Charlotte Art League’s EmpoWWer Grant Is the Gift That Keeps On Giving

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  • Date:

    August 21, 2023

Charlotte Art League’s EmpoWWer Grant Is the Gift That Keeps On Giving


At Wray Ward, we’ve always believed in giving back to our community. That’s why we formalized our commitment to nonprofits with the launch of our EmpoWWer service-grant program in 2018. Since then, we’ve supported 15 amazing nonprofit organizations in the greater Charlotte area with marketing communications that they identified as crucial to creating change. But even after our formal partnership ends, we love following these groups in their tireless efforts to help build a better world.

Take Charlotte Art League, for example. Since 1965, this nonprofit visual arts organization and 2022 EmpoWWer partner has developed professional and aspiring artists through open working studios, classes and community outreach programs, as well as a public gallery. When Charlotte Art League earned an EmpoWWer grant, they engaged Wray Ward to create an impactful visual campaign and marketing communications plan. But where are they now?

To get the details, I talked with Charlotte Art League’s executive director, Jim Dukes.

Why are programs such as Charlotte Art League so important?

Dukes: We’ve become a safe place for artists and community organizations to meet, grow, come together, learn and celebrate their diversity in a safe and inclusive environment. Charlotte Art League is extremely important for our artist small businesses: We provide exposure to a variety of people in the community and give them diverse outlets for exhibiting their work and expressing themselves.

As a nonprofit used to doing everything in-house, what was it like to work with an agency?

Dukes: Magical. I remember the day Wray Ward revealed two options for our marketing plan. I was blown away. It’s amazing when you see a passionate team of people get together and work and create and listen to their partner’s needs. They had our permission to be creative with no limitations, and the product was just genius.

How did the experience benefit Charlotte Art League?

Dukes: We have a small staff, so implementing the website and social media concepts took some time. Once everything launched, it was amazing to see. It evoked the right emotions and provided us with a diverse platform to get our message out there. It’s intriguing but doesn’t give away the farm. It makes people want to check us out and learn what the hell is going on. It’s attention-grabbing.

How does your EmpoWWer grant continue to serve the organization?

Dukes: It continues to give us a lot of variety in our marketing efforts. The concept allows us to build on it in a variety of different ways, not only in print but also in the newsletter and on social media.

The campaign also helped get the attention of a company called Orange Barrel Media, which was the most unexpected part of all of this. They awarded us a media grant that includes 90 days of free digital advertising on three billboards in Uptown Charlotte. It’s a testament to organizations such as Wray Ward and Orange Barrel Media that want to do good for the community. It also helps bring more awareness to Charlotte Art League, which was one of our goals in working with Wray Ward. Often, we’ll hear, “I didn’t know you guys existed.” We want to eliminate that phrase.

What did you enjoy most about your collaboration with Wray Ward?

Dukes: We all felt a sense of accomplishment. Every person on our team had a sense of learning, accomplishment and buy-in. We’ve worked really hard to continue to emulate that commitment, and we are eternally grateful for the opportunity. EmpoWWer created a tremendous amount of positive change for the organization and energized us in a way I don’t think would have happened otherwise.

What’s next for Charlotte Art League?

Dukes: We received a grant from Truist to finish our artist small business digital marketing and sales platform. The platform is a digital business card that links to an online sales platform we own. We’re designing and licensing it and will market it nationally and internationally.

We also received a $30,000 grant from Wells Fargo to open an in-house copy and print shop. We’re buying a wide-format color printer and a high-tech digital office printer that can handle copying, printing, binding and stapling. The grant will cover the machines, which will sit in our Digital Arts Accelerator space, and all of the supplies and service for five years. This means we will be able to save artists and nonprofits about $30,000 a year in copying and printing costs and generate about the same amount in revenue for Charlotte Art League.

We’re also looking at opening two new locations here in Mecklenburg County. We are dedicated to providing affordable space for artists. Opportunities keep presenting themselves to us, and we’re doing everything we can to make them happen so that more small businesses can thrive here.

What’s next for EmpoWWer?

EmpoWWer 2024 will open for applications later this fall. Read more about the Wray Ward EmpoWWer program, including other past grant recipients and how to apply.

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