Tag Archives: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Cultural Innovation Grantees Thrive

1 Jun

Almost two years ago, ASC awarded the first three Cultural Innovation Grants (CIG) to emerging organizations that showed promise programmatically and were innovating to serve Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s diverse population. From a firm foundation and with strong, passionate leadership Charlotte ARTery, Carolina Actors Studio Theatre and Charlotte Viewpoint have grown into stronger organizations with a clear mission for the future.

Carolina Actors Studio Theatre

Founded in 1992 and a 501(c)(3) since 2006, Carolina Actors Studio (CAST) Theatre has been a consistent and unique force in Charlotte’s performing arts community. CAST’s immersive experience envelops patrons in another world from the moment they walk through the door.

Scene from CAST’s recent production of “Floyd Collins”

“We try to change the look of our lobby, the tickets, our ushers and bartenders with every performance,” said CAST Executive Director Michael Simmons. “You never know with CAST.”

In 2010, the organization was in a venue desperately in need of upgrades and an organizational structure that needed to be updated.

With the grant, the organization relocated to a larger more modern space in the North Davidson neighborhood. It also provided CAST with a coach that has helped guide them through strategic planning including the restructuring of its board of directors.

“I think the Cultural Innovation Grant has really done more than help CAST. In many ways, it has saved and positioned CAST,” Simmons said. “We were in an untenable situation in our last venue – roof leaking, structure weakening – we had no hope of getting any repairs or up-fit from that building owner. Without that grant we would not be in this new space, and without that move I’m not sure we’d be alive.”

Charlotte ARTery

A loose collection of artists is how co-founder Bev Nagy describes Charlotte ARTery before the Cultural Innovation Grant.

With the help of a consultant, Nagy and the group have gone through an analysis of organizational strengths and weaknesses, worked on strategic planning and interviewed and brought on new board members.

“We want ARTery to be a place for artists to learn to be entrepreneurial,” Nagy said. “We want to teach all artists how to make a postcard, business card, write a press release, how to enter a juried show – we want them to learn how to do all these things you do not know unless you have done them.”

With 501(c)(3) status pending and work being done on a new, permanent home for ARTery, Nagy said she’s excited for the future and an organization driven by a clear mission and vision.

“We went from almost nothing to this in three years,” Nagy said. “This innovation grant has helped us learn little things along the way to help us take it to the next level.”

Catch ARTery’s last show before it moves into its own permanent space on display at Vin Master in South End through the end of June.

Charlotte Viewpoint

When approached to apply for the Cultural Innovation Grant in 2010, Charlotte Viewpoint (CV) was a monthly civic and culture PDF magazine. Founder Mark Peres said the magazine, founded in 2003, was limited in both content and reach.

For CV, Peres said the grant, through its financial and professional resources, has created a snowball effect driving increased engagement, involvement and interest both internally and externally.


“The grant allowed CV to rebrand, redesign its website to include additional content, publish a range of new content on a daily basis, including literary and visual art and reach new audiences,” Peres said. “This in turn led to refinement of mission, reorganization and recruitment of new staff and content contributors, additional organizational capacity, and generation of new financial support.”

Professional coach Kristin Hills-Bradberry further helped the organization with board development and provided them with strategy and guidance in developing a new individual donation initiative.

In addition to the online Web site and magazine, CV is also hosting live events and gatherings.

“Our aspiration is to become a nationally recognized multimedia platform that challenges and celebrates the Charlotte region,” Peres said. “We seek to impact the common good by helping shape what the metropolitan region can be.”

The Cultural Innovation Grant was born out of a $60,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and an additional dollar-for-dollar match from ASC.  The CIG grantees received $15,000 each year for two years in addition to long-term professional coaching. ASC and Knight Foundation expanded the program last year to include three more grantees (September 2011, “The Next, Next Best Thing”) – On Q Productions, Charlotte Folk Society and Historic Charlotte.

power2give.org Raises $1 Million

22 May

Support projects at McColl Center for Visual Art.

Nine months ago ASC launched power2give as a platform for non-profits to raise money for arts and cultural projects in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Since then we’ve launched the site in Louisville (Kentucky and Southern Indiana), Miami, Fla. and just last week, Greensboro. The expansion of the site has meant growth not just geographically, but in total fundraising as well. We’re excited to be able to announce today that power2give.org has so far raised $1 million!  It has provided funding to nearly 430 arts, science, history and heritage projects.

“I am thrilled that this new strategy to support the arts and cultural sectors in cities across the U.S. is working and its impact is more than we expected in the first year,” said ASC President Scott Provancher.  “I am grateful to the individuals and organizations that have demonstrated their commitment to arts and culture by giving to the projects and nonprofits they are passionate about through the site.”

In each city, the site has helped raise:

  • $373,874 – Charlotte, N.C. (launched Aug. 29, 2011)
  • $381,709 – Kentucky & Southern Indiana (launched Dec. 5, 2011)
  • $231,384 – Miami, Fla. (launched Dec. 14, 2011)
  • $19,383 – Greensboro, N.C. (launched May 15, 2012)

The success comes from more than 3,750 individual donations and matching gifts from corporations and foundations.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Wells Fargo, Republic Bank and the Leon Levine Foundation are among the organizations that have matched individual gifts on the site.

In the coming months we’ll be announcing additional cities hosting the site across North Carolina and the country. Stay tuned!

To view projects in need of support, visit www.power2give.org.

The Experience of The Lady of Charlotte Mystery

26 Mar

In February, the Arts & Science Council (ASC) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation brought murder, mystery and intrigue to the streets of Uptown Charlotte. Mysterious author J.P. wrote The Lady of Charlotte Mystery which took readers on a journey through the fictional account and subsequent investigation of a murder at the Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts.

J.P. crafted a suspenseful tale while incorporating the collection of the Mint and historical Charlotte artifacts. At the end of the three week challenge to solve the mystery, before the final pages were posted, one lucky winner received a prize pack allowing him to experience arts and culture in the center city.

Along with the story, J.P. compiled a video of The Lady of Charlotte story experience in Charlotte. Check it out here:

We look forward to working with Knight Foundation on innovative future initiatives to show-off all the great cultural venues and activities that make Charlotte a vibrant place to live.

Building Cultural Communities with power2give.org

29 Feb

More than a year and a half ago, ASC set out to create a new way to support arts, science, history and heritage in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. After almost a year of research, design and build-out we launched power2give.org in late August 2010. power2give took the concept of internet based crowd funding to local cultural organizations.

The project rapidly hit benchmarks and today, thanks to the generous support of hundreds of individual donors, including matching grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Foundation for The Carolinas, more than $254,000 has been contributed to support various 501 c (3)’s with cultural projects and/or missions.

It has supported bird feeding at Wing Haven, helped the Charlotte Symphony bring orchestral music and education to students at Winterfield Elementary and provided dance uniforms for North Carolina Dance Theatre REACH! students.

Charlotte Children's Choir raised $10,000 to pay for travel to The White House for a holiday concert through power2give.org

It was with that success that we were eager to expand power2give beyond the borders of Mecklenburg County. A sister site was launched in Louisville, Kentucky in mid-December. Through a lot of hard work,  the Fund for the Arts has raised more than $221,000 supporting projects throughout the state of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Following not too far behind was the Department of Cultural Affairs in Miami-Dade, Florida. They too have worked hard with the cultural organizations in their area and raised more than $217,000.

If you’re counting, power2give.org has helped raise almost $700,000 for 181 projects in three states. The continued growth of the site and enthusiastic involvement of organizations, businesses, foundations and donors has demonstrated the power of the project.

ASC is excited about the future of and possibilities for power2give.org. In the coming weeks and months we’ll be announcing new matching gifts and expansions. Stay tuned as we help shape a vibrant cultural life for all in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and help other communities do the same.

Surprising Charlotte with Random Acts of Culture™

29 Feb DSC01131

On August 17, 2010 we set out on a two year journey with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to bring arts and culture to the people of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in very unexpected ways. On that day, 11 performers from Opera Carolina converged on the Atherton Mills and Market around 12:15pm singing three song selections.

The first Random Act of Culture at Atherton Mills and Market

The seven and a half minute show surprised, delighted and excited the crowd. Afterward the audience applauded, asked questions and shook hands. It was an exciting experience and just the first taste of what was to come.

Since that time we have hosted more than 100 Random Acts of Culture™ with Opera Carolina, the Charlotte Symphony, North Carolina Dance Theatre and others at sites as diverse as Crisis Assistance Ministry, Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Belk department store.

Two weeks ago we brought Opera Carolina to IKEA near UNC Charlotte. On a rainy Sunday the staff led three performers through the back areas of the store surprising shoppers at the cash registers, in the cafeteria and the bedding area. The very full store paused at each of the performances taking photos and video, and chatting with ASC staff and opera performers.

With thousands of people through on weekends, it was one of the best RAC performance locations we’ve experienced to date. The enthusiasm of the performers and the IKEA staff was infectious.

Random Act of Culture at IKEA Charlotte with Opera Carolina

With performances like the one at IKEA and so many others, we’ve been lucky enough to see how much our community values culture and is excited by the performances that are brought to them. From tears of joy to big smiles and more thank you’s than I can recall, it has been a great experience for all involved.

ASC’s mission is to build appreciation, participation and support for the arts, science, history and heritage in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Through Random Acts of Culture we’ve been able to do that and more.

Stay tuned for the remaining few months of the Random Act of Culture™ program. You never know when you might experience one!

ASC Kicks Off 2012 Make Your Mark Campaign

3 Feb

Last Tuesday, the Arts & Science Council kicked off the 2012 Make Your Mark fundraising campaign by announcing an $8.7 million goal. The goal represents a five percent increase over last year’s campaign.

Dollars from the campaign allow ASC to invest in arts, science and history organizations, education programs and community projects.

Campaign Chair Bob James announcing the $8.7 million goal

“Diversifying ASC’s revenue portfolio is a key strategy in how we can continue to support the cultural sector,” said ASC President Scott Provancher.  “The Make Your Mark campaign and over 25,000 individuals and 400 companies that participate in it remain a critical piece of our revenue model.  We have also diversified ways the community can support ASC through power2give.org and the restricted fund for education programs.”

Bob James, vice chairman of Fifth Third Bank’s North Carolina board of directors, is leading the community-wide fundraising campaign.

This year’s campaign will run through the end of ASC’s fiscal year, June 30. The final tally of the campaign will be announced at the annual Impact and Investment Lunch in July.

ASC also used the occasion to kick off a murder mystery, called The Lady of Charlotte.  The story, supported by the John

Kicking off the Lady of Charlotte Mystery Story with ASC staffer Alex Aguilar and ASC President Scott Provancher

S. and James L. Knight Foundation, follows the investigation of a murder at the Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts.  Individuals can read the story page-by-page at kiosks in Center City Charlotte and guess the suspects on ASC’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/ASCCharlotte. Those who guess the correct villain will be entered in a contest to win a 1 year membership to the Mint Museum and a $100 CarolinaTix Gift card. The mystery’s author and the story’s villain will be revealed at a public event on Feb. 14.

To find out more information about the story, click here.

To make a gift to the Arts & Science Council, visit Giving.ArtsAndScience.org.


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