In Charlotte, individual artists shine

Arts / Article

Today, we are announcing new funding for the arts in Charlotte, which will bring exciting experiences to neighborhoods around the city. If it were up to me, though, I’d declare 2017 to be the year of the individual artist in Charlotte.

A strong arts ecosystem cannot exist without cultural institutions and engaged audiences. They also need a core group of individual artists who are at the edge of creative research and community engagement, questioning the status quo, creating work in unexpected places and defining a city’s visual and emotional landscape. Luckily for Charlotte, the city has a growing population of individual artists who are ready to question, perform and reflect all of the city’s cultural communities.

Photo courtesy of Bechtler Museum.

Here are just a few we are funding, who will receive part of the nearly $600,000 in new support to 21 projects we are announcing today:

Goodyear Arts, directed by Amy Bagwell, Graham Carew and Amy Herman, is an artist-run collective that uses empty buildings in Uptown Charlotte to provide visual and performance artists with residency studios, performance spaces and events to connect the artist community. Their approach of connecting private real estate developers with artists and an intentional use of temporary space has allowed them to support and show the work of 50+ individual artists over the past two years. The studio space and stipends have allowed participating artists to push their work to new levels. As residents encounter the artist occupation of a vacant building, they begin to question the role the arts should play in the redevelopment of their city and experience perspectives that they might not normally discover in established institutions. The group just wrapped up another residency at the Goodyear building, and expects to continue there through May 2017.

Opera Carolina’s Art Poetry Music Community Concert. Photo courtesy of Opera Carolina.

The BOOM Festival will return for its second year in April 2017, taking over the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood with a weekend of “art, performance and the unexpected,” as the group says. At the festival this year, I was impressed with the beautiful work of independent dance choreographers and the sheer range of theater work presented.

Audiences got to enjoy artist-driven theater companies OnQ Productions and XOXO, which pride themselves in presenting authentic Charlotte stories in a way that engages the audience fully in the performance. XOXO will continue its work this year with #CAKE, a performance about the American Dream in the 21st century staged throughout Uptown Charlotte, and funded by Knight. BOOM 2017, meanwhile, will ensure that the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood will be saturated in performance from a variety of dance, theater and musical artists who are as diverse as Charlotte’s many neighborhoods.

Photo courtesy of Que-OS. Photo by Deborah Triplett.

Meanwhile, Wendy Hickey founded ArtPop to promote local artists through available media space – typically billboards. Hickey is a tireless champion for and curator of visual artists. Driving down the highway is the one of the last places you would expect to encounter a beautiful piece from a local artist. Yet, that is the experience ArtPop provides. The work ranges in style and subject, but it is all compelling to the eye and mind. This project is a powerful way to share the talent that lives and works in this city in unexpected places.

On highways, Uptown and throughout Charlotte, I hope you find too that 2017 will be a year for celebrating Charlotte’s independent artists. I look forward to seeing how they change the city’s visual landscape and the conversations they inspire. Congratulations to this round of Knight Foundation arts grantees:

Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte ($25,000) To commission and produce two original works on one theme – one created from the vantage point of adults, the other of and for children

ArtPop ($25,000) To bring the work of 20 local artists to more people by expanding community programming around ArtPop, which displays art on billboards and other available media space

Arts and Science Council of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County ($75,000) To help emerging cultural organizations improve their ability to adapt to 21st century trends in philanthropy, organizational development and audience engagement through a workshop series and individual coaching

Bechtler Museum ($25,000) To expand the museum’s programming beyond its walls by providing access to art and arts education to seniors, the incarcerated, people with limited sight and others

Caroline Calouche & Co. ($25,000) to engage Charlotte audiences in contemporary dance and circus arts with a new, site-specific outdoor show at First Ward Park in September 2017

Charlotte Black Film Festival ($5,000) To increase opportunities for black filmmakers and actors in Charlotte and to bring more films by African-Americans to local audiences by supporting the 2017 festival

Photo courtesy of Tosco Music Party. Photo by Steve Moore.

Charlotte Center for Literary Arts ($25,000): To bring poetry into everyday spaces through 4x4CLT, which combines four poems from acclaimed poets with four works of art from local and regional artists, on posters that will be displayed in public spaces

Charlotte Film Society ($25,000) To increase access to independent films and filmmakers through the Charlotte Film Lab series, which brings national talent to the city to screen films and host discussions about their work

Charlotte Jewish Film Festival, a program of the Levine Jewish Community Center, ($5,000) To entice young adult audiences to the festival with films and participatory events that focus on the meaning of and search for identity

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Society ($25,000) To engage new audiences in classical music with a performance of an unexpected mash-up of Brahms and Radiohead

Clayworks ($8,000) To increase access to renowned artists working in clay by bringing four professionals to the organization’s 10th anniversary symposium, which took place in May 2016

Jazz Arts Initiative ($60,000) To bring iconic jazz music to more residents by expanding the monthly series Jazz Room at The Stage Door Theater

Mint Museum of Art ($75,000) To bring an acclaimed exhibit to Charlotte that focuses on the range of work being created today in the United States by contemporary artists who live outside of New York and Los Angeles

Opera Carolina ($25,000) To bring opera into people’s everyday lives by supporting Opera Unlimited, a series of small-scale performances, in conjunction with community partners, that reached 25,000 people last year

Photo courtesy of 100 Word Film Festival. Photo by Daniel Coston.

OnQ Performing Arts ($30,000) To refine, record and present in Charlotte the play “Miles & Coltrane,” an original work developed by OnQ that has toured internationally

One Voice Chorus ($10,000) To tell the story of Alan Turing, a computer scientist who helped the British break the Nazi’s secret codes and was later prosecuted for being gay, by performing the U.S. premiere of composer James McCarthy’s “Codebreaker” in partnership with the Nashville Harmony Chorus

Wall Poems ($50,000) To provide a space for artists to experiment by hosting six artist residencies with open studio hours at the Goodyear Arts Center, culminating in December 2016

Que-OS ($35,000) To support cutting-edge art through the 2017 BOOM Festival, a three-day fringe festival of dance, theater, visual arts, music and spoken word performances at three venues in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood

XOXO Performance ($30,000) To explore the question, “What is the American dream in the 21st century,” through an immersive theater piece based on interviews of Charlotte residents and structured partly as a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience through Uptown”

Tosco Music ($5,000) To expand Tosco Music’s sing-a-long series, which engages senior audiences in musical performances

100 Word Film Festival ($10,416) To help professional and student filmmakers develop storytelling skills through an innovative festival that democratizes the filmmaking process