Helping Emerging Cultural Groups Thrive

Categories: Blog

Why This Matters: Changes in ASC’s grant-making policy allowed unrestricted operating support to be extended to emerging organizations to more fully reflect the diversity of our region and provide them with the resources to innovate and capitalize themselves and strengthen their future.

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

It can be a challenge for emerging and grassroots cultural organizations to keep the lights on and operations going.

It’s why ASC amended its grant-making policy in 2015 to expand operating support to community-based organizations that more fully reflect the region’s diversity and provide them with resources to innovate and strengthen their operations.

As a result, 11 cultural groups that did not receive operating funds from ASC in fiscal year 2016 will receive it in FY17 (which began July 1), including: A Sign of the Times of the Carolinas, Carolinas Latin Dance Company, Charlotte Art League, Charlotte Folk Society, Gay Men’s Chorus, Historic Rosedale, Jazz Arts Initiative, Mint Hill Arts, On Q Performing Arts, One Voice Chorus and The Light Factory.

Here’s an introduction to three emerging and grassroots organizations that will benefit from this new support.

Building an Audience for Jazz

Jazz Arts Initiative photo by Andy Majors.
Jazz Arts Initiative photo by Andy Majors.

Hurricane Katrina brought Lonnie and Ocie Davis to Charlotte, by way of Virginia.

Lonnie was in graduate school in New Orleans when the hurricane hit the city in 2005. After finishing her degree at Virginia Tech, she and her husband moved to Charlotte.

They quickly noticed a difference between the cities.

“There was no obvious jazz scene where we can go meet musicians, get performance opportunities and just hang,” Lonnie said.

The couple, both trained musicians, established Jazz Arts Initiative (JAI) in 2009 to build a local audience for jazz through education, performance and musician support.

Its first program was the first-ever jazz stage at Festival in the Park in 2010. It grew from there, adding educational programs and regular concerts.

In its early years, JAI “had to depend a lot on our programs to support operations,” Lonnie said. The new grant from ASC signals a new stage in the organization’s evolution.

“ASC operating support is definitely going to change how we operate and function as an organization in a very positive way,” she said. “It’s really going to help us get to that next level of success.”

Connecting People to the LGBTQ Community

One Voice Chorus photo.
One Voice Chorus photo.

Some choruses can be a little stuffy, said Gerald Gurss, artistic director of One Voice Chorus.

“What’s made One Voice really spectacular,” he said, “is it’s established itself as a chorus that can do the textbook repertoire but can also step outside the box and have a little fun.”

The 27-year-old chorus uses music to fulfill its mission of increasing understanding and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

“It’s easy to make fun of, it’s easy to hate, it’s easy to assume things about other people or peoples when you don’t have a close connection to those people,” Gurss said. “It’s hard to hate or fear something that has a face that you know.”

Operating support from ASC will have an immeasurable impact, Gurss said. It will help with costs people often don’t think about, such as music, venue fees and marketing.

It will also allow One Voice to partner with a Nashville chorus to bring what they believe will be the U.S. choral premiere of “Codebreaker” to Charlotte this spring. “Codebreaker” is based on the life of mathematician Alan Turing, the World War II codebreaker who took his life after being chemically castrated due to a conviction for homosexual activity.

Inspiring Film and Photography

The Light Factory photo.
The Light Factory photo.


Whether talking about operations or outreach, it’s the focus of The Light Factory, which began in 1972 as a cooperative among photographers.

One of only a handful of museums in the country focusing solely on photography and film, The Light Factory briefly suspended its operations in October 2013 while undergoing a strategic plan (supported by funding from ASC) to determine the best operating model for the organization.

It returned in 2014 with a new plan and a new home – in Charlotte’s Plaza-Midwood neighborhood.

“We were kind of reinventing ourselves,” said executive director Kay Tuttle. “We had an enthusiastic group of people on our board, we had people donate time and money and energy into making our organization successful and sustainable.”

That leadership and support has enabled The Light Factory to continue doing what it does best – inspiring individuals and transforming community through photography and film. The operating grant from ASC will bolster the museum’s community engagement efforts.

“We have such a huge opportunity to use photography to make a difference in young people’s lives and help them look at their lives differently,” Tuttle said. “My personal mission is for The Light Factory to take that grant and make the biggest impact with it possible.”