Stoke Your Fire-in-the-Belly Passion for the Arts

  • Categories:

    Community, Inspiration

  • Date:

    June 27, 2019

Stoke Your Fire-in-the-Belly Passion for the Arts



Community, Inspiration

It’s graduation season, and not just for students of our local high schools, colleges and universities. This month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Arts & Science Council (ASC)’s Cultural Leadership Training, or CLT.

The ASC always recognized the importance of newcomers to our growing local ecosystem, but they had just one problem: they didn’t know how to identify, recruit and vet these folks for leadership and community service roles. So, the ASC challenged itself to create a pool of new, young and more diverse candidates for local boards of cultural nonprofits. Their idea? An innovative program, now 14 years young, that has trained some of the area’s best, brightest and most passionate individuals and gifted our city an astounding 429 cultural leaders.

Collectively, this innovative cultural leadership program has:

  • Provided more than 500 hours of training
  • Fostered representation on more than 50 different nonprofit boards
  • Produced at least 20 board chairs
  • Trained countless other committee and task force chairs and even several founders of nonprofits

As I shared with the latest CLT class at their graduation, there’s something magical about this program. I still remember the program’s first year, when the ASC put Suzuki violins in the hands of business professionals at an inspiring learning center called ImaginOn. That seemingly simple act had the power to reawaken and affirm these professionals’ passion for arts, science and history. It was just one moment, yet it stands as irrefutable proof that arts education works — whether you’re a corporate professional or a kindergarten student.

So, why is this important?

Well, for starters, the CLT placement process helps ensure smaller organizations can benefit from the leadership of smart, creative, passionate, influential, well-trained board members. These organizations, where the executive director is often also the marketing director and major gifts officer — and sometimes more — depend on their board to get things done.

Strong leadership also enables us to boldly support initiatives such as a new quarter-cent sales tax increase for Mecklenburg County, projected to raise $50 million annually. The ASC would receive about half. It’s a controversial issue, with zealous arguments for both sides.

I’ll put my stake in the ground:

I’m a huge believer in the ASC and its mission. My family and I call Charlotte home. I run a creative business. My Wray Ward employees crave a culturally rich and creatively vibrant city, especially if they’re moving their family here for a job. Next to the ASC, no other local organization is more central to nurturing, supporting and promoting creativity in our community. It stokes our collective fire for the arts, sciences, history and heritage. And, through its CLT program, the ASC develops dynamic leaders primed to support big initiatives for a city that absolutely needs more permanent funding for the arts and arts education.

Yes, the proposed sales tax increase is controversial. But cities that want to continue to grow and attract strong talent need the bold will to support bold moves, even controversial ones.

The American novelist Thomas Wolfe once said, “Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” Culture isn’t just something we talk about or spend time doing or advocate to support or raise money to fund.

It’s part of what makes us who we are.