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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 New Port 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

The Davidson Community Players turn 50

29 May

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

It’s been around for 50 years, but the Davidson Community Players (DCP) is still introducing itself to new audiences in North Mecklenburg and beyond.

“There are scores of patrons who don’t know anything about our history,” said executive director Matt Merrell. “They just know that we’re producing a show that they want to see, so they come out.

“Many of our patrons are continuing to discover us for the first time.”

The booming growth in the Lake Norman region over the past 20 years means that Davidson is a very different place than it was when it held its first production – the original play “Times of Harvest” – in July 1965.

An image of "Time of Harvest," the Davidson Community Players' first show in July 1965.

An image of “Time of Harvest,” the Davidson Community Players’ first show in July 1965. Photo credit: Davidson Community Players.

Back then, the Players was a sleepy summer theater company that only performed on the campus of Davidson College while the students were on their extended breaks.

“We produced all of our shows over on the campus of the college and we can only get access to that space when the students are gone,” Merrell said.

That’s how it went for 30-plus years, until the theater added a show during spring break.

“We would rehearse a show elsewhere and then come into the college space during the break and do one weekend of performances and then we were done,” he said.

Davidson Community Players Executive Director Matt Merrell.

Davidson Community Players Executive Director Matt Merrell. Photo credit: Davidson Community Players.

Merrell, a former lawyer who has worked nearly 20 DCP shows as either an actor or director since 1997, was a DCP board member when those spring shows were added.

DCP’s shows were selling well, its patrons were constantly asking for more shows and there was a demand for youth theater classes that wasn’t being met.

“We realized there was both tremendous growth in this region with people moving into the Lake Norman area and new neighborhoods going up everywhere,” he said.

“But there was also this tremendous demand for the arts in this area.”

To begin to meet that demand, the organization partnered with the Town of Davidson in 2008 to purchase and convert an old abandoned church into the 110-seat Armour Street Theatre.

Since then, DCP has expanded its programming, going from two or three shows a year to eight productions. The accessibility to more space has allowed it to add acting classes year-round, cultivate the resources to hire an education coordinator and provide full- and half-day summer camps for kids ages 4 to 16.

“Now we feel like we’re offering this broader array of artistic experiences for adults and for youth,” he said. “So the organization has changed dramatically since we acquired that space.”

DCP is also a fairly mature company now, Merrell said – one that has played an integral role in building community in Davidson and Lake Norman.

Kids that started out in its Connie Company Productions (named after DCP founder Connie Welsh) have worked their way up to leading roles in the theater’s main stage productions.

Support of the theater is demonstrated through not only high attendance but through strong community financial as well.

“We just feel like the power of what we do helps knit this Lake Norman community together,” Merrell said.

The secret, if there is one, is producing quality work that people want to see, he said. For the Players’ 50th anniversary, it gave its patrons the chance to decide which musical it would perform for its biggest show of the year.

They chose “Chicago,” which will be performed June 18-27 at the Duke Family Performance Hall on the Davidson College campus. And, in a nod to patrons that have been with the theater for a while, the Players will reprise the comedy “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” which it first performed 10 years ago.

“We try to choose shows we think our audiences want to see and that will get them to come back and see us again,” Merrell said.

The goal is for the Players audience to continue to grow with the organization as it strives to meet the community’s demand for the arts.

DCP’s continued growth will mean more shows, more programs and more space to offer programs in the future, Merrell said.

“As we continue to meet the demand, we continue to bring more and more patrons and families into what we do,” he said. “And so while we’re proud of our past, we’re really excited about our future.”

DCP Logo FINAL

Celebrate 50 Years of the Davidson Community Players

The Davidson Community Players present the musical “Chicago” from June 18-27 at Duke Family Performance Hall, 207 Faculty Drive, Davidson. Players patrons voted for “Chicago” to be the musical production for the theater’s 50th anniversary. Click here for more details.

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.”

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

Icarus

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 www.bechtler.org.

 

 

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.

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