Finding a Home in Giving Back

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  • Date:

    October 25, 2018

Finding a Home in Giving Back


At Wray Ward, our people do more than just live here in the Queen City. They are trailblazers, innovators, mentors and our strongest connection to the ever-changing Charlotte community. The uniquity of their gifts and passions overflow into the work of our agency.

Last month, we announced our EmpoWWer service grant program, making a formal commitment to the corporate social responsibility we’ve lived for more than 40 years. So, while community nonprofits work on their applications for a 2019 service grant — they have until October 31 — we wanted to take a minute to highlight how one of our team members uses her gifts for good.

For several years, Leslie Gillock, our vice president and director of Insights, has served on the board of directors for Arts+. Formerly Community School of the Arts, they announced a rebrand at their annual “Celebrates” event Oct. 24 to Arts+, a name that highlights how they help students tap into their artistic potential PLUS access the benefits of an arts education. Leslie’s new position as board chair has given her the opportunity to embrace the organization, find new ways to share their mission with the community and share her talents to help them meet their goals. We sat down with Leslie to learn more about why she gives back and why Arts+ is one way she chooses to do so. 

Why is it important to you to give back to Charlotte?

When I was with Springs Global and Fruit of the Loom, my volunteer work focused on associations in the textile and apparel industries. This aligned perfectly with the companies’ missions and my travel. But I’ve always longed for a chance to make a difference locally. Selfishly, I’d like to do something that might benefit my children and grandchildren. Professionally, I’d like to be part of the bigger creative community that Wray Ward and its employees embrace. There’s something particularly rewarding about giving back close to home.

What sparked your involvement with Arts+?

I became connected to what was then Community School of the Arts through people I knew in the community. A few years ago, I participated in the McColl Center for Art + Innovation’s Innovation Institute, where I met some amazing nonprofit leaders. Those connections led me to Arts+ and what’s become a truly rewarding experience for me. I get to be part of an organization that is transforming people’s lives through art and music.

Tell us a little bit more about Arts+.

Our big umbrella is music and visual arts education. In additional to art lessons, we have private and group lessons for just about every instrument imaginable. Beyond basic lessons, we have camps, workshops, Charlotte Children’s Choir, programs for schools and, of course, outreach programs in various Charlotte communities. Of the 4,500 students Arts+ reaches each year, roughly half participate for free or at a reduced rate. These programs make it possible for students of all backgrounds to access the transformative power of arts education. Programs such ArtsReach, which has provided free music and visual arts programming to thousands of children through their community centers and shelters for more than 20 years. Or Project Harmony, a new orchestral partnership between Arts+ and the Charlotte Symphony, modeled after El Sistema, an internationally recognized program. Project Harmony is an intensive youth music program focused primarily on communities with the fewest resources and the greatest need. Our goal is to make arts education accessible to everyone and for those programs to be of the highest quality.

You mentioned your children and grandchildren. Why is it important for children to become involved in the arts at a young age?

When a kid tackles a new instrument or art form, they gain confidence. That confidence undoubtedly fuels that individual into adulthood. We watch kids who have grown up in our program go off to college and see the skills that they learned at Arts+ apply to the next chapter of their lives – whatever they decide to do. And who knows — their study of visual arts at Arts+ may lead them down a path to become a photographer, graphic designer or illustrator who may someday sit down the hall from me at Wray Ward.

Does Wray Ward work with Arts+?

When I joined Arts+, they were already looking ahead to their 50th anniversary in 2019. This milestone event presents a great opportunity for the organization to take a step back and look at its mission, vision and goals to ensure they accurately reflect what the organization has become since its inception a half century ago, and that it’s well-positioned for the future. Our mission remains unchanged: unleashing creativity, transforming lives and building community through outstanding and accessible arts education. How we deliver on that mission going forward will continue to evolve and advance to meet the needs of the Charlotte community. Wray Ward has been an integral part of both the strategic planning and the creative process. It’s been an incredible experience for me to see my talented co-workers share their creative talents with this community treasure. I can’t tell you the pride I felt when the new Arts+ name and logo were unveiled at this year’s annual celebration.     

How can the community support and advocate for arts education?

Simply supporting the programs, attending events and, of course, sharing your own time and talents through community volunteer work. And, doing the same for Arts+ partners. Partnerships with other arts organizations make everything that we do possible. We all have the same common want — to make the Charlotte community a better place to live. We deliver that through different missions, but when we come together, our impact magnifies.

Giving back isn’t always a grand gesture. We all have something to give to the causes that inspire us. It just takes answering the question “How can I help?” Our community is enriched each day by its people — their passions, ideas and actions. It’s an awesome thing to witness.

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