The NEA's Charlotte visit

arts / Article

By Scott Provancher, Charlotte Arts & Science Council

In the last year Charlotte has opened up three extraordinary museums, one performing arts facility, a home for our dance theatre and seen renovations to one of city’s most beloved attractions, Discovery Place. Those openings, though, were just the icing on the cake for a city already filled with exceptional cultural institutions and organizations. So you can imagine how excited we were on March 9 to be able to show off the Queen City’s cultural side to Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, as part of his Arts Works tour. Joining Landesman for his whirlwind visit were Mary Regan, executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council; Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation vice president of the arts & Miami program director; and, of course, various Arts & Science Council staffers.

The first stop of the day was Tryon Hills Pre-K, a public pre-school operated by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that has been a champion of North Carolina Wolf Trap, an acclaimed program that brings artists into classrooms for seven-week residencies. Teaching artist Alicia Williams used her skills as a performer to help about 20 kids, most of whom are not native English speakers, come out of their shells, learn new vocabulary and strengthen their cognitive development.

Following up the Wolf Trap class, the group headed to the Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride Center for Dance – home of the North Carolina Dance Theatre – to take part in the first panel discussion of the day focusing on creativity. Landesman was joined by Scholl, who moderated; Marcia Jones, an artist in residence at the McColl Center for Visual Art; Dwight Rhoden and Rebecca Carmazzi, both from NC Dance Theatre; Lawrence Baxter, a professor of law at Duke University, and Shaun Cassidy, a professor at Winthrop University and McColl Center Innovation Institute teaching artist. The panel took part in an hour long discussion on creativity, innovation and how to improve the environment for both in Charlotte.

After lunch, the group toured the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Knight Theatre, and Mint Museum Uptown in the recently completed Levine Center for the Arts at the south end of Uptown Charlotte. The day culminated with a final panel discussion, “Charlotte: The Cultural Capital of the South.” Landesman, Regan, Scholl and I spent just more than an hour taking part in a frank and honest discussion about the state of arts and culture in Charlotte and how to improve the sector to make the city the “Cultural Capital” it’s capable of becoming.

Landesman, his chief of staff and director of public affairs left Charlotte with a whole new appreciation for what we have to offer. Big thanks to Dennis Scholl for helping to facilitate the visit, and showcase some of the institutions that make Charlotte a great city.

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