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An arts push for Ballantyne

Group seeks a cultural plan for the area and maybe a performing arts center; meeting will be Thursday.

By Esther Robards-Forbes
erobards@charlotteobserver.com

A new arts group will hold its first Ballantyne community meeting next week to talk about ways to develop arts and culture in what one expert says is an underserved area.

“We need to plan for what we want to see 15 to 20 years down the road, and we need a shared vision in order to know what to accomplish,” said Rick Crowley, president of Ballantyne Arts Forum. “It's time for people in Ballantyne to unite and get serious about the arts.”

The Ballantyne Arts Forum wants to connect members of the arts community and develop a vision for the arts scene in Ballantyne. Organizers say that may include building a new visual and performing arts center or using non-traditional spaces to bring art to where audiences already are.

Ballantyne “is lacking in performance and gallery space. It just grew so fast, and there was no cultural plan,” Crowley said. “There's the Village (movie) Theater, the new Blakeney annex of the RedSky Gallery and a few shops, but right now, that's about it.”

The public meeting is set for 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Morrison Family YMCA.

“We hope to hear from artists, musicians, performers, writers and other creative people about what they can offer and what they want to see in the future,” Crowley said.

Ballantyne is underserved for arts and culture programming, said Robert Bush, senior vice president of cultural and community investment for the Arts & Science Council.

“I think there is great potential. There's a real need for local programming, especially classes, but there's a lack of public facilities,” Bush said. Demand for those facilities will make them happen eventually, he said. They'll likely happen through public/private partnerships, like other facilities in Charlotte.

The arts forum group is seeking a grant from the Arts and Science Council to develop the arts and culture plan.

The arts scene in Ballantyne is “just starting to get geared up,” said Kellie Scott, owner of RedSky Gallery, which has locations in Dilworth, uptown, and opened a new gallery in Blakeney in November.

“We had a lot of customers in the Ballantyne area,” said Scott, who lives in the area. “We wanted to make sure we were here as Ballantyne continues to grow.”

Art is quickly becoming more visible in the area as well.

Scott designed a glass and steel sculpture fountain that was recently installed at the corner of Ardrey Kell and Rea Roads. It was commissioned by Blakeney developer Crosland, with contributions from artists Emory Davis, Eric Lalone and Ben Parish. It's made from repurposed glass and stainless steel – one of the first “green” sculptures in the area because it's made from repurposed materials and the water will shut off if another drought hits the area. The sculpture is “just as beautiful without water,” Scott said.

A new effort at Morrison Family YMCA is working to bring art classes and workshops to those who frequent the facility.

Y-Arts began offering the classes in January and is working with the Ballantyne Arts Forum bring arts awareness to Ballantyne. Classes will be offered through the summer. A weeklong arts festival is planned at Morrison for early October, Crowley said. He's also the senior arts instructor at Morrison, in addition to serving on the Arts and Science Council board as the Ballantyne representative.

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