By Bernie Petit
A first of its kind event hosted by the four member organizations of Levine Center for the Arts – the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Blumenthal Performing Arts’ Knight Theater, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and Mint Museum Uptown – takes place this weekend.
And while you likely know it will include an incredible array of cultural experiences for the entire family, you might not know what else makes the inaugural #LongLiveArts Festival so meaningful.
The community-wide event, which takes place Saturday, May 21, will offer salsa dancing, puppets, a portrait paint-off, drums, aerial dancing, jazz, food trucks, an Arts Guy and free access to all Levine Center for the Arts museums all day.
It will also feature a free “plazacast” of Charlotte Symphony’s “Romeo & Juliet,” showing from a big screen in front of the iconic Firebird public artwork at 7:30 p.m. Saturday as well as Friday, May 20.
But beyond that, the community festival demonstrates how the four organizations are working more closely together than ever to increase visibility and access to the unified center. Such partnerships between cultural organizations make arts, science, history and heritage experiences more accessible and help build community – one of the pillars of the community’s Cultural Vision Plan.
It’s also reminiscent of the forethought that led to the creation of Levine Center for the Arts.
Back in 2005, surface parking came close to filling the one-block radius of South Tryon Street across from The Green in uptown Charlotte. There weren’t plans across the street to demolish the now-former Charlotte Observer building for a “major mixed use development” or to turn the old Goodyear Building into a really cool temporary space for artists before knocking it down for another mixed-use building.
But there was a plan for The Campaign for Cultural Facilities, the private endowment campaign launched that year.
In 2010, Leon and Sandra Levine, through The Leon Levine Foundation, contributed a $15 million gift to conclude the $83 million fundraising effort. In tribute to the Levines’ generosity, also recognized by a $5 million gift in their honor by Duke Energy, Wells Fargo renamed the cultural campus Levine Center for the Arts.
With the subsequent openings of Knight Theater (Oct. 12, 2009), the Gantt Center (Oct. 24, 2009), the Bechtler (Jan. 2, 2010) and Mint Museum Uptown (Oct. 1, 2010), the cultural campus established itself as a vibrant and high-energy arts district where Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents and visitors can find blockbuster exhibitions, illuminating performances and community celebrations – all of which you’ll find for free this weekend at #LongLiveArts.
So while the festival is new, the commitment to program excellence and relevance by all four Levine Center for the Arts institutions has long been steadfast.
And that’s something to celebrate.
Want to Go?
The #LongLiveArts Community Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at Levine Center for the Arts, 500 block of South Tryon Street, including Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Blumenthal Performing Arts’ Knight Theater, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and Mint Museum Uptown.
A free “plazacast” of Charlotte Symphony’s “Romeo & Juliet” will be shown from a big screen in front of the Firebird at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21. The Bechtler and the Mint will offer special hours of free access on Friday, May 20, in conjunction with the plazacast.
For more information, including a complete schedule of events, visit facebook.com/levinecenterart.