Creative Expression to Envision our Future

Nicholas Napoletano at work on his mural on the side of Aerial CLT.

Nicholas Napoletano remembers the first time he spotted the wall that now displays one of his largest works to date. “I remember seeing it from the McColl Center and realizing it was a prime candidate to begin bridging the gap between uptown and north end,” he said. “As the North Tryon Corridor continues to evolve, it’s important that the public views the expanding neighborhood in a positive way.

He knew there was a need for more creative expression in Charlotte that allows us “to envision our future, what we hope for and what we strive for,” Napoletano said.

Supported by a $6,500 ASC Cultural Vision Grant, which funds cultural programming that builds community or demonstrates relevant cultural expression, Napoletano began to create a stunning piece of art, featuring the faces of seven real women from the Charlotte area representing a racially-diverse, LGBTQ-inclusive community. The result, an inspiring mural on a 140 feet long by 17 feet tall wall, a collaboration with Aerial CTL, which provided the space, and Time Out Youth, which connected him to some of the faces found in the artwork.

“It’s bridging that gap. That’s ultimately what art has the capacity to do.

Nurturing the Potential in Students

Sean Mason performing at JAZZ ROOM.

If you have recently attended one of Jazz Arts Initiative’s (JAI) JAZZ ROOM performances, there is a good chance that you have heard the youngest member of the band on piano. His name is Sean Mason, a recent graduate of JAI’s Jazz Academy Program.

Five years ago, Sean was introduced to jazz music for the first time as a very quiet and bright rising ninth grader at Phillip O. Berry High School, with little formal musical training. In the summer of 2012, he attended the JazzArts Summer Music Camp and was immediately recognized by the JAI faculty for his remarkable potential as a promising musician.

Soon after, Sean enrolled in the Jazz Academy and a couple of years later, became a JAI “young jazz ambassador” and member of the organization’s All-Star Jazz Youth Ensemble. He began playing jazz professionally, and through his hard work and weekly exposure to JAI music instruction, he earned the first place prize at the Charlotte Jazz Festival’s Loonis McGlohon Young Jazz Artist Competition. Sean also earned the esteemed $10,000 Mary Doctor Performing Arts Scholarship for college. Still very humble through his accomplishments, he continued to serve as a student mentor to younger pianists of the Academy.

Today, Sean is a sophomore in the College of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He continues to shine brightly. This spring, he was contacted to go on the road as the pianist for world-renowned jazz legend, Branford Marsalis.

With ongoing support received from the Arts & Science Council, Jazz Arts Initiative is able to keep its doors open and offer high quality educational and performance opportunities to deserving and gifted local students like Sean.

STEAM Professionals in the Making

Eden exploring 90 minutes of hands-on STEAM activities at #STEAMSaturdays.

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up only 15% of the engineering workforce in our country. Those numbers remain under 30% for other STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) careers.

Enter Digi-Bridge, a local nonprofit that seeks to bridge the digital divide by providing high-quality, out-of-school programming to kindergarten through 8th grade scholars in an effort to expose all scholars to STEAM college and career opportunities.

Eden (pictured left) is a recipient of scholarship dollars to attend #STEAMSaturdays where she can explore 90 minutes of hands-on STEAM activities which bring out her inherent creative and mathematical skills.

Eden’s mom, Laquita Leslie, has noticed that Eden no longer doubts herself when it comes to attacking new projects/homework. “She’s got a type of confidence that seems to make her literally shine. Eden used to cry and whine and ask for help with tears in her eyes whenever she had school work to do, because she did not realize how bright and intelligent and creative she was. I can’t help but smile when I look back at how far My Eden has come,” said Leslie.

The Arts & Science Council grants made available to local nonprofits like Digi-Bridge allow them to bring scholars like Eden together on Saturday mornings. ASC funds not only allow Eden to participate in these courses at no cost to her family, but also sponsor curriculum like the “Careers in Arts,” a Digi-Bin series that features an introduction into lucrative STEAM careers like graphic design and architecture. On Saturday mornings, Eden is developing her creative skills and programming robots and with continued support she can help change those career statistics and build her own path.

Inspiring Students to Pursue Goals Beyond High School

Studio 345, a program of ASC, is a free, out-of-school youth development program that uses Digital Photography, Digital Media Arts, and Multimedia Design to educate and inspire students to stay in school, graduate, and pursue goals beyond high school. Providing unique experiences for high school students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Studio 345 fosters a sense of belonging and interconnectedness. Taught and mentored by professional working artists, students gain invaluable experiences enabling them to become creative risk-takers and craftsmen while growing emotionally, intellectually and artistically.

In the past four years, 100% of high school seniors (159) enrolled in Studio 345 graduated from high school.

With support from Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte, ASC is able to offer Studio 345 free of cost to students.

Enrollment for the first trimester of the 2017-18 school year is September 5 – September 17, 2017.

Supporting the Region’s Creative Individuals

Mooresville artist Dana Gingras received a Regional Artist Project Grant last year.

ASC works to uplift and provide deserving creative individuals in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region with the funding they need to create their work and grow professionally. At ASC, we believe that building the capacity of creative individuals that live and work here allows them to do their best work and contribute to the creativity economy of our community.

Mooresville sculptor, Dana Gingras, received a $2,000 ASC grant to purchase an air compressor. The purchase not only made the creation of his large scale outdoor pieces easier, but it allowed him to create a new series of woodwork.

“I’m working on a project today that is a direct result of winning that grant,” said Gingras.

It caught the attention of The Haen Gallery in Asheville, which has since featured his work. Other galleries followed suit. It also led to Gingras being commissioned to create public art for Charlotte’s Grove Park neighborhood.

“My career really took a jumpstart just by buying one piece of equipment, which is crazy,” he said.