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Open Letter to Future ASC President
March 13, 2014
An Open Letter to the New Arts & Science Council President
For months, the Arts & Science Council (ASC) has been in search of a new President. Like all searches of this type, the search committee has likely identified candidates both inside and outside of Charlotte, and a new leader could be selected in the coming weeks.
At the same time the Cultural Life Task Force (CLTF) has been searching for answers to questions that seem to plague not only the ASC, but more broadly arts and culture and perhaps even more broadly non-profits at large. Their recommendations are due to be made public this spring and will certainly provide some suggestions for the ASC’s new chief.
Whoever he or she is will be undoubtedly faced with significant challenges. For the first time likely since its inception, the purpose and the need for the ASC has been publicly brought into question. Our city has lost some of its New South swagger. Corporate leaders have been replaced or been relocated and with them the support for workplace giving that fueled both the ASC and the United Way.
So, for whatever they are worth, here are my words of advice to the soon to be crowned head of the ASC.
1. Go your own way. Too often things in Charlotte are done a certain way because they have always been done that way. We vote for people, live in neighborhoods, go to schools and attend churches that others like us vote for, live in, go to or attend for seemingly no other reason than the people we know vote for, live in, go to and attend those same people and places. Don’t be afraid to choose your own path, you might just be surprised how many people will follow you.
2. If you’re not from Charlotte, don’t be afraid to tell us how they do it in the place from which you came. It used to be that if you told Charlotteans how they do it up north that we would gladly tell you USAir was ready to take you back there whenever you were ready to go. We certainly didn’t invent the bank, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not a town of very qualified bankers, and there’s no reason to re-invent a cultural model if there’s a great example that we can borrow from elsewhere.
3. Be truly inspired by youth. We’re quick to point out future leaders in this town. We have our 40 Under 40, Rising Stars and Emerging Philanthropists, but we’ve yet to turn the reins over to any of these folks. Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, Jack Dorsey and Sergey Brin are all in their 30s or early 40s and all seem to have kept Facebook, Twitter and Google out of the ditch. And you don’t have to look past Packard Place (just a block away from the ASC offices) to see that the future is bright, and not just from the glow of an iPhone.
4. Expect more from us. Dispense with the niceties, they left with Wachovia and its eponymous golf tournament. We need to be challenged. Demand that people step up and lead and if they’re not going to, tell them to get out of the way so that others can. Don’t accept $100 when there is $10,000 to be gotten. And don’t be afraid to point it out when someone lets you down. They just might surprise you.
5. On your first day of work, give a similar speech to the one Rick Pitino gave to Boston Celtics fans (paraphrasing) – Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. And if you expect him to walk through that door, he’s going to be gray and old. What we are is young, exciting, hard-working, and we're going to improve. People don't realize that, and as soon as they realize Larry Bird is not coming through that door, the better this town will be for all of us because there are young guys in that (locker) room playing their asses off. For all of the amazing things he and others like him have done for this city, Hugh McColl cannot save us this time. But there are plenty of us who are willing to work our asses off for you.