There are any number of ways to play the Cultural Free for All.
Let's say you stuff yourself at the BBQ & Blues Festival, and the Festival in the Park. You later can attack the calories at a free dance or exercise class at N.C. Dance Theater.
Maybe you like scary movies. You have your pick of the high-style chills of Alfred Hitchcock or the cheesier thrills of "The Blob." Or you can see both.
Want to get out of the house for a day? Sept. 11, you can start with the storytellers, musicians, dancers and other attractions at the inaugural GanttFest!, then head up Tryon Street for BBQ & Blues.
Never miss a local story.
During the Free for All, Charlotte cultural groups try to draw in people who have never walked through their doors. The great majority of the events are free. Most are in September, though a few - such as the grand opening of the Mint Museum Uptown - sneak a little later into the fall.
A few groups - including Discovery Place and Children's Theatre of Charlotte - have set aside a few free tickets to events for which they're otherwise charging money. Considering that cultural groups these days need every dollar of box-office income they can get, that testifies to their community spirit.
The Arts & Science Council, which promotes the Free for All, doesn't fund any events. But it has produced a podcast that will guide you through a walking tour of uptown's public art.
The podcast reveals, for instance, which sculpture includes a likeness of Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman who was once considered an economic guru - but not so much since the recession broke out. If you want to give him a piece of your mind, the podcast will explain where you can tell him to his face.
A few Free for All highlights are at left and on Page 11. For a complete list: www.charlottecultureguide.com.
Matthews Alive! Today through Sunday, Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell St., Matthews. Includes arts and crafts vendors, food, quilt show and entertainment.
Time Warner Cable BBQ & Blues Festival: Sept. 10-11, Uptown Charlotte. Includes food, a barbecue contest, beer samples and music.
GanttFest! Sept. 11, Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, 551 S. Tryon St. Includes storytelling, dance, music, tours of the galleries and presentations by artists.
Festival in the Park: Sept. 23-26, Freedom Park. Concerts, food, art and craft displays.
I-Fest International Festival: Sept. 25, Barnhardt Student Activity Center, UNC Charlotte. Cultures of 50 nations are showcased through music, art, dance and other displays.
"Robert Motherwell: Lost in Line, Found in Form": Through Sept. 11, Jerald Melberg Gallery, 625 S. Sharon Amity Road. More than 30 works by the New York abstract expressionist.
Open Studio Saturday: Sept. 18, Oct. 9 and 23, Nov. 6 at McColl Center for Visual Art, 721 N. Tryon St. The public can chat with artists in their studios.
Grand opening of Mint Museum Uptown: Oct. 1-3, 500 S. Tryon St. The celebration includes a family-friendly festival on Saturday, Oct. 2.
Faculty and Friends Concert Series: Sept. 9, Robinson Hall, UNC Charlotte. Violinist David Russell in works by Dvorak, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Bartok and Ravel.
Dance Department Faculty Concert: Sept. 16, Robinson Hall, UNC Charlotte. Includes a new work by choreographer E.E. Balcos and composer John Allemeier.
"Baroque at its Best": Sept. 18, St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 1510 E. 7th St. Carolina Pro Music plays J.S. Bach and others. $7.50-$15.
"Serenade to Autumn": Sept. 19, Booth Playhouse, 130 N. Tryon St. Members of the Opera Carolina chorus in opera selections.
Charlotte Symphony open rehearsal: Sept. 24, Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St. The final rehearsal for the orchestra's first concerts of the season, with music by Edward Elgar.
"Free to Dance": Sept. 27-Oct. 2, Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance, 701 N. Tryon. Try out N.C. Dance Theatre's classes for children and adults, ranging from jazz dance and ballet to yoga and Barre None - a class blending ballet, yoga, Pilates and strength training.
"The Blob": Sept. 9, Knight Gallery, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St. Sci-fi movie from 1958 starring Steve McQueen.
"If You Take a Mouse to School": Sept. 11, ImaginOn, 300 E. 7th St. The Taradiddle Players in a play for young people based on Laura Numeroff's book. Limited availability: call 704-973-2780 .
"Legends of Flight": Sept. 12, Discovery Place, 301 N. Tryon St. IMAX movie depicting a century of aviation, from biplanes to the Boeing 787. Limited availability: call 704-372-6261.
Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival: Actor's Theatre of Charlotte, 650 E. Stonewall Street. Sept. 12, "The 39 Steps"; Sept. 19, "North by Northwest"; Sept. 26, "Rear Window."
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch": Sept. 27, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St. Movie version of the rock musical about a performer whose sex change was botched.