. 9 and 10.

An ASC fairy tale (or our 2015 year-in-review)

2 Jul

Illustrations by Ladianne Henderson

This fairy tale is a re-imagining of the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) fiscal year 2015. Highlights range from Robert Bush being named ASC president and the debut of the arts advocacy film “Spiral Bound” to the release of the Cultural Life Task Force recommendations and the community’s Cultural Vision Plan.

year in Review 1

Once Upon A Time in 2015, there was a council of 41 Poohbahs in a glittering land.

They decided to go on a quest to make their kingdom even MORE fun, alive and fascinating.

So they crowned a new King of Culture and told him to SHAKE THINGS UP!

Year in Review

The king and his minions knew what to do; in a single year, 2015, they let fly a whole new Cultural Vision Plan for all the people of the kingdom.

And the Poohbahs were happy.

Year in Review 3

The king’s scholars taught students to make a magical movie called Spiral Bound and it blazed a trail all the way to the Left Coast to premier at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

And the Poohbahs applauded.

Year in Review 4

And the scholars’ Studio was 345 times more wonderful than any other school in the land, because all of its children graduated and felt proud.

And the Poobahs sang its praises.

Year in Review 5

A rich man in the kingdom learned of the king’s work bestowing blessings on children, so he gave one hundred thousand dollars to buy trips in from the field so thousands of children could see actors, dancers, musicians and more.

And the Poohbahs were pleased.

Year in Review 6

The king decreed that all the people should connect with culture, so his minions declared a special day on January 10th when more than 5,000 people came out to play .

And the Poobahs, their friends and families, played too.

Year in Review 7

And when the people played, they paid too; thousands of people in the kingdom gave millions to the King and the Poobah Cabinet’s Campaign for Culture.

And the Poobahs worked and worked and worked to make the campaign zing.

Year in Review 8

And the minions made art that went “Pop” on huge signs in the sky; made CSA bags full of wonderful prizes that gleamed and sold out in a flash – the kingdom’s artists beamed at the abundance.

And the Poohbahs wept with joy.

Year in Review 9

The king’s minions celebrated 10 years of training leaders called CLTs, a myriad 400 more Poobahs of arts, science, history and heritage dis-patched in the kingdom to do good works . . .

And the Poobahs saw themselves in these young leaders and were proud.

Year in Review 10

Listening to the king, the minions made art public, with disks that spun in the wind on sculpture’s own international day, and art sprung up everywhere, from hamlets to public squares to train tracks.

And the Poobahs saw joy in the faces of all people in the land.

Year in Review 11

The Poobahs, their king and the minions looked over their year’s work and rejoiced, for they had made much progress in their quest – millions on millions had fun upon fun.

But there was much left to do . . . so the Poohbahs, their king and his minions took a deep breath and began again . . . to create new ways to govern, listen and act . . .

To make 2016 and even better year of culture for all the people in the kingdom.

Year in Review 12

Thank you to all, and to all a good day!

Year in Review 13

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.

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