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Take action and ask your legislator to support the arts

14 May

ASC Staff

arts day 2015On May 20, Mecklenburg County art supporters will come together with hundreds of other NC citizens for ARTS Day 2015, a united effort to tell our state legislators in Raleigh how significant the arts are in our community.

Please consider joining us in our advocacy efforts.  For more information on the event, visit:

If you cannot come to Raleigh on May 20, you can take part in ARTS Day by sending an email to your state legislator that addresses:

  • Increasing N.C. Arts Council grants funding, which helps ASC provide neighborhood/community and individual artist project grants, and
  • Securing Senate passage of H138, requiring one credit in the arts for high school graduation.

Click here for a sample letter and additional details.

Sending this message to your legislator should take you no more than 2 minutes. We urge you to send an e-mail today to coincide with our visit to Raleigh-emphasizing the importance of arts and culture in Mecklenburg County.


Renewal of public/private partnership needed to sustain cultural sector

1 May

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Photo illustration by Sean Busher.

Photo illustration by Sean Busher.

The Cultural Vision Plan laid out Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents’ expectation that the cultural community connect people and strengthen community by providing access to relevant, educational and diverse arts and cultural experiences to all residents.

The question left unanswered was ‘how can we pay for this vision when our cultural community has not recovered from the 2008 recession’.

The Cultural Life Task Force, a joint effort between our local private and public sector funders, provided the roadmap for sustaining the cultural sector so that it can move towards fulfilling that community goal.

Now, the Arts & Science Council (ASC) is tasked with implementing the recommendations and visions offered by the two plans. Doing so, said ASC President Robert Bush, will mean revitalizing the public/private partnership that has been central to building and growing our cultural community.

It is why ASC, the community’s chief advocate for arts, science, history and heritage, has requested funding increases from the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville. The requests focus on increasing the per capita to serve the growing population.

ASC President Robert Bush.

ASC President Robert Bush.

“The requests that we have made—even the dollar amounts—were specifically recommended by the task force,” Bush said. “We have also been very specific in what these dollars would fund. This isn’t just a ‘give us more money and we’ll decide’ kind of thing.”

Because changes the N.C. Legislature made to the business privilege tax mean reductions in funding for local governments, ASC has provided the towns and the city a stepped-in approach to achieve the task force’s recommended level of funding over a three- to five-year period.

For fiscal year 2016, the requested increases amount to a combined $39,200 more in unrestricted funds from the towns (from $72,500 in FY 2015 to $111,700), $350,000 more from the city (from $2.9 million to $3.2 million) and $2 million from the county, which last gave ASC unrestricted funding in 2011 (it provided $350,000 in restricted funds in FY 2015).

Half of the requested increased funds from Mecklenburg County would support education initiatives that restore and stabilize field trips, allow elementary schools to use the arts to improve reading, expand or reestablish middle school music programs and establish out-of-school time arts, science and history programs across the county.

The remainder would go to support neighborhood arts programming, providing cultural exhibitions and performances in parks and libraries and transforming the services the cultural sector provides to the community.

“These are all things that align with the county’s priorities in building this community for the future,” Bush said. “We have taken similar steps with the city and the towns so that the cultural services provided are the ones their communities want.”

The task force called for the additional public sector support to be matched by the private sector. That is happening, with the Thrive Campaign—comprised of a small group of corporate and individual donors and foundations—having already raised $42.5 million of its $45 million goal to help major cultural institutions transform their business models and produce their work more cost-effectively.

The campaign, which is completely separate from ASC, is led by Hugh McColl.

“Thrive money is about building the capacity of our major institutions so they can reach their highest potential to serve the community in new ways and we are excited that the Thrive group has done this,” Bush said. “But those dollars are not flowing through ASC. They are a totally separate fund, and we need to keep raising the dollars we have been raising so that ASC can invest in the cultural sector.”

Thrive donors have been clear in saying they expect the public sector to match their efforts to reinvigorate the public/private partnership that led to the establishment of Spirit Square, The Afro-American Cultural Center (now the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture), Discovery Place and Blumenthal Performing Arts in the 1970s and 80s.

“We’ve built this big infrastructure,” Bush said. “The problem we have now is that the system that we built this on put ASC between the donor and the groups and we’ve got to change that. The groups have to build deep relationships with people that love what they do, and we’ve got to provide a stable highway to get to that new system.”

It’s a challenging time for local governments, but “every year we wait to make this shift, the deeper the hole gets and we get closer to the point where we may lose some of our beloved institutions,” Bush said.

The loss of any more of our longtime cultural organizations would be detrimental to the community, Bush said. But he said it shouldn’t come to that.

“The arts, science and history programs we have in this community are a view to a different world for many people and they are the path to give people a future and a place of hope,” he said. “It’s not just about entertainment. It’s about inspiring people to think differently about their lives.

“It’s about inspiring young people to be serious about their education. It’s about ensuring that this is a joyful place to live, work, raise a family and play. It’s about the cultural sector being a critical economic and tourism driver, and I firmly believe that this community has the ability to make all of this happen and everything else and that it’s time that we all stand up and together for the cultural sector that impacts the quality of life of residents and visitors.”

XOXO: Putting the weird in local theater

1 May

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

XOXO presents the experiential performance "Bohemian Grove" May 7-30.

XOXO presents the experiential performance “Bohemian Grove” May 7-30.

Trying to win over the established theater crowd wasn’t working for XOXO. Traditional venues didn’t hold much appeal for the Charlotte experimental theater collective either.

So it got weird.

“We gave ourselves permission to do the kind of shows we wanted to see,” said founder Matt Cosper. “The audience came out of the woodwork, and it’s been really rewarding because it turns out it’s actually this elusive audience that theaters want—a very diverse audience, a young audience.

“People that don’t go see theater come see our shows.”

Case in point: “Bohemian Grove,” the three-hour-plus experiential performance piece the theater mounted last year. For each show, an audience of 14 people loaded up on a church van in Charlotte to be chauffeured by Cosper to a remote South Carolina farm, where a story exploring the afterlife unfolded.

XOXO will remount its boutique work from May 7–30, thanks in part to $5,000 in project funding from the Arts & Science Council (ASC).

XOXO founder Matt Cosper.

XOXO founder Matt Cosper.

The grant is “allowing us to pay artists, rent and insure the van—insurance for a performance like this is not cheap,” Cosper said. “It’s allowing us to do the work that we want to do and serve more people, and that’s a big thing.”

The performance starts on the drive, with the route to the farm specifically mapped out. Music, soundscapes, a monologue, poems and little scenes connect passengers to what they see out the windows—and prepares them for what’s to come.

If you’re used to the traditional theater-going experience, it gets weirder from here.

At the farm, audiences move through the encounter together. The actors are close enough to make eye contact and have one-on-one experiences with spectators. At one point, the audience sits in silence and watches fireflies. At another, each audience member is confronted with a choice.

If the thought of audience participation freaks you out, don’t worry. There aren’t any costumed characters dancing down the aisles. No one is being pulled up onstage or forced to do tricks.

It’s really more of a plugged in, connected experience that audience members get to immersive themselves in for a few hours.

“It might not be for everybody,” Cosper said. “Some people really want that distance. They want a nice frame around the picture and to sit back, but this is not that. You’re in it, you’re making the show.”

You’re also enveloped in the poetic afterlife that XOXO has imagined. It’s a party. It’s also quite silly, Cosper said.

“Most of the show is very comic in tone,” he said. “It’s almost like a clown show, but it also has sort of a spacey vibe. We do kind of think of it as a trip to another dimension.”

Yeah, it sounds weird. But here’s the thing—even though experimental theater can have the reputation of being prickly and inaccessible, “Bohemian Grove” is anything but.

“Whatever experience you have is the right experience,” Cosper said. “We’re not out to make anyone feel anything other than welcome.”

Want to Go?

XOXO presents the theatrical experience “Bohemian Grove” May 7–30. The performance party invites adventurous culture vultures to explore a cartoonish and poetic vision of the afterlife. Click here for ticket information or for more details.

Making art by breaking the rules

1 May

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Some of us are adults by the time we learn that it’s okay to color outside the lines.

Musgrove 1

Local artist Marcee Musgrove in her Eden Street Market studio in Davidson.

Take for instance artist Marcee Musgrove, who works out of her Eden Street Market studio in the shadow of Davidson College.

“I’m a rules follower,” Musgrove said. “I worked for corporate America for years. It’s been a hard transition for me as an artist to break the rules.”

However, she’s slowly learning to do so “because there is forgiveness on the other side.”

The Arts & Science Council’s Spring 2015 Community Supported Art (CSA) program, which connects regional artists to local arts patrons, provided her the perfect chance to break the rules while breaking the perception many have of her.

Musgrove is likely better known for her wearable silk art, which has gained her fans and followers throughout the greater Charlotte region.

But, as this season’s CSA shareholders learned, she’s equally as talented a mixed media artist. Her contributions to this spring’s CSA crop were artistic representations of the birch trees and nature scenes she grew up with in Michigan.

When she was a child, there was oil in the wilderness of West Branch, where she and her family vacationed. However, pursuit of the liquid gold left unnatural hills and valleys in the picturesque landscape.

She didn’t look forward to those vacations as a child, but upon her arrival she would always notice the quiet of the deep woods.

It’s the kind of quiet you don’t experience in your day-to-day life in the city or suburbs, the kind that slowly allows you to connect to the serenity of nature. It’s a quiet she’s missed in her 20 years living in the Carolinas.

“When I create these paintings, I’m re-creating that feeling of only being present,” Musgrove said.

One of the scenic mixed media images local artist Marcee Musgrove created for the Arts & Science Council's Spring 2015 Community Supported Art program.

One of the scenic mixed media images local artist Marcee Musgrove created for the Arts & Science Council’s Spring 2015 Community Supported Art program.

She produced her works on wooden boxes she had specifically made for the CSA program. Each piece contained five layers, with images spilling over to the sides.

“I want these to be seen,” she said. “It’s not about just what you see on the front.”

It’s about what’s outside the lines, too.

Earth Day art contest for kids

23 Apr

Compiled by Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Earth Day celebrations may have taken place across the globe yesterday, but Earth Day KidsCharlotte-Mecklenburg area students have the opportunity to use art to illustrate why it’s important to celebrate Earth Day every day.

Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) and the Arts & Science Council invite kids in pre-K through 12th grade to participate in a Kids Art Contest honoring Earth Day. Artwork should best portray the child’s or teen’s response to the following:

“For a healthy community, we need a healthy environment. How might you show compassion to others and the natural environment to create a healthy future for all living things?”

Artwork can use any two-dimensional medium-such as watercolor, colored pencil, pen and ink, pastels, crayons and more-on a single piece of white paper. Artwork should not exceed an 8”x10” template area.

Participants have to be sponsored by a CHS employee to participate. All artwork submissions and completed entry forms must be received by May 22, 2015. Submission forms can be downloaded by clicking here.

What’s your big idea to improve Charlotte?

13 Apr

ASC Staff

Emerging 4 update 2

Do you have an innovative idea that will help make Charlotte more livable? Are you eager to serve and engage your community?

Share your idea with 880 Cities and Knight Foundation and tell them about yourself. You could be selected as a K880 Emerging City Champion.

What is the K880 City Champions program?

emerging 6 smallerThe K880 Emerging City Champions program provides young, emerging and diverse leaders with the opportunity to make immediate and lasting impacts in their communities. K880 and Knight Foundation believe that livable cities are successful cities. Making our cities safer and more enjoyable for everyone, from eight to 80 years old, will help our communities attract and retain talent, create economic opportunity, and build civic engagement.

If you are between the ages of 19 and 35; if you have the ideas; if you’re willing to try and fail and learn; if you have the drive and passion; and, if you live in either Charlotte, North Carolina; Akron, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Macon, Georgia; Miami, Florida; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Saint Paul, Minnesota; or San Jose, California, then apply today to be a K880 Emerging City Champion.

880 Cities and Knight Foundation will select 24 Champions from the pool of applicants: three Champions each city.

Benefits to becoming an Emerging City Champion

All Champions will:

  • Receive $5,000 in seed funding to implement his or her proposed idea;
  • Participate in The Emerging City Champions Studio, a training workshop held in Toronto in June 2015 (travel and stipends will be fully covered);
  • Receive professional media training and be supported in developing a communications and promotional strategy. This will include training in writing, social media, and video documentation;
  • Connect to a diverse and inspiring network of peers from across the country;
  • Interact with a mentor (an expert in the field) who will offer support, expertise, and advice throughout the program (880 Cities staff will also be available to support the Champions in implementing their projects);
  • Be recognized and promoted by 880 Cities and the Knight Foundation.

You should apply if you are:

  • A young urbanist, passionate about your community
  • An emerging civic leader, committed to your neighborhood or city
  • An innovator and a creative problem solver
  • A youth activist who wants a better future for your neighborhood
  • A young community organizer eager to explore new ways to get people engaged
  • Someone who loves to walk and bike and who thinks all cities should be bikeable and walkable
  • Ambitious, collaborative, and inclusive

The Emerging City Champions is open to anyone with an innovative idea and the ability to implement it. Applicants may be activists, tactical urbanists, designers, artists, planning professionals, hackers, architects; everyone is welcome. K880 and Knight Foundation are seeking applicants from diverse backgrounds, fresh perspectives, and innovative solutions.

So what are you waiting for?

Click here for more information or to apply. Application closes on MAY 8, 2015. Share your big ideas to make Charlotte better!

Matisse art books make for artful exhibition at the Becthler

1 Apr

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager


Henri Matisse, Icarus, plate VIII of XX, from Jazz, 1947, stencil on paper © 2015 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Imagine sitting in your easy chair and taking in the work of renowned artist Henri Matisse.

That’s how comfortable you will be strolling through the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts’ exhibition “The Art Books of Henri Matisse,” which runs through Sept. 7, 2015.

Drawn from the Bank of America Collection, the exhibition features 80 framed original illustrations with text from four of Matisse’s most significant artist books.

“This is truly the first time we have decided to work with another entity, this one Bank of America, to bring to Charlotte a show that had in fact been curated by their motif, which is remarkably strong,” said Bechtler President and CEO John Boyer. “So we do see this as a real partnership.”

Widely regarded as one of the most important painters of the 20th century, Matisse (French, 1869-1954) was part of a generation of artists who recognized there was no material difference between painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking and, in this case, art books, and how they strike us, Boyer said.

During his 60-year career, Matisse created a body of work that comprised paintings, drawings, cut-outs and sculpture. Starting in the 1930s, he devoted much of his time to printmaking and book illustration, as livre d’artise’ (artist’s books) had become popular in France.

“It’s increasingly important, I think, for this community and beyond to recognize that artworks such as artist books and prints with the etchings and all of the rest are in no way of less importance because they come in a series,” Boyer said. “Audiences come to understand fully that these were very much intentional acts on the part of the artists.

“This was a form of expression that was critically important to great modernists.”

Henri Matisse, The Cowboy, plate XIV of XX, from Jazz, 1947, stencil on paper © 2015 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse, The Cowboy, plate XIV of XX, from Jazz, 1947, stencil on paper © 2015 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Matisse became enamored with this art form and created a dozen books, 11 of which were widely reproduced and one made exclusively for his family. Charlotte-based Bank of America owns four of Matisse’s books, which have been loaned to the Bechtler for this exhibition.

Those books are: Poesies de Stéhane Mallarmé (The Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé), 1932; Pasiphaé—Chant de Minos (Les Crétois) (Pasiphaé-Song of Minos [The Cretans]), 1944; Jazz, 1947; and Poèmes de Charles d’Orléans (Poems of Charles d’Orléans), 1950.

“In one instance in particular, in Jazz, the entirety of the book is a dimension of Matisse,” Boyer said. “That is to say the images, the text, the very view of the world are an expression of him.”

In addition to the core group of Matisse works, a limited number of artists’ books from the Bechtler’s collection are also on view in the exhibition.

For more information on the exhibition, including museum hours and admission, visit




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