Organizers of the Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival hope the monthly event will connect the public to the arts community while showcasing the cultural offerings of Cabarrus County and beyond.
Michael Knox, a 38-year-old documentary filmmaker and journalist who lives in Kannapolis, created the event as a way to unite musicians, dancers, artists, street performers and the like. The free arts festival will kick off April 27 in downtown Kannapolis and continue on the last Saturday of each month.
“I think the perfect event would look like what I saw in Asheville on a typical Friday night,” said Knox. “You’d see fire-spinners, a drum circle. You’d see people painting. You’d see jugglers, and it’d be just a cultural mash-up. … That’s one of the things I miss about living in Asheville, and I want to bring that here.”
Knox, the city of Kannapolis, the North Carolina Research Campus and a handful of volunteers have been spreading the word through grass-roots efforts like fliers, as well as through social media. Knox was expecting about 20 to 30 vendors to sign up for the inaugural event, but more than 60 have registered so far.
As numerous commercial buildings in downtown Kannapolis sit vacant, arts events like this could revive the community, similar to what Charlotte’s NoDa district has experienced, said Knox.
“I’m one of those people, if you tell me I can’t do something, I’m trying to figure out what we can do,” said Knox. “If we can’t make this an arts district, let’s at least do an arts festival.”
Knox wants to bring all the various cultural elements of the area and offer them on one stage, where they can mingle with the community.
“When you look through a kaleidoscope, you see all these really cool images kind of changing, and just like that, I hope this event will be very evolving,” said Knox. “It’s not going to be just one thing each week. It’s going to be a street festival. And as long as we get people showing up and people are enjoying being out there, I think we can make a decent run out of it.”
Knox also co-founded the Modern Film Fest in 2009 as a way to screen his first documentary, “Tearing Down the Tent,” about his life growing up in the circus. Last year’s weekend-long film festival at The Gem Theatre included a costume contest and live music, as well as discussions with Nicholas Meyer, director of “Start Trek: Wrath of Kahn,” and a film industry panel with extras from “The Hunger Games.”
Plans for now are to run the monthly Kaleidoscope Festival through October and have the last event coincide with the Modern Film Fest the first week of October. Then it would shut down for the winter.
“I’m becoming invested in this community, and I just want cool things to happen,” said Knox. “I meet a lot of cool people who just don’t have an outlet … and I just want to see more culture on display throughout Cabarrus County.”
Knox said he hopes the projects he starts will last and help the area’s arts community.
“You only have so much time on this planet, and I don’t have kids or a family to speak of or anything. So the only legacy I can really leave behind are projects I do, and hopefully they’ll stick around,” he said.
Wendy Konzelmann, 45, is co-director of Queens of D’Nile Dance Studio and Damhsa Gasra Tribal Belly Dance in downtown Concord. She and her co-owners and fellow instructors, Lori Weaver and Stephanie Haugen, who have performed together for three years, plan to be an ongoing part of the arts festival.
A former co-worker of Knox, Konzelmann praised his monthly festival idea.
“Mike has a knack for bringing diverse people together and showing the best of what a community has to offer,” said Konzelmann. “There are a lot of talented performers and artists in Cabarrus, and it’s a shame that, until now, they’ve largely had to go outside the area to be seen and heard.”
If anybody can pull off this festival, Konzelmann said, it’s Knox.
“I think it will be very successful,” she said. “People in Cabarrus are hungry for these types of events, and I think they’re tired of all the attention going to Charlotte. There are top-notch artists, musicians, dancers and performers right here at home. We have a lot to offer here for everyone, not just race fans.”
Margaret Deadmon, who owns Black Dachshund Pottery in Landis, also will be among the vendors.
“Kannapolis has become something of a blank canvas over the last few years. … One of the ways we as artists can help change that is to bring our own color, our vitality, our own way of looking at something that ‘is’ and seeing what ‘could be,’ ” Deadmon said.
“I, for one, look forward to being a part of bringing color and excitement back to where it has been gone from way too long.”