Author: Jeff Bell
December 2022 marked six months since I joined the North Carolina Arts Council as its executive director. As I dove into learning about our grant opportunities and our education-focused work, partners throughout the state showed me the wide-ranging impact that the Arts Council has. I was fortunate to visit with some of them, and see first-hand their commitment to make art and work in the arts. These visits have been inspiring. The important work that artists, arts organizations, and arts programs are doing is supported by a staff here at the Arts Council who are committed to the idea of arts for everyone.
During these early days, I’ve also learned more about the Arts Council’s role within the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The N.C. Arts Council is just one division of the NCDNCR, and it’s been interesting to learn more about the statewide reach and impact that the department has through our sister divisions. Parks, heritage commissions, museums, historical sites, libraries, and so much more, are all supporting and promoting programs that make North Carolina a great place to call home.
Working with and getting to know the Arts Council’s board members, all of whom volunteer their time, has been a pleasure. One of the last agency-wide activities in 2022 was our winter board meeting, in Charlotte. The meeting was an opportunity for the board to welcome three new members, hear agency updates from leadership and senior-level staff, spend time with one another, and experience some of the impact that the Arts Council’s work has around the state.
We met at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. The space and the staff were wonderful. On the first day, we were welcomed by Krista Terrell, president of the Arts and Science Council. We heard from the Gantt Center’s president and chief executive officer, David R. Taylor, about exciting new initiatives they’ve been undertaking, and were led on a tour of the center’s exhibitions by Carla Jarrett, the visitor experience and museum store manager. If you haven’t visited the Gantt Center, you really must!
One the second day, we toured Greenway Park Elementary School, one of our A+ schools. We were welcomed by students playing drums and observed classes. It was inspiring to see all disciplines being taught through an arts integration approach—since entering the A+ network, Greenway Park has seen their End-of-Grade composite scores increase by 17%, and was one of only eight Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System schools to see their school letter grade increase post vs. pre-pandemic.
We rounded out our meeting by hearing from Douglas Singleton, Charlotte Ballet executive director, and Tré McGriff, CineOdyssey Film Festival executive director. Both spoke about important work their organizations are doing and provided sneak peeks into projects they will be pursuing this year.
Arts Council staff work hard to coordinate the planning and logistics for these meetings. Brenna McCallum, research director, and Takeema Hoffman, our new program administrator, deserve recognition for ensuring a memorable, successful, and productive board meeting for everyone.
I’m looking forward to all the great things that 2023 will bring!