Roses For The Living

 

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My sister Diatra and me miraculously still standing and smiling after 72 hours of nonstop event prep, heavy lifting and rose wall creation for the Gantt Center’s 2016 Jazzy Holiday Gala.

This year the Jazzy Holiday Gala was organized around the idea of art & soul, conveying the unique and vital role the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture plays in Charlotte’s artistic and cultural scene and in the lives of youth, artists, educators, families and others, in communities near and far. Together at The Center was the evening’s mantra.

Jazzy is an elegant black-tie gala and major fundraiser of the Gantt Center. After three decades, it’s become a holiday tradition in Charlotte. For the past five years, I’ve been the creative strategist/event consultant for Jazzy. Photos from past events can be seen here and here and here. As with each year, I approached the event as a large-scale art project, beginning with an organizing concept through which an important narrative from the Gantt Center can be told. Then I built out the concept from the color palette to visual design to key messages and scripting to art forms and media to the presenters to the flow of the evening.

This year, art & soul emerged as perfect because the Gantt Center is a state-of-the-art building located in the heart of Charlotte, and it carries a mission to preserve African American culture and to present art in all its forms. Its location holds particular significance because it stands in what was once the thriving, predominately Black neighborhood of Brooklyn. In innumerable ways, the Gantt Center embodies Charlotte’s heart, art and soul.

On Saturday, December 3, more than 700 guests gathered at the Charlotte Convention Center and helped raise $300,000 to advance the Gantt Center’s mission, which keeps art & soul alive and thriving in Charlotte. The event’s Presenting Sponsor was Bank of America. Gala Co-Chairs were Dr. Tiffani Jones & Thaddeus Jones and Allison & Tim Atwell, who led a Host Committee that included: Ned Austin, Victor Fields, Joan Higginbotham, Charles Horton, Michelle Horton, Jerri Irby, Alene Paraison, Yandrick Paraison and Natalie Pittman.

2016 Spirit of the Center Award recipients were: PNC (corporate citizenship and partnership); Richard J. Powell, Ph.D. of Duke University (art and culture); and Mrs. Sarah Stevenson, a founding board member of the Gantt Center (philanthropy and community).

The gala opened at 6:00 pm with an hour-long cocktail reception and was followed by dinner, award presentations, art & soul impact stories, an appeal for membership, music by Al Jasper & Friends and dancing. Membership was the focus of the evening’s fundraising appeal. Throughout the evening, gala attendees were urged to becoming a new member,  renew a membership, upgrade a membership and “gift” membership for others. The aim was for every guest to purchase a membership.

A live rose wall served as the event’s focal centerpiece. Guests posed in front of a backdrop of 1,000s of red rose blossoms as photographer Jon Strayhorn took beautiful portraits (see some of Jon’s photos below). A wall of windows outside the ballroom were transformed into a photography exhibition with artful images by Ortega Gaines. A sleek program booklet comprised colorful photographs, indicative of the Gantt Center’s art & soul.

But one glorious night, Jazzy celebrates what the Gantt Center carries out nearly 365 days a year, why it has garnered community support for 42 years, and how it works to shape the future by engaging generation after generation. Whether it’s art and soul, young and old, global and local, or black, white and brown, we come together at The Center.

View the photo slideshow by clicking an image.

 

Morning in Charlotte

The feeling reminds me of the morning following a huge snow or ice storm.

Grogginess lingering after a late, late night of watching news reports, assessing the “forecasts,” tracking accounts of heightening treacherousness via social media, and peeking from windows to see whether “it” has arrived in your area yet. Businesses closed. Events canceled. Continuous conference calls since everyone is working from home. Cooped inside. Eating peanut butter. Clutching hot drinks. And wondering if the worst has ended.

The snow meant for them

Delish

“Life is a glorious banquet a limitless and a delicious buffet.” — Maya Angelou

Every sense was fed at Friday’s ‪#‎CultureFeast‬, a long-table, family-style dinner with 200 lovers of art, culture and food in the center of South Tryon Street. An idea cooked up and served by Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council, it was quite a delicious evening that I’ll savor for some time.

My sister captured this fantastic photo of the night’s color and vibrance.

Diatra pic of culture feast

Proclaimed!

The Honorable Daniel Clodfelter, Mayor of Charlotte, has proclaimed August 2014 as Black Philanthropy Month!

At Tuesday’s BPM 2014 :: Forum For Civic Leadership, City Councilman David Howard opened the event by reading the City of Charlotte’s proclamation. And I’m proud to share it with you. If the version below proves illegible, you can also access it via this link: City of Charlotte BPM Proclamation.

Though not a public official, I’ll seize the occasion to call upon ALL public officials; givers of the luminary and everyday variety; professionals and volunteers from the philanthropic and nonprofit realm; faith-based congregants; the young and the forever young-hearted; and all the people of Charlotte and beyond:

  • To observe this month,
  • To celebrate the cultural richness and philanthropic spirit of our community, and
  • To recognize the vital role generosity plays in ensuring a healthy, safe and prosperous community in which to live, work and flourish.

BPM 2014 Proclamation

Black Philanthropy Month. August…and giving augustly, year-round! 

Nothing Finer

In The Garden_Winghaven

Abundant home-state pride spurred me to instigate a friendly photo-fueled feud via my Twitter feed. The conflict centered on the prettiest and best-est springtimes ever: New Jersey vs. North Carolina. Having spent eight spring seasons in the Garden State, I give props to the beauty that blossoms there once winter ends. But that was precisely the problem. Winters in Jersey were so harsh and long, the thaw melted into and chilled most of the spring months. I prefer springs that arrive on time, or better yet early and then linger. After eight fun-filled years, I quit my Jersey Girl stint and returned home, again a true-blue Carolina Girl.

Pride is among the deadly sins, and my competitive drive is no virtue either. That said, I set out to advance my stance in the online “feud.” Painstaking finesse aided my quest for the most verdurous visions of spring’s breathtaking essence. Then the perfect moment arose and I plucked it. At the height of the fairest season in the Tarheel State, an invitation from my green-thumbed sister, who’s on the Charlotte Garden Club board, to the annual member picnic in the celebrated gardens of Wing Haven.

 

Here’s a fountain of iPhone photos from that magnificent May day, which makes a convincing case about North Carolina’s springtime supremacy. Good thing Jersey Guys Sidney and Brian are such good sports.

— VF

 

Great White Way_Winghaven

Vines_WinghavenTerra Cotta Pot_WinghavenBronte Quote_WinghaveBlue Berries

If I had Aladdin‘s lamp for only a day,
I’d make a wish and here’s what I’d say:
Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.

From the song “Carolina in the Morning

Revving Up Entrepreneurial Engines in Uptown Charlotte

Chas Thomas_Pride mag

The May-June 2013 issue of Pride Magazine focuses on business and includes a guest column by Charles Thomas, photographer of Giving Back. In addition to being a professional photog, Charles is executive director of Queen City Forward (QCF).

Packard Place, located in uptown Charlotte, houses QCF and other groups that support the creation of fast-growth businesses. I wrote a piece about Packard Place, including an interview with Director Adam Hill as well as with Manoj Kesavan and Charles who are tenants. Packard Place was once a showroom for the iconic luxury car and is now a bustling hot spot for a community of innovators, creators and entrepreneurs.

Residents of the Charlotte area can pick up the latest issue of Pride to learn more about Packard Place, Manoj, Charles and their contributions to create a healthy ecosystem of thriving start-up business and social enterprises in our city. The issue also includes my mini-column about TEDxCharlotte and the roles that businesses and other entities can take on to help spread great ideas.

UnlimiTED Ideas Take Shape in CLT

TEDx graphic

Today Charles and I co-present to a sold-out audience of 500 at TEDxCharlotte. Titled A Picture Reframed, our TEDx Talk centers on our experiences and epiphanies while developing Giving Back.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a local forum for presentation, innovation, connection, discussion and inspiration. Today, from 10 am to 4 pm, you can follow live-blogging from the event via Facebook and Twitter. The main hashtag is #TEDxCLT and the one for GBP is #GivingBack. Think good thoughts for us, particularly around 10::40 today, when we’re slated to hit the stage.

We’ll be sure to share the video of our TEDx Talk as soon as it’s released!

— VF

Without Limits

On 15 Feb 2013, Charles Thomas and I will be presenters at TEDxCharlotte. We hope you’ll register and come if you’re in the area.

UNLIMITED: Ideas Take Shape is this year’s theme for the annual, daylong creative forum. As collaborators on Giving Back, Charles and I will share what we learned while pursuing our idea of reframing portraits of philanthropy.

Here’s a taste of what you’ll experience . . .

If you’ve never attended TEDxCharlotte and want to know more, go here. And, if you’re unfamiliar with TED.com and its locally focused spin-off TEDx, go here, too.

After attending the last two years, I can tell you that TEDxCharlotte features a dozen or so selected presenters who share their ideas and 300+ participants who come to . . .

  • hear bold ideas…about technology, entertainment, design and other stuff
  • experience informative, entertaining and/or inspiring presentations
  • see innovative art projects and short films
  • network and connect with a mix of people
  • learn about new topics
  • find inspiration
  • laugh
  • maybe cry
  • eat (really, really) well
  • let loose
  • dance a little
  • never forget the day

Seeing you at TEDxCharlotte 2013 would be great!

What A Treat

It’s a treat to engage in a Giving Back book talk in Charlotte, my home city. Generous support from Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. and its African American Associate Network as hosts of the event is appreciated.

Black. White. And Read All Over

Join us this evening: http://paperless.ly/tlESYK