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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.

The Gantt Center celebrates its 40th anniversary

1 Mar

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

GanttCenter-40Remember

For its 40th anniversary, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture wants to continue its conversations with the community.

The ongoing dialogue includes last season’s “Question Bridge: Black Males” exhibit, which explored issues facing the black male community.

It continues with “Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness,” the new exhibition that examines the long-standing impact of colonialism on societal attitudes that define black culture in America.

“I was asked this question about what’s next for the center and what kind of role would the center continue to play,” said Gantt Center President David Taylor.

With its latest exhibition, the center shows it will continue to be a leader in helping the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community have uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations.

It’s what the Gantt Center (founded as the Afro-American Cultural and Service Center in 1974 and renamed after Harvey Gantt, Charlotte’s first African-American mayor, in 2009) has done for the last four decades.

“Few cities have the privilege of prominent, public spaces that have existed for 40 years to celebrate the black experience,” Taylor said. “The Gantt Center proudly holds that distinction for Charlotte.”

“Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness” does more than celebrate the black experience – it challenges viewers to critically think about how black identity has often been defined by others.

It does so through the work of guest curator Rehema Barber and nearly 20 national and international artists of the African diaspora, or the communities throughout the world descended from the historic movement of peoples from Africa.

This untitled piece by Ken Gonzales-Day is one of the many artworks featured at the new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture exhibition "Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness."

This untitled piece by Ken Gonzales-Day is one of the many artworks featured at the new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture exhibition “Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness.”

The exhibit, Barber said, was inspired by Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” It explores the history that shaped prevailing views about African-Americans – such as the “Magical Negro” (think the 2000 Will Smith film “The Legend of Bagger Vance”) and fallout from the Paula Deen controversy – and how those views played out in mainstream society.

“I was paying attention to a lot of things that were happening every day,” Barber said. “And so I said I really want to talk about people’s perceptions of black culture or black identity – how things influence that perception. Not so much about black identity as a whole, but this idea that there are things that sort of influence how we construct or how we perceive black identity.”

Sean Johnson's "False Identity" is is one of the many artworks featured at the new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture exhibition "Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness."

Sean Johnson’s “False Identity” is is one of the many artworks featured at the new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture exhibition “Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness.”

The perception of African-Americans, Barber said, is a conglomerate of ideas originated in the days of colonialism.

This exhibition, she said, is “about coming to the realization that we all have the power to define who we are for ourselves.”

Venture “Out of the Heart of Darkness”

The exhibition “Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness” runs through June 26, 2015, at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture at Levine Center for the Arts, 551 S. Tryon St., Charlotte. For more information, visit www.ganttcenter.org.

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 www.carolinatix.org.

Cuddle up with culture this Valentine’s Day

5 Feb

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

musical-valentine_category

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
When:
Feb 6.
Where:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441878285/Jazz_at_the_Bechtler_Jazz_for_Lovers

KnightSounds: A Waltz to Remember
When:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441897004/KnightSounds_A_Waltz_to_Remember

A Symphonic Valentine
When:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441832891/A_Symphonic_Valentine

family_day_low-res_20141108_03_categoryFamily Day
When:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441888095/Family_Day

love_bites_categoryLove Bites
When:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441897003/Love_Bites

Valentine’s Orchid Sale
When:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441897167/Valentines_Orchid_Sale_.

phantomoftheopera_300_categoryThe Phantom of the Opera
When:
Through Feb. 15.
Where:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441837492/The_Phantom_of_the_Opera.

Sweetheart Plantation Tours
When:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441890609/Sweetheart_Plantation_Tours.

Music and Museum: Chamber of Love VI: Serenades and Ballades
When:
Feb. 15.
Where:
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.
Details: http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event/detail/441888043/Music_and_Museum_Chamber_of_Love_VI_Serenades_and_Ballades_.

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.

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 charlottecultureguide.com/cltscene to buy tickets for this season’s biggest shows.

2015: Resolve to be a part of the cultural vision

2 Jan

By ASC Staff

ASC_Happy2015

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 ArtsAndScience.org 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 CharlotteCultureGuide.com 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.

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