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Sensoria is a Feast for the Senses

by Michael J. Solender

Sensoria is a Feast for the Senses

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Picture by Eleanor Brawley

April 1, 2010

When it comes to literature, culture, music, history, and the culinary arts, can you really be in danger of getting too much of a good thing? If Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) has its say, the answer to this question is a resounding "No!"

From April 12–17, CPCC will host Sensoria, a celebration of the arts, at its Central and Levine campus locations. CPCC estimates that over 5,000 participants will partake in festival offerings. Each day will feature numerous events in the areas of Literature, Culinary Arts, History & Culture, Music, Visual Arts, and Film. Throughout the week, attendees can meet artists and scholars, participate in workshops, discover the work of talented artisans and exhibitors, and learn more about CPCC's outstanding programs.

The origins of Sensoria tie back to CPCC’s original Spring Literary Festival, launched in 1993. Conceived and started by CPCC’s longtime creative writing instructor and one-woman Charlotte literary scene tour-de-force Irene Blair Honeycutt, the Spring Literary Festival ran through Honeycutt’s retirement in 2006. The festival became incorporated into the community college’s ArtsFest which ran from 2007–2009. Reborn again this year as Sensoria, the celebration will feature over 50 cultural events at multiple venues over six full days.

Stimuli for the senses

The term Sensoria is the plural form of sensorium, which Merriam-Webster defines as “the parts of the brain or the mind concerned with the reception and interpretation of sensory stimuli.” That’s an apt description for the artistic palate offered to students and the public as CPCC looks to further their mission of advancing the life-long educational development of students and strengthening the economic, social, and cultural life of our community.

The festival kicks off on Monday April 12th with a Meet the Artist session featuring Tommie Robinson at 9:30 a.m. at CPCC’s Tate Hall. Robinson became the first black artist in the Guild of Charlotte Artists whose work has been commissioned by corporations, civic leaders, and private collectors. He is the creator of the extraordinary two-story murals in the Bobcats Arena.

The festival culminates with the celebration's signature event – Sensoria Saturday – on April 17. This special all–day event includes fantastic fare from some of the city's finest local restaurants, live concerts, and hands–on art activities for the kids and more. Charlotte Green and Clean 2010: An Earth Day Celebration will also be held on CPCC’s main campus in collaboration with CPCC and the City of Charlotte Neighborhood Symposium. Saturday’s program will be a fitting capstone to what promises to be a festival that offers something for almost everyone.

Between the cornerstone events, participants can attend a variety of programming including:

Literature offerings: Lit fans will find a number of options of interest, including: a humor writing workshop led by published humorist and writing instructor, Susan Harvey; readings from the Charlotte Writers Club; a culinary writing panel featuring Charlotte Observer Food Editor Kathleen Purvis, local food and culture commentator for NPR, Novello Festival Press publisher Amy Rodgers, and WBT NewsTalk radio host of This Show is Cookin’ Charles Jenkin.

Musical performances by: The Early Music Consort; music majors in an Applied Student Recital; Rhythm +, a Latin Jazz Band; Empire Brass; and the Tosco Music Party.

Visual arts & theatrical features: The art of social networking workshop; CPCC’s Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition; "Water Music" by Felicia Van Bork; performances of August Wilson’s drama The Piano Lesson; and much more.

Another event that is certain to be a high note is a reading by this year’s Irene Blair Honeycutt Distinguished Lecturer, Kay Ryan, the 2008-2010 U.S. Poet Laureate. Ryan has published several collections of poetry, including The Niagara River (2005); Say Uncle (2000); and Elephant Rocks (1996). She’s won a Guggenheim fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and four Pushcart Prizes. Her work has been selected four times for The Best American Poetry and was included in The Best of the Best American Poetry 1988-1997. She will read on Friday, April 16th at 11:30 a.m. at Halton Theater.

Talking with the founder

What does the woman who launched a three day Spring Literary Festival back in 1993 think about the festival and the lectureship that bears her name?

“The first annual Spring Literary Festival consisted of mainly local talent and held five daytime writing workshops and three evening readings,” recalls Irene Blair Honeycutt. “I’d estimate about 500 or so people attended that first year. It is truly amazing what it has grown into. There was no way to anticipate the level and quality of talent we’ve been able to attract over time.”

Honeycutt came to Charlotte and CPCC in 1969 after receiving her graduate degree from East Tennessee State University. She felt she was born to teach and found a lifelong match for her enthusiasm, energy, and creativity at the community college where she instructed for 37 years.

“I discovered a small, caring community college with a family atmosphere when I came to CPCC in 1969,” says Honeycutt. “I felt so fortunate to be affiliated with the college those many years as they really provided me with the opportunity to explore new ideas and grow professionally.” She cites the development of writing labs and the creation of the Spring Literary festival as just two of the many innovations she was allowed to pursue during her career.

“The initial driving force behind the Spring Literature festival was three-fold,” says Honeycutt. “Back in 1993, I was looking for a way to provide students with a literary experience and type of exposure that they could expect at a four year institution. I also wanted a way for our staff and faculty to have a professional development experience, and shine a spotlight on local writers and literary talent. The festival was really born from these goals.”

Honeycutt has made many contributions to the college and the community over the past several decades. In addition to her teaching at CPCC, Honeycutt taught part-time at Queens College for many years and introduced their journal writing classes. In 1997, the Charlotte Writers Club named her the first recipient of the Adelia Kimball Founders Award for her advocacy for writers. In 1998, Creative Loafing acknowledged her with the Best of Charlotte Award for Best Contribution to the Improvement of the Literary Climate in Charlotte.

In 2000, she was awarded a Creative Fellowship from the Charlotte Arts and Science Council. In 2002, she studied with David Whyte in a poetry seminar in Ireland. The “Irene Blair Honeycutt Distinguished Lectureship” was initiated to honor her role as founding director of the Spring Literary Festival at Central Piedmont Community College and her tenure as a member of the College’s faculty.

“I feel thrilled and honored to receive such recognition from CPCC,” says Honeycutt. “There are so many wonderful and deserving teachers and faculty at the college that are deserving of recognition and this is also a tribute to them. The college has been diligent in selecting keynote lecturers annually that are not only wonderful writers, but wonderful teachers, and are committed to teaching as well. This year it is especially gratifying to have the U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan come as she has a special dedicated project that is directed at bringing poetry to community colleges across the country. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute. ”

Honeycutt adds: “People in our community have souls that are thirsty for cultural enrichment and nourishment. Whether it is art, music or literature participants will find tremendous, top quality offerings at Sensoria. This festival is not one to be missed.”

Queen City residents are indeed fortunate to have so many soul-satisfying activities to choose from.

A full calendar of events can be found online at Sensoria’s published schedule.

Photo credit: Eleanor Brawley

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