Why This Matters: In addition to leading initiatives that support arts and culture at the national level, the work of the NEA directly impacts Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
By Bernie Petit
When Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents think about the National Endowment for the Arts, the first thing that should spring to mind is local impact.
It’s understandable if that’s not the case. When the NEA comes up, most people consider its national influence – the NEA fosters an arts and cultural sector that contributes 4.23 percent, or $704.2 billion, of the nation’s GDP.
Others still have personal connections to the NEA’s military healing arts program, Creative Forces, which places creative arts therapies at military clinical sites – including the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC – and increases access to therapeutic arts activities in local communities for military members, veterans and their families.
However, in the last five years, the NEA has directly invested more than $570,000 in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Those dollars have supported some of our community’s treasured cultural organizations, including Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture, The Light Factory and The Mint Museum.
From being a driving force for arts education to supporting innovation on local stages, our cultural community is stronger because of the NEA.
So, the next time you think or hear about the National Endowment for the Arts, here are five things to keep in mind about how it benefits Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
1. Local dancers can soar.
Charlotte Ballet has received $60,000 in funding from the NEA over the past five years. It’s used this support for “Innovative Works” and two world premiere ballets, including the upcoming production of “Wuthering Heights,” by associate artistic director and resident choreographer Sasha Janes.
Last year, The New York Times profiled UNC Charlotte Associate Professor of Dance Kim Jones for a feature on how she spent 18 months reconstructing American choreographer Paul Taylor’s 1962 “Tracer.” The restaging of that piece at the university was supported by a NEA grant.
2. U.S. soldiers can explore Charlotte-area museums for free.
Thanks to a collaboration between the NEA, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense, more than 2,000 museums across America have offered free admission to the nation’s service members, including National Guard and Reserve, and their families each summer since 2010.
Five Charlotte organizations participated in this program in 2016:
- Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts;
- Charlotte Museum of History;
- Levine Museum of the New South;
- The Mint Museum; and
- Wing Haven.
3. Art + Innovation are strengthened at McColl Center.
NEA Art Works grants have bolstered programming at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. The center received a combined $65,000 from 2014-16 from the NEA to:
- Help place artists in community settings such as schools, hospitals, and local parks as part of the center’s outreach efforts.
- Support residencies serving Chicano artists as part of a celebration of Latin American arts and culture in Charlotte.
- Provide residencies serving Hispanic/Latino artists and place the artists in communities to facilitate cross-cultural exchanges and provide art training.
4. Arts education is enhanced.
If you’ve had a child participate in Poetry Out Loud, which invites high school students to participate in a national poetry recitation competition, you can thank the NEA. The NEA’s support of the North Carolina Arts Council means the state arts council is able to strengthen arts education throughout our state.
In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, that means:
- Clayworks providing an afterschool residency that engages elementary students;
- Northwest School of the Arts getting a school-based residency with Charlotte Symphony musicians to engage its high school students;
- Community Charter School of the Arts hosting a school-based residency with artist John Lemmon; and
- ASC’s North Carolina Wolf Trap program providing teaching artists for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Mecklenburg County More-at-Four Pre-K classes.
5. Public art will beautify our public spaces.
Two future public art projects in Charlotte are being supported by NEA Funding:
- The artist team Wowhaus has been commissioned to create artwork to compliment the North Tryon Business Corridor streetscape project, which will include Charlotte’s first Greenroad (a certification similar to LEED for buildings), just outside the I-277 loop.
- Renowned African-American sculptor Richard Hunt will create a centerpiece public artwork for Romare Bearden Park in uptown Charlotte.