At the Belk Theater Tuesday night, Blumenthal Performing Arts will kick off a yearlong celebration of its 25th anniversary. The event will feature an original performance by a Tony Award-winning actor from a Broadway smash hit: Leslie Odom Jr. of Hamilton. It’s a perfect example of what the Blumenthal has brought to Charlotte over the years.
The fact that this caliber of performance is now expected by Charlotte theatergoers is a wonderful measure of what the Blumenthal has accomplished. But the organization’s impact goes far beyond theater. It is responsible for a wide variety of educational programs too, collaborating with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and community partners to encourage lifelong learning and make the arts more accessible. Its 25th anniversary is a chance to celebrate all the ways arts can influence a community. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate – and thank – the generation that has built Charlotte into the cultural center it is today.
But this anniversary is not just about looking backwards: Now is the time to challenge my generation to carry the torch forward. For Charlotte’s arts scene to continue growing, it is critical for today’s young professionals to take ownership of it. We have strong examples to follow, as this city has a history of business leaders devoting their time to arts development along with economic development. Those leaders understood that maintaining a creative aspect to our lives and our communities is critical, and that it’s part of our responsibility as citizens to make that happen.
I can relate to time pressures getting in the way. I am a married mother of twins and an attorney with Parker Poe. But I can assure you that the benefits of getting engaged in Charlotte’s arts community easily outweigh the costs. I initially got involved through the Arts & Science Council’s Leadership Training Program, which teaches young professionals about the nonprofit sector and helps them connect with arts and cultural organizations. From there, I became involved with the McColl Center for Art + Innovation and the Blumenthal. I was fortunate to become a Blumenthal Board of Trustees Apprentice, a position created in part as an entryway for young professionals.
If you are unsure where to start, I recommend serving on a committee for an arts organization that interests you. The organizations are always looking for committee members, especially young people from the business community. Committee involvement will give you a chance to share your skills and learn more about the organization, in the process helping you decide if that’s where you want to invest more of your time.
However you get involved, you will likely find it makes a difference in your personal life as well as in your community. Serving on arts committees and boards will open doors as you increase the size of your network. It may also pull creativity out of you that you didn’t realize you had. My involvement with the Blumenthal and the McColl, as well as on the board of the Humane Society, has helped me grow as a person and as an attorney.
Charlotte’s arts community is full of passionate people looking to form connections and make the city better. Now is an ideal time for young professionals to become a larger part of that community.
Hutchins is a partner at Parker Poe.