Charlotte residents find new passions for arts and culture with free Culture Blocks events

Categories: Blog

Why This Matters: Culture Blocks brings free arts, culture, history and science experiences to venues close to home on a weekly basis.

*This article was originally published in on December 4, 2018*

Matthew Charity and his grandson, Carter, attend a Drums 4 Life event at Albemarle Recreation Center. (Photo courtesy of Charity)

Matthew Charity, 67, is hooked on Drums 4 Life. “Everywhere they go, I go.”

Charity attended his first drum circle about a year and a half ago at the Albemarle Road Recreation Center and attends every Saturday unless he’s out of town or has a prior commitment, he said. He’s traveled to drumming events in parks and at libraries in other parts of town.

Drums 4 Life is one of many local arts organizations that partner with ASC’s Culture Blocks program to provide free arts and cultural events at libraries, parks, recreation centers, and other relevant community spaces in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by reducing transportation and parking barriers.

Charity recalls receiving an email about the drum circle event and thought it would be a fun outing for his grandsons, 11 and 5, who stay over on the weekends. “We stuck our heads in the door,” said Charity, and he was hooked. “Now I drum every chance I get.”  He purchased his own drum after a few months of attending classes.

A veteran, Charity says he suffers from post-traumatic stress, and drumming has helped him stay off medication. Drumming is “soothing and healing to me. There’s something about the energy — it’s hard to be preoccupied with anything else,” he said.

A family affair

Lucy Martin attends free Clayworks classes at her local library. (Photo courtesy of Martin)

Lucy Martin also discovered a new passion about a year ago when she dropped by her local library. Hickory Grove Librarian Letitia Cunningham-Jordan told her about Clayworks classes for seniors on Thursdays.

“I took advantage of the experience and loved it,” said Martin, who finds working with clay “calming.”

Martin, 62, tries to attend every session and has made it a family hobby, attending weekend sessions with her son, daughter and 3 grandchildren — Jaylen, 9; Janiya, 6; and Isaiah, 5. “We just make it a family affair and enjoy fellowshipping and making stuff.”

Working with Clayworks instructors Martin describes as patient and helpful, they craft vases, animal masks and other pieces that are taken back to Clayworks to be glazed and fired. Seeing the finished products creates a sense of wonder and pride.

“I put my whole spirit into the feel of the clay,” Martin said.

Her family are regulars at Hickory Grove library and having arts programming so close to home makes it easier for them to take advantage of classes and other Culture Blocks events. The family also participated in a community-arts project based on the history of Charlotte that was displayed in the library, and, inspired by a visit from Charlotte Ballet, Martin’s granddaughter is now taking dance classes.

Spreading the word

Charity and Martin value the experiences they’ve cultivated through Culture Blocks programs and they spread the word.

Martin says she regularly updates teachers at Janiya’s school, KIPP Change Academy, where she volunteers, about events at Hickory Grove library, and on a recent trip to University City library, she touted the Clayworks classes to the staff there.

Charity tries to recruit family and friends to come to Drum 4 Life sessions, telling them “there are some benefits to this.” He’s convinced that if they just stick their heads in the door, they’ll be hooked, too.

See what’s happening in your neighborhood

There are nine geographical pockets of the county where Culture Blocks programming takes place — North, East, Northwest and Southwest Charlotte, Mallard Creek/University City North, Pineville, Steele Creek, Mint Hill, and the West Boulevard Corridor. Activities happen in Libraries, Recreation Centers and other Community Spaces.

Check out the FULL calendar of Culture Blocks events around Mecklenburg County. Some activities have limited space and may require pre-registration.

Culture Blocks is funded by Mecklenburg County and is a partnership between ASC, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.