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Love in the (artistic) air at ASC speed dating

Arts Speed_4
JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
Nancine Pope of the Charlotte Children's Choir, left, and Caroline Calouche of Caroline Calouche & Co. talk during The Arts & Science Council Speed Dating event.

Potential mates approached each other with wary politeness, with agendas to pitch, with ideas for mergers both simple and complex. Fueled by coffee, crackers and common concerns, they spent three hours Tuesday afternoon virtually singing a chorus of “Getting to Know You” and changing partners every 15 minutes.

We won’t know for months whether any offspring result from these couplings. But if they do, you’ll be able to buy tickets to watch the births.

These five dozen folks had come singly and in pairs to the Arts & Science Council’s first Cultural Connections Speed Dating session, held in a community room of the Queens University Sports Complex. Organizations known and unknown, well-funded and barely funded, long established or new as fresh paint gathered to talk about collaborations.

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Arts Initiative sought possible harmonies for their young performers, maybe at a joint jazz-classics concert.

The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival and Festival in the Park wondered if they might share more than a word in the names. The Carolinas Latin Dance Company and the Charlotte Children’s Choir conferred about cross-cultural pollination.

This speed dating temporarily took the place of the usual quarterly Cultural Connections meetings, which the ASC holds in northern, central and southern locations across the county. (It may be repeated.)

“People at those meetings all knew each other,” said Ryan Deal, ASC’s senior program director for cultural and community investment. “We kept hearing feedback that they wanted to meet more people.”

Hence the meet-and-greet, where strangers could possibly expand their audiences in tough economic times and improve each other’s products.

Yet this was more than an arts conference: Historic Rural Hill and the Carolina Asian American Chamber of Commerce were also pitching ideas and catching others’ brochures and business cards. Said Deal, “We’re hoping for art-to-community connections, not just art-to-art connections.”

‘Eureka!’ moment

By the middle of the session came its “Eureka!” moment.

“We’re going to have a satellite location for Charlotte Children’s Choir at an inner-city rec center, probably Bette Rae Thomas Center on Tuckaseegee Road,” said Terri Stowers, recreation manager for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. “These kids can’t get transportation to participate elsewhere, so we’re always looking for this kind of thing.

“Nancina Pope (executive director of the choir) and I will meet as early as next week and start as soon as January. I can just see the kids! This made the whole afternoon worthwhile.”

That choir, which has sung at St. Peter’s Basilica in Italy, is a cultural landmark. Carolinas Latin Dance Company – whose motto is “Dancing Towards Cultural Unity” – has unobtrusively taught folkloric dances from Latin American countries to children since 2001.

Could they help each other? Well, maybe: Pope and Gladys Gomez left their chat wondering if the choir could sing at the annual “Dancing From Latin America” show in April.

“My goal today is to find people to help me by contributing artistic knowledge or ability – and contribute something to them,” Gomez said.

Over at lucky Table 13, Festival in the Park executive director Julie Austin contemplated a notion pitched by the Jewish Film Festival: Why not show a family-friendly silent film accompanied by a pianist in 2014?

“We have an enthusiastic following, but we’re mostly supported by the Jewish community,” said Benjamin Schwartz of the CJFF. “We’d like to reach all filmgoers, but how do we cross boundaries?

“These kinds of (collaborations) could be a win-win for everybody: Both groups can connect with audiences they’d have difficulty reaching.”

You might think the session encouraged smaller groups to piggyback on big ones. But they met as equals here.

“Anytime you can learn what other groups are doing, big or small, you should,” said Tanya Sparks, symphony director of artistic planning.

“Maybe you’ll make a group sale of 20 tickets for the first time to another group’s supporters. Maybe you’ll get a chance to build a whole concert around an artist or an exhibition. You always have to put your ear to the ground.”

Toppman: 704-358-5232
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