Bringing Culture Close to Home

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Why This Matters: Culture Blocks continues to engage people in communities that have historically low levels of participation with ASC-funded programs.

El Alma de la Luna performing at an ASC Culture Blocks community dinner.
El Alma de la Luna performing at an ASC Culture Blocks community dinner.

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Over the past several months, local residents have seen their libraries and recreation centers transformed into hubs for cultural activity through ASC’s Culture Blocks program.

Launched in 2015 and supported through funding from Mecklenburg County, Culture Blocks seeks to provide cultural programming in communities with historically low levels of participation with ASC-funded programs and organizations.

It does so by partnering with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation to provide residents with cultural experiences close to home.

The program aligns with one of the core tenants of the community’s Cultural Vision Plan, which charges the cultural sector to build community and to increase program relevance and innovation.

Tiera Swanson, Culture Blocks program director.
Tiera Swanson, Culture Blocks program director.

“If we see that there are areas in our county that haven’t participated or don’t get to participate as much as others, we want to make sure that we’re ensuring a vibrant cultural life for all,” said Culture Blocks program director Tiera Swanson.

In a six-month span, the program has provided 90 cultural experiences serving nearly 2,000 residents, including:

  • A production of two tales from Zora Neale Hurston’s “Spunk” by On Q Performing Arts at West Boulevard Library;
  • A presentation of “The Magic Kite,” adapted from illustrations by local artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner, by Children’s Theatre of Charlotte at Sugar Creek Recreation Center;
  • A photo exhibition exploring the life of Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden presented by Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture at the Beatties Ford Road Regional Library.;
  • A Charlotte Ballet performance for seniors at Bette Rae Thomas Recreation Center;
  • Art classes allowing parents and children to create artwork together by Community School of the Arts at Sugar Creek Library; and
  • The current Bucket Band program at Ivory Baker Recreation Center, through which Charlotte Symphony teaches percussion through hands-on, interactive bucket band lessons.

“We’ve been told by residents ‘We want more opportunities like this to connect across ethnic groups and generations,’” Swanson said. “One resident told us that as Charlotte has grown, it’s not a melting pot, it’s a salad bowl and that events like these are the dressing that brings it all together.”

A look at one of the art programs held at Sugar Creek Library by Community School of the Arts through ASC's Culture Blocks program.
A look at one of the art programs held at Sugar Creek Library by Community School of the Arts through ASC’s Culture Blocks program.

Many of these programs are directly related to feedback ASC received at community dinners and informal conversations with those living and working in North, East, Northwest and Southwest Charlotte and the West Boulevard Corridor – the five geographical pockets of the county where Culture Blocks programming is taking place.

“Mecklenburg County is excited about the impact of the Culture Blocks program and the potential it has,” said Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio. “The ability to bring arts and cultural experiences directly to neighborhoods is fantastic.

“Through this effort we can engage and reach so many more people. It epitomizes the meaning of ‘Bringing Mecklenburg County to You,’ which is our initiative to serve people where they are.”

A sixth block to connect with residents in Charlotte’s Mallard Creek area is being added this year.

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