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West Meck students to take the Duke Energy stage this weekend

5 Feb

Compiled by Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

A theatrical production can offer a safe space for students to express their passion, West Mecklenburg High School English teacher Eboné Lockett told The Charlotte Observer.

This weekend, several of her students will take the stage at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square for a performance of The Children of Children Keep Coming: An Epic Groitsong.”

childrne of somethingThe play is based on a book by Russell Goings about African-American history, from the days of slavery up through the present. Goings was a close friend of Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden.

The first act “will include dramatic and musical portrayals of Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Billie Holliday, Rosa Parks and others.”

“The spirit of those giants will drive the second act as the students tell their own stories through poems and songs,” Lockett told the Observer. “The second act is their voice.”

In addition to directing this play, Lockett is her school’s Arts & Science Council (ASC) School Grants Program representative. The ASC School Grants Program will provide up to $280,000 in total funding in 2014-15 for Mecklenburg County public, charter, independent, parochial and private schools to support cultural programming that aligns with their curriculum and helps increase student success.

That’s not the production’s only tie to ASC. Justin Nichols, one of the students in the play, is also a participant in ASC’s Studio 345, an out-of-school time youth development program for high school students. Oneaka Mack, who is providing dance choreography for the production, was a 2014 ASC Regional Artist Project Grant recipient.

Several of the students also took part in Quentin Talley’s poetry workshop at the University City Regional Library on ASC’s Connect with Culture Day.

Performances take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 and 7. Tickets are $6 to $8 and are available at

Cuddle up with culture this Valentine’s Day

5 Feb

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager


The Charlotte Symphony presents A Symphonic Valentine Feb. 13-14.

Romance is all around us this time of year.

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, boxes of chocolates and roses will a backseat in upcoming cultural events that will have folks in the mood for love.

From plenty of heart-themed events at the Levine Center for the Arts campus to the spectacular new production of an Andrew Lloyd Webber phenomenal musical success, the holiday is being celebrated early and often throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg cultural sector.

Here a rundown of Valentine’s events from our cultural partners:

Jazz at the Bechtler: Jazz for Lovers
Feb 6.
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts, 420 S. Tryon St., Charlotte.
What’s Happening: Powerhouse vocalist Toni Tupponce joins the Ziad Jazz Quartet for the annual Jazz for Lovers concerts. Bring your sweetie and celebrate an early Valentine’s Day with jazzy love songs. Song selections include You Don’t Know What Love Is, Just Friends and Please Send Me Someone to Love.
Cost: $8 for museum members and $14 for non-members.

KnightSounds: A Waltz to Remember
Feb. 6.
Where: Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts, 430 S. Tryon St., Charlotte.
What’s Happening: Get swept off your feet by the Viennese Waltz King, Strauss Jr., the Charlotte Symphony and glamorous Metropolitan Ballroom dancers. Don’t miss Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia’s debut on the Symphony’s innovative KnightSounds series. The concert will feature the talents of soprano Katherine Polit.
Cost: $15.50-$29.

A Symphonic Valentine
Feb 13-14.
Where: Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts, 430 S. Tryon St., Charlotte.
What’s Happening: Roger Kalia and the Charlotte Symphony will take you on a romantic journey Valentines weekend. The Symphony, joined by special guests, will perform romantic orchestral favorites and timeless love songs from your favorite Broadway musicals and films.
Cost: $25 and up.

family_day_low-res_20141108_03_categoryFamily Day
Feb. 14.
Where: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts, 420 S. Tryon St., Charlotte.
What’s Happening: Celebrate Valentine’s Day the modern art way. Kids and families can explore the art and artists in the Bechtler collection through special hands-on art activities and family-focused museum tours. Kids can make self-portraits, handmade Valentine’s Day cards and still-life sketches.
Cost: Free admission for kids, $8 adults; adults receive a $2 discount by showing a Feb. 14 Lollipops concert ticket stub or the Family Day handout provided to concertgoers that day.

love_bites_categoryLove Bites
Feb. 13-14.
Where: Duke Energy Theatre, 345 N. College St., Charlotte.
What’s Happening: Love is in the air as Carolina Voices plays Cupid with a concert celebrating all the romance (and angst) of Valentine’s Day. Join Carolina Voices’ a cappella ensemble, Impromptu and friends, as it brings you a mixed bouquet of love songs — from miss-you ballads, bittersweet anthems and break up tunes to classical love songs of our time. It’s the perfect date night, with a “bite” of sweets and treats before the concert.
Cost: $18 seniors, $20 adults and $23 cabaret tables, upstairs.

Valentine’s Orchid Sale
Feb. 12-14.
Where: Botanical Gardens at UNC Charlotte, 9090 Craver Rd.
What’s Happening: The annual UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens Valentine’s Orchid Sale. Orchids are truly fascinating flowers and last longer than roses too. Stroll through the McMillan Greenhouse to soak in the warmth and fragrance of the gardens’ display collections, ask questions of the experts, then choose from a select variety of healthy blooming orchids well-suited to the home environment.
Cost: Free admission; orchids priced from $15 to $40.

phantomoftheopera_300_categoryThe Phantom of the Opera
Through Feb. 15.
Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.
What’s Happening: Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenal musical success features a brilliant new scenic design, Tony Award-winning original costume design, new choreography and a new staging. The beloved story and thrilling score – with songs like “Music of the Night,” “All I Ask Of You,” and “Masquerade” – will be performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this Phantom one of the largest productions now on tour. Presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts.
Cost: $30 and up.

Sweetheart Plantation Tours
Feb. 10-15.
Where: Historic Latta Plantation 5225 Sample Road, Charlotte.
What’s Happening: Your Sweetheart is sure to enjoy a Guided House Tour with a sweet little twist. During this week each house tour will be accompanied by historical Valentine’s Day facts and love stories of the Latta family. See the courting window, courting candle, vintage Valentines cards and more! Learn how the holiday began and also enjoy a self-guided tour of the Plantation’s grounds and outbuildings as well as the exhibit hall.
Cost: $7 adults, $6 seniors and students, free for children 5 years old and younger.

Music and Museum: Chamber of Love VI: Serenades and Ballades
Feb. 15.
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts 420 S. Tryon St., Charlotte.
What’s Happening:
Sounds of love will fill the 4th-floor gallery when the Bechtler presents a Valentine’s Day-themed Music and Museum concert. Chamber of Love VI: Serenades and Ballades features the Bechtler Ensemble performing the music of Borodin, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin.
Cost: $12 for non-members and $8 for museum members.

Connecting with culture

30 Jan

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager


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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Charlotte Scene acts on behalf of our fair lady

30 Jan

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

Charlotte Theatre Scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015: Resolve to be a part of the cultural vision

2 Jan

By ASC Staff


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

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

Build Community

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

Be Culturally Innovative and Relevant

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

Spark Creative and Critical Thinking

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

    Image created by Sean Busher.

    Image created by Sean Busher.

Acting with intent

29 Dec

By Amy Bareham
Arts & Science Council Cultural & Community Investment Intern

We are all curators of powerful stories.

From childhood to old age or brokenness to victory, we fill the pages of our lives with characters that have tales of their own. And at the intersection of all these stories are groups like the Possibility Project-Charlotte.

Founded by Nikkeia Wiler, the project empowers teenagers to talk in ways they may never have before. Speaking through art mediums like theatre, dance and song, project participants learn how to trust the world with their journeys to date, working together during creative seasons in order to produce performances for the community.

The Possibility Project (courtesy Dréa Cunningham, photo artist)

The Possibility Project (courtesy Dréa Cunningham, photo artist)

There are three primary components to a Possibility Project-Charlotte season: awareness, arts and action. This trifecta becomes a vehicle for change within youth.

The organization is “a training ground for helping teens care more about others at a time when most of us really just think about ourselves, and [uses] the performing arts to strengthen their voices,” said Wiler, also the managing and artistic director for the program.

So how does the program work? Students from Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are invited to audition.

“They’ll have to come to an orientation and audition process that’s really about how the group interacts with each other…we’re seeing what personality you bring to the room…how cooperative, or not, you are with a variety of young people,” Wiler explained.

Sixty students are selected to form their ensemble, which meets weekly and functions as a group story sharing collective. Professional vocal, music and choreography coaches guide the students as they weave together collaborative artistic pieces that add something both magical and inspiring to their cultural community.

Helping the organization in the development of five original Partnership Outreach Performances that tackle topics that are important to the participating youth is an Arts & Science Council (ASC) Cultural Innovation Grant.

The grant, which invests in emerging cultural organizations that show promise programmatically and innovation in serving divers audiences, is the result of a partnership between ASC and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It’s also something that Wiler is very excited about.

“There have been several community partnerships that we’ve really wanted to have to be a powerful mechanism for making change,” Wiler said. “For example, the plight of undocumented students is a new initiative we really look forward to. We’re hoping to do something with the Latin American Coalition youth group. The Cultural Innovation Grant will allow us to do just that.”

We all feel that our successes and struggles are validated when others actually take the time to read our stories. That is at the heart of The Possibility Project-Charlotte: pausing to look and fully read what lies in the eyes of another.

“When you look at other cultures around the world, the art is for the people. It’s not for those that can afford it or have the most talent,” she said. “It’s about human connection…and communicating around things that impact all of us.”

Because human nature does not change, this team’s work will always be valuable and necessary. It brings a heightened awareness to flaws in our society, simultaneously contributing to a rich cultural discourse on humanity.

“The [Cultural Innovation] grant,” Wiler mused, “it’s the catalyst for a lot.”

The Possibility Project will present its annual production May 29-30 at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square, 345 N. College St., Charlotte.

Taking root with LATIBAH

11 Dec

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

The collard green is a nutritious superpower, rich with health benefits and antioxidants. A distinct feature in the LATIBAH Collard Green Museum’s logo, it is also a metaphor for LATIBAH itself. Founded by T’Afo Feimster, the museum functions as an inviting detox from a demanding world by celebrating and preserving African-American heritage.

T’Afo Feimster.

T’Afo Feimster.

The mission, according to Feimster, is simple: to provide a place where individuals can come and experience the people and events prevalent to black American history. Surrounded by life size exhibits, artists in residence, and numerous gallery spaces, guests are transported to another time – one where stories were exchanged and trials shared – maybe even with a side of collard greens.

Feimster’s vision initially began developing in his NoDa studio, where he spent time painting.

“I’m an artist first and foremost,” he said. “I’m passionate about African-American history and my art reflects that.”

As his interest in historical connections grew, Feimster considered presenting them in tangible, museum exhibition form.

“In 2009, that’s when I said okay I’ll convert this into a museum,” he added. When two floods damaged LATIBAH’s first home in 2011, the Collard Green team searched for a different space.

These doorways in a Latibah Collard Green museum exhibition highlight what once was an everyday way of life for African-Americans.

These doorways in a Latibah Collard Green museum exhibition highlight what once was an everyday way of life for African-Americans.

Recently re-situated on Tuckaseegee Road in Charlotte, LATIBAH’s selection as a Cultural Innovation Grant recipient has enabled it to further establish roots at the new location. Not only are the Knight Foundation and the Arts and Science Council perpetuating the education of Charlotte’s community through this grant, the funding is aiding an identity awakening.

“I began to realize, well wait a minute, not only is it important that our culture and history be an educational [priority], but there’s a demand for it,” Feimster said. “[R]esearch has shown that our self-image and our self-esteem…is based on our understanding of our history and culture. Individuals who know very little about where they come from, who they are, their self-esteem is lowered by 15-percent.”

Believing LATIBAH could educate and uplift, Feimster advanced the museum’s infrastructure. Salvaging exhibits and installing pieces was the starting point. Then, he looked for resources – directors, office managers and docents to ingratiate into the museum’s day-to-day scene. Addressing marketing needs and establishing a board of directors also came about as a result of the Cultural Innovation Grant.

This funding will not return void, either. Collaborating with the McColl Center for Art + Innovation and local groups like the Juvenile Justice Program, LATIBAH is invested in the Queen City and the inspiration of her people.

Click here for more information about LATIBAH.


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