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The Afro-American Cultural Center

by Beverly Cureton

May 3,2004

One of the best kept secrets in Charlotte is the Afro-American Cultural Center. The quality and variety of the activities inside the picturesque and historic red brick building, located on 7th and McDowell Streets in First Ward, is a mystery even to many of its nearest neighbors. Celebrating its 30th year as a multidisciplinary cultural arts center, the AACC has been the locus of activity in the neighborhood since its erection as the Little Rock AME Zion Church in 1911. Quaint and intimate, the AACC resonates with a certain spirit and determination as the staff carries out the mission “to present, preserve and promote African American art, culture and history.”

The “Afro Center” is a private, non-profit organization. The facility is owned by the City of Charlotte. The Center includes three visual art galleries, a 300 person capacity amphitheater, the 130 seat Attic Theater and two vintage “shotgun” houses. The Center prides itself on being part of the Uptown cultural district. As an affiliate of the Arts & Science Council, the Center’s annual budget is just under $1 million. Additional funding comes from the North Carolina Arts Council, memberships and contributions.

There is hidden treasure at the AACC, anchored in full view of the impressive Charlotte skyline. The spirit and beauty of the Center can be appreciated only if experienced. As the community continues to grow and change, the Center is a place where anyone and everyone can “be part of the journey.”

The Blue Ribbon Panel of the Arts & Science Council has designated the AACC as a Priority One arts facility, recognizing that the current facility cannot adequately support our programming needs on behalf of the community. We anticipate expansion in the near future as part of the 25 Year Cultural Facilities Plan. The AACC cannot house and display the nearly 500 pieces of permanent art that it owns or has been pledged, including the Hewitt Collection (gift of Bank of America), the recently bequeathed Pride Collection (gift of the late Dr. Harold S. Pride), and pieces acquired or donated over the past 30 years. Our youth summer camp and teen dance and drama troupes do not have adequate space for instruction and rehearsal. Gallery tours compete with business meetings for common space. We have no artist studios, no storage space, and no place to allow access to over 1000 books and artifacts that have been donated or collected.

We’re more than excited about the opportunity to build an infrastructure to support the legacy of African Americans in the arts, and to share this heritage with the whole community. We are excited about the challenge of a capital campaign and confident about the outcome. We’ll need your patronage and support to succeed. Come by the Center soon and experience this treasure for yourself!

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