McColl giving cutting edge jazz and film a new home

Switzerland's Der Wawawa plays New Frequencies concert at McColl Wednesday.
Switzerland's Der Wawawa plays New Frequencies concert at McColl Wednesday. NINA THONI

With its reputation for banking and business, Charlotte may exist in the cultural shadow of bigger Southern cities such as Atlanta and Miami, but Charlotte artists, musicians and filmmakers have quietly been working to change that.

On Wednesday The McColl Center for Art + Innovation introduces a new program aimed at moving experimental films and live jazz out of back rooms and random art spaces into a spot reserved for like-minded cutting edge art.

New Frequencies at McColl Center, which is funded by the Knight Foundation, begins with a performance by internationally renowned Swiss jazz trio Der Wawawa. The film portion of what curators hope is the program’s first run begins March 27 with “Inspired Lunacy – Short Films by Guy Maddin.”

“The idea came from seeing people around town that were doing some extraordinary curating on a grassroots level,” says novelist and freelance writer Jeff Jackson, who ran the NoDa film festival.

When Brad Thomas, McColl’s director of residencies and exhibits, asked Jackson what was missing from Charlotte’s cultural community, he thought of Brent Bagwell and Ross Wilbanks.

“What was missing was a home for Ross and Brent, who are already doing great work,” says Jackson.

Filmaker and cinefile Wilbanks screened films in half a dozen places including a now demolished studio space on the outskirts of NoDa, coffee shops, art galleries and Century Vintage.

“I thought it was a shame they were bringing this amazing culture to Charlotte, having to show it in out of the way places and pay out of pocket,” says Jackson.

Janie Geiser’s work, which has been screened at the Museum of Modern Art and makes its Charlotte premier May 22 as part of the program, “recalls a past we’ve kind of forgotten,” says Wilbanks. “It deals with symbols to tell stories and on a simple level, they’re just gorgeous.”

Armando Bellmas, director of marketing and communications at McColl, says the New Frequencies program follows the arts organization’s mission.

“At McColl Center, we’re all about celebrating the artists of our times. We do that with our artist residencies and through these events,” says Armando Bellmas, director of marketing and communications at McColl.

For Bagwell the collaboration offers a chance for him and Wilbanks to reach a larger audience.

“There are enough curious, interested people in Charlotte to make us a front-rank city for international touring musicians, particularly in the jazz, improvisation and new music realms,” Bagwell says.

Courtney’s blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com

‘New Frequencies’

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: McColl Center for Art + Innovation, 721 N. Tryon St.


DETAILS: mccollcenter.org/events/an-evening-of-jazz-with-der-wawawa/55