By Giovanna Torres
Another year has almost gone by where we have witnessed everything from heartbreaking loss to colossal resilience, and our creative community has once again lifted our spirits through the power of arts and culture.
As the season of gratitude approaches, we want to highlight several local creative individuals and organizations who make Charlotte-Mecklenburg a more innovative creative ecosystem for all. We know we are grateful for them, but why and what are they grateful for this year?
Why are you grateful to be a creative in Charlotte-Mecklenburg?
Tony Arreaza, 2021 Creative Renewal Fellowship recipient
I have been performing and promoting Latin music in Charlotte for over two decades and I am so grateful that I get to do what I love in a place that I love. Charlotte has an incredibly vibrant, diverse and talented Latin music scene and it is an honor to be a part of that community. As an immigrant, being able to represent and share my culture and heritage with others is a great privilege and blessing.
Audrey Baran, 2021 ASC Artist Support Grant recipient
One thing I love about being an artist in Charlotte is the ability to collaborate with creatives of other mediums. My dance company, Baran Dance, has worked with several local musicians, photographers, and visual artists such as Sam the Lion (now Moa), Elonzo Wesley, Sara Woodmansee, and Sharon Dowell, creating innovative multimedia projects. In my experience, Charlotte artists are eager to cross boundaries and collaborate with each other, which helps build support in a city that has struggled to find its creative identity. As Baran Dance approaches our 10th anniversary, I look forward to working with other movers and makers to see what’s possible for the future of Charlotte art.
Meredith Connelly, 2020 Emerging Creators Fellowship recipient
As a local artist creating for our community, I have the rare and beautiful opportunity to foundationally impact the creative and cultural landscape of the city, to engage in conversations and initiatives that support sustainable creative work, to provide work to other emerging artists with an emphasis on accessible art, and to contribute to our economy as a local business owner. I understand it is rare to be an artist whose practice, experience, and projects simultaneously grow alongside a community’s larger cultural expansion and initiatives and remain very humbled and honored to be part of this growth process. I look forward to bringing public art to unexpected spaces in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area for years to come and absolutely love what I do!
Perrine DeShield, 2020 Cultural Vision Grant recipient
I am so grateful to be a creative in Charlotte-Mecklenburg because there’s a welcoming community that is truly inclusive for all. Regardless of your race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, class, or status, there’s representation and inclusivity here. There’s also space regardless of your medium and opportunities to grow and expand your craft. Whether it be podcasting or fashion and styling like my background–or photography and visual arts–it’s beautiful to see others rally around you, support your passions and uplift you. So many doors have finally been opened, but we must remember to not only grant others a seat at the table but instead, a house on the lot.
Why is your organization grateful to be in Charlotte-Mecklenburg?
The Raptor Center is so grateful to have been a part of the Arts and Culture community during the past 18 months. The spirit of collaboration and support that we received from our creative partners every step of the way has been essential to our survival. We approach the next phase of our community cultural journey with hope and optimism for the future borne out of the strength forged with our partners during this difficult time. – Jim Warren, Executive Director
I’m blessed to reside in a city that’s increasingly diverse, and willing to experience innovative, artistic events and programming. I’m eternally grateful that the community has allowed CineOdyssey to take creative risks, while being steadfast in their support. It is truly a testament to a thriving, growing arts community. – Tre’ McGriff, Executive Director
Criss Cross Mangosauce, 2021 Culture Blocks provider
Once upon a time there were two little children – Michael and María – and they wanted to play. Michael spoke English, María, Español.
– Do you want to play?
– ¿Tú quieres jugar?…
These are the introductory lines of one of the Criss Cross Mangosauce songs, and YES, SI, we were able to play/jugar with many bilingual children in Charlotte-Mecklenburg this year. We had the privilege to open up an intercultural space for families to connect children like Michael and Maria, to create a bridge for families from diverse backgrounds and to share through the performing arts the love of two cultures. We’re grateful for the opportunity to make meaningful connections with families through music, stories and books, even during the pandemic. – Irania Macias Reymann, Artistic and Education Director
Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts has been grateful to bring quality theatre experiences to families and children for more than 26 years. From our classes and camps to our mainstage productions, we strive to serve our community through meaningful theatre productions that expand imaginations, highlight cultural impact and recognize the diverse group of performers in the region. Thank you Charlotte and the surrounding areas for supporting theatre arts. – Sarah Baumgardner, Managing Director