Unique Patton Building Social Capital in Charlotte’s Cultural Community

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McColl Center resident Jackie Milad (left) with Charlotte's Unique Patton.
McColl Center resident Jackie Milad (left) with Charlotte’s Unique Patton.
By Jillian Mueller

Although design student Unique Patton will head back to N.C. State University in the fall, she isn’t done making her mark on Charlotte yet.

Patton has been involved in the Queen City’s cultural scene since writing a poem in middle school that inspired the words that embellish the Tom Hunter light rail stop. She’s currently collaborating with artist and retired professor Tom Stanley to create an ASC-commissioned public artwork for the community.

The McColl Center for Art + Innovation provided Patton another opportunity to continue building social capital within her desired career path this summer through an internship with McColl Artist-in-Residence Jackie Milad.

The McColl Center offers internships to college students throughout the year to provide the next generation with opportunities to learn the basics of being a professional artist, including curatorial practices, marketing development, running arts organizations and applying for residencies.

“These internships give [college students] access to these artists that are already somewhat established in their careers,” said Alice Cookson, McColl Center’s program manager and internship lead. “Fulltime artists are instrumental in in teaching them about what exactly are all facets of what it takes to be a professional artist.”

During her internship, Patton did extensive research to help Jackie Milad with her latest project, centered around Milad’s heritage as an Egyptian and Honduran American.

In addition to conducting a deep dive exploration of Egyptian artifacts, Patton created a visual database of significant artifacts and incorporated her own sketches and drawings into the database.

This experience exposed Patton to both a new visual culture and a new way of making art with mixed media. It also deeply impacted her personal creative practice.

“Spending time with Jackie and seeing how her heritage…is really shown throughout her (work) is something that’s inspired me to do that more and more throughout mine in regard to the things that I believe – my faith, my personal experiences that I’ve had in college or as a student or woman of color,” Patton said.

The two artists were able to support and inspire each other throughout the internship. Being able to work with young or emerging artists “is a really critical part of my process” Milad said.

“Emerging artists have a lot to share in terms of knowledge,” Milad said. “There’s not really a hierarchy there the way I see it…the exchange of knowledge and learning and mentorship is really critical to an artist’s life.”

Patton saw her internship as an important step in building her network in Charlotte.

“I’m grateful,” she said, “to have people in my corner who want to see me progress as an artist.”

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