By Bernie Petit
People throughout Mecklenburg County are leaving their local libraries with more than just the books they’re checking out.
They’re leaving having been surprised by an unexpected cultural experience.
The Arts & Science Council (ASC), Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are partnering to bring unannounced cultural performances to every county library branch through Library Acts of Culture.
So far, 12 Charlotte Mecklenburg Library branches have received a Library Acts of Culture visit; all 20 branches will have received a surprise performance by the end of March.
“The library now in 2014 is more than just books and computers,” said Charlotte Mecklenburg Library representative David Sniffin. “We do so much more serving patrons in all kinds of capacities and this is just another way we can expose them to the culture available at the library and the library’s partners.”
Over the past two weeks, surprised library patrons and staff have reached for their smartphones to record the pop-up performances, which have included the A Sign of the Times of the Carolinas jazz quartet, singers from Opera Carolina and performers from Martha Connerton/Kinetic Works Dance Company.
People broke out into dance at the West Boulevard branch, where the performance provided a special birthday treat for one visitor. A mesmerized toddler walked straight up to the flautist at the Mountain Island branch at the onset of the jazz quartet’s performance, enjoying a performance she thought was meant just for her.
A senior at the Davidson branch was moved to tears by Xela Pinkerton’s and Martin Schreiner’s operatic performance of “O mio babbino caro” (“Oh My Beloved Father”) from Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” and “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” (“Let’s drink from the joyful cup”) from Verdi’s “La traviata” (“The Fallen Woman”).
“It’s always interesting to see the variety of ways in which people respond to the performances,” said Ryan Deal,
ASC associate vice president of cultural & community investment. “What makes it all worth it is when you find those positive responses of people that willingly drop what they’re doing to engage in the performance, grin from ear to ear, even tear up, and then seek us out after the performance is over to thank us for what we’re doing for the community.”
Library Acts of Culture bring performances from traditional venues to libraries across Charlotte-Mecklenburg, providing access to the arts in unexpected ways. They delight adults, but they also expose kids to the power of the arts, A Sign of the Times jazz vocalist Toni Tupponce told Fox 46 Carolinas.
“It’s important to me as a singer and as a performer because the earlier you can start children in seeing their dreams to perhaps perform or to be involved in the arts and see opportunities in that, it just widens their world,” Tupponce said. “And just seeing their eyes light up, it’s fantastic.”