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Art for Charlottes Sake

by Kelly Chopus

February 6,2007

I have written before about the great opportunity my day job allows me to serve not only my company, but the city and people of Charlotte. I feel blessed to run in some pretty amazing circles of folks just like you; hardworking, committed and passionate about something. There are times when I see the best and worst our hometown has to offer, and sometimes I see both in the same day.

Just this week I experienced one such day. It all started out innocently enough with a bleary-eyed drive into the office after a night of not enough sleep and a morning of cranky children numbed by unseasonable cold at the still dark bus stop. The drive to work serves as a quiet and contemplative respite from the 10-and-under crowd. Almost immediately I noticed something amiss on the drive – several more aggressive drivers than usual doing the ol’ bob and weave in an out of traffic on Tyvola. Then the intersection past South Boulevard and Tyvola, which still causes a major slow down every day (Yes, people! Light rail is coming! Geeeeeez). I arrived at work in no way, shape or form contemplative.

But I was lucky. My schedule that day led me to one of my favorite places in Charlotte, Johnson and Wales University, where I teach a class to bright, funny and ambitious students who will be our future leaders, entrepreneurs and workforce. My students always remind me of how great it is to remain steadfastly optimistic. Next, I ventured to one of my new favorite places in Charlotte, the Levine Museum of the New South. My reason for visiting was to discuss some business with the Executive Director, Emily Zimmern, and view the powerful new exhibit, Families of Abraham.

To say that the exhibit evokes powerful emotions is an understatement. To say that it is moving doesn’t nearly describe the opportunity for understanding one is presented. Art and artistic expression have a way of doing that – provoking, evoking, revoking. The emotion, understanding, disgust, and pain are all relevant in one part of the universe. I like The Arts. I support The Arts. I try as much as the next gal to understand why a painted roll of toilet paper in a museum qualifies, but on the whole I am open to the discussion of why it can be, Art. Quite fascinating and fun party conversation fodder. Charlotte enjoys a plethora of artistic venues like the Levine Museum of the New South and a unique opportunity to support The Arts in perpetuity through the Arts and Science Council (ASC). The ASC supports a vibrant and culturally diverse art, science and history community here for the education of our children and the enjoyment of all residents.

Every year, just like the United Way, the ASC raises money through employee campaigns and corporate contributions to fund the mainstream art we all understand, like music, dance, theater, visual arts, history and science, and the art we all scratch our heads at (ask the Mayor), like music, dance, theater, visual arts, history and science. In fact, the ASC is in the middle of its campaign now. Support your right to scratch your head at out-there-art by supporting the ASC. The ASC, in turn, helps to fund exhibits like Families of Abraham and organizations such as the Levine Museum of the New South.

So back to Families of Abraham. The exhibit, which you MUST see for yourself, is a photographic narrative that celebrates life and faith traditions of Jewish, Christian and Muslim families in Charlotte. It is beautiful. The premise is beautiful. Our western religions hail from Abraham, and the ancient belief in one benevolent God, not many. Christianity, Judaism and Islam share the most important tenets of each other’s beliefs; therefore, the commonalities are more uniting than the differences are divisive. Get it? We are one.

Charlotte is growing in diversity of thought and perspective. One voice is not necessarily what is best – it is the differences that give us the greatest opportunity to grow. It is amazing to me to see the proof in the pictures. We can be contemplative in spite of ourselves.

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