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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:

Public art connects kids to community – and a local university

6 Jul

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Artists Shaun Cassidy, Lauren Doran and Laurel Holtzapple on a tour of Winthrop University with students from Reid Park Academy. Cassidy, Doran and Holtzapple are creating the public artwork for the Reid Park community as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative.

Artists Shaun Cassidy, Lauren Doran and Laurel Holtzapple on a tour of Winthrop University with students from Reid Park Academy. Cassidy, Doran and Holtzapple are creating the public artwork for the Reid Park community as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative.

Elementary students from Reid Park Academy in Charlotte connected to the history of their community – and contributed to what will be a future source of pride for their neighborhood – during a college-level crash course in public art last month.

The students traveled to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., to meet with the artist team of Shaun Cassidy (an associate professor at the university), Lauren Doran and Laurel Holtzapple to learn about the new public artwork the artists are creating for the Reid Park neighborhood as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative.

In addition to touring the campus to see how art is integrated into the university setting, the students created clay reliefs that will be incorporated into one of the three sculptures for the Reid Park public art project.

That had Reid Park Academy student Tierra Rice excited about the project, which is expected to be completed later this year and placed at the future Reid Park community park.

“Some of the things that are going to be on it I made, so of course I’m excited,” Rice said.

For the Reid Park neighborhood, the community engagement component of the public art process is just as important as the soon-to-be completed artwork, said neighborhood advocate Ricky Hall, who accompanied the students on the trip.

Students learned about prominent names woven into the fabric of the neighborhood, such as influential schoolteacher Amay James and community founder Ross Reid. In the early 1900s, Reid, a World War I veteran, purchased the land that became the neighborhood.

The artist team explained to the students how the future public art will connect to the rich history of the neighborhood, which became a home for African-American families displaced from Charlotte’s former Brooklyn neighborhood, the prominent uptown African-American business and residential district razed by the city in the early 1960s.

“That was a capstone for me because it brings together the whole notion of community, education and public art,” Hall said. “The students will know their hands helped produced pieces of that artwork that will be there for perpetuity.”

Throughout their time on the college campus, the elementary students were engaged, excited and asked thoughtful questions, Cassidy said. The art professor said he wanted to feel special by being guests on the university campus.

Sculptor and Winthrop University Professor Shaun Cassidy working with Reid Park Academy students to create clay reliefs to be integrated into the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership public artwork in Charlotte's Reid Park community.

Sculptor and Winthrop University Professor Shaun Cassidy working with Reid Park Academy students to create clay reliefs to be integrated into the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership public artwork in Charlotte’s Reid Park community.

“I was surprised by how many people enjoyed the tour of campus, where the ideas came from, understanding that a young person could build a very large scale sculpture and have it be put somewhere permanent,” he said. “I usually don’t get to work with young kids like that so their energy and enthusiasm was uplifting.”

Public artist Laurel Holtzapple talks to students from Charlotte's Reid Park Academy about the public art process. Holtzapple, Shaun Cassidy and Lauren Doran are the public artists creating artwork for the Reid Park Community as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative.

Public artist Laurel Holtzapple talks to students from Charlotte’s Reid Park Academy about the public art process. Holtzapple, Shaun Cassidy and Lauren Doran are the public artists creating artwork for the Reid Park Community as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative.

Many young students aren’t encouraged to pursue careers in the arts. The workshop was a way to open the participants’ eyes to that notion, said Holtzapple, the artist lead for the Reid Park project.

“We wanted the students to leave knowing how art can be found everywhere, you just have to look,” she said. “We also wanted to introduce them to the idea of a career as an artist.”

At the very least, they introduced one student to what will possibly be her future home for four years.

“When we were headed back home, one kid said, ‘I love this. I’m coming here when I go to college,’” Hall said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative, a collaboration between the City of Charlotte, the Public Art Commission and the Arts & Science Council, will bring public art to Reid Park and four other Charlotte neighborhoods: Elizabeth, Grove Park, Sedgefield and the Shamrock Drive Corridor.

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

Top 10 ways to be a cultural leader

2 Jul

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

jamie farris

You don’t have to be an artist, a curator, a dancer or a docent to help build our cultural community, said Jami Farris, a partner at Parker Poe.

You can be a leader.

It’s what Farris became after graduating from the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) first Cultural Leadership Training (CLT) class in 2006. Farris joined the board of Children’s Theatre of Charlotte upon graduation and became board chair in 2013.

“It has been the most rewarding personal and professional activity I have undertaken,” she said.

More than 300 emerging leaders have taken similar paths over the past 10 years, graduating from CLT and moving on to serve on boards of more than 40 local arts and culture organizations.

The nine-month, hands-on training program is a way for the cultural sector to identify new leaders, said Katherine Mooring, ASC senior vice president of programs and services.

“I continue to be amazed, year after year, at the talent, passion, and enthusiasm I encounter among participants in this program as well as what they then go on to contribute to the arts, culture and community,” Mooring said. “Their dedication and commitment has, and will continue to have, an enormous impact.”

Farris, the keynote speaker at the 10th CLT class graduation in June at Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts, stressed that point to the program’s recent graduates.

She also reminded the graduates to use their strengths to make a difference in the cultural community.

“David Letterman once said, ‘I cannot sing, dance or act; what else would I be but a talk show host?’” Farris said. “That same sentiment applies to me. I cannot sing, dance, or act; what else would I be but a board member. CLT afforded me that opportunity.”

So, with a nod and an apology to the late-night icon, here’s Farris’ Top 10 List of Things You Should Do as a Cultural Board Member or Cultural Supporter:

10. Get engaged. Find out where you can make substantive and meaningful contributes to an organization.

9. Be present. You cannot be effective as a board member or advocate if you don’t participate in the organization. Go to shows, fundraisers and special events.

8. Share your resources. Time and energy are the most important resources you bring. It’s also important to make some financial contribution to the organizations you care about.

7. Get comfortable with asking. Invite friends to attend events with you and ask people in your network to support the cultural sector.

6. Read and research. Learn what other organizations are doing around the country, borrow good ideas and learn from mistakes.

5. Be a consumer of cultural activities. Take advantage of the diverse cultural offerings in our community to become well-rounded and to stay informed.

4. Use social media. Let your friends or followers know about upcoming events and use your network to support the cultural community.

3. Be an advocate in your profession. Familiarize your co-workers or clients with organizations you care about. Take advantage of donation matching programs. If your company supports the arts and culture, thank the decision makers and tell people in your circle about your company’s commitment to the cultural sector.

2. Be an advocate for ASC. Reach out to local leaders and voice your support for ASC and the cultural community.

1. Have fun! Pursue you cultural passions and engage as often as possible.

Local artists turn their SWAG on

2 Jul

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

SWAG Group

A self-organized artists group will spend the next five months working to disprove a popular myth – that of the struggling artist.

The Sunday Artists Working Group, or SWAG, consists of 14 local artists that have joined together to think more purposefully about how they can build lives that are balanced, productive, and sustainable within their chosen disciplines.

“One big challenge is strategic,” said Andrew Simonet, who led a sustainable life workshop the Arts & Science Council held for individual artists in April. “Can we take the planning skills we use in the studio and use them in all aspects of our lives?

“We go from a thing that doesn’t exist in the world and then we make a plan to create it and have to respond and change as we discover problems and then we deliver that thing to the world. But a lot of times we as artists don’t use those skills in the real world.”

The message resonated with Charlotte-Mecklenburg artists, who reconvened with Simonet last month to launch a pilot program expected to be replicated nationally by Artist U, the Philadelphia-based platform founded by Simonet to change the working conditions of artists.

SWAG will come together regularly beginning this month to develop personal strategic and financial plans, as well as to set goals and share resources.

But they’re already putting what they learned in their previous sessions with Simonet to work.

Take Michael Haithcock, a singer starting from scratch in the Charlotte music scene. The sustainable life workshop and joining SWAG inspired him to get the ball rolling in advancing his artistic career.

He’s since found musicians to rehearse with and joined online music groups that can lead him to local connections and possible gigs.

“Knowing that there are other people you are going to have to share your progress with helps make you accountable,” Haithcock said. “Each time you go you want to have something positive to say.”

The notion of accountability can force artists to be more entrepreneurial in their approach to finding work, said jazz vocalist Tenya Coleman.

“Of course you can’t make people hire you,” she said, “but you can try to stretch out as many opportunities where you’re the person bringing the program to them and you’re not waiting on someone to bring something to you.”

For Coleman, a full-time working artist who also works a full-time government job, that means being creative in finding spaces inside of her niche and forming alliances with artists outside of her discipline, which makes SWAG valuable.

“Art is art, whether it’s vocal, painting or acting,” she said. “We can all help each other to get our art out there.”


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