Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mapping out a future for culture in Charlotte

How do you see the future of the arts in Charlotte? The Arts & Science Council wants to know.

The ASC, a longtime producer of cultural plans, is working on a new one. It will lay out "a refreshed cultural vision for Charlotte-Mecklenburg," the ASC says. After holding seven sessions to collect the opinions of arts, business and civic leaders, the ASC has set up a website to let the public chime in.

The site -- www.CMCulturalPlan.org -- will be online through Dec. 31.

"We want to find new ways to make Charlotte-Mecklenburg's cultural opportunities more valued and vital to those who live and visit here," ASC president Scott Provancher said in a statement.

This will be the fourth cultural action plan -- as the ASC calls them -- since 1975, ASC vice president Robert Bush says. The ASC sees it as a complement to the cultural facilities plan that led to the building of the Levine Center for the Arts on South Tryon Street. This time, the ASC is looking for ways to:

  • encourage residents and visitors to take part in more cultural activities.
  • "nurture the totality of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's cultural community."
  • enrich neighborhoods across the county.
  • promote opportunities for lifelong learning.
In February, the ASC will hold town-hall meetings in Charlotte, Matthews and Cornelius to gather further points of view. The ASC hopes to complete its plans and recommendations by May, ASC vice president Robert Bush said.

While the ASC doesn't frame the project this way, there's no doubt that recession-hit Charlotte needs new ways to nurture its arts community.

The ASC's fundraising plummeted in the downturn. Cultural groups were forced into severe belt-tightening. N.C. Dance Theatre, for instance, laments that dancers have been leaving town for cities that offer more weeks of work. But even before the crisis, the arts community was showing strain.

The Charlotte Symphony's financial troubles began nearly a decade ago. Money woes put Charlotte Repertory Theatre out of business. Moving Poets Theatre of Dance, rather than land in that kind of trouble, shut down in the face of tough fundraising.

Charlotte and its vaunted can-do spirit have their work cut out.