Wells festival will turn spotlight on arts uptown

As Wells Fargo completes its takeover of Wachovia this fall, the bank will spotlight Charlotte cultural groups with a free cultural showcase and street festival.

More than two dozen arts groups will give free performances or open their doors without charge during the Wells Fargo Community Celebration on Oct. 29. The all-day event will also include a street fair on South Tryon Street including a chalk-art festival, LEGO sculptures and other family activities.

The festival, on the last Saturday in October, will dovetail with the end of Wells' three-year integration of the former Wachovia bank.

During September and October, Wells Fargo signs will replace Wachovia signs at branches across Charlotte, said Kendall Alley, the bank's president for the Charlotte region. Because this is the last area where the blue-and-green design has been on display, the change will mark its disappearance.

"This is the absolute completion of the merger - and the most visible" part of it, Alley said.

"Charlotte has been very supportive through this process," Alley said. With the cultural festival, the bank aims to "give back to the community for the great things they've done for us to be successful."

Significant investment

Besides commemorating Wells' milestone, the bank hopes the festival will bring cultural groups new audiences, said Jay Everette, the bank's community affairs manager in Charlotte. People may see a performing group that's new to them. Families who can't afford the multiple tickets to a museum will be able to go.

"To have a totally free day is a pretty big opportunity for people who may not ordinarily have access to the arts, culture and history," Everette said.

The cultural groups are getting something else out of this. On many occasions when they offer free days or free performances, they're on the hook for the expenses and lost revenue. This time, Wells will compensate them.

"We didn't want any of the cultural partners to lose income," Everette said.

The Wells executives wouldn't say how much the bank is contributing. Arts & Science Council President Scott Provancher said only that previous free showcases haven't benefited from "this significant an investment."

Spotlight on Bearden

The daylong festival could brighten the spotlight on Charlotte's celebration of Romare Bearden, the African-American visual artist born in Mecklenburg County in September 1911.

Art exhibitions devoted to Bearden will be on display at the Mint Museum Uptown and Gantt Center. If the Oct. 29 festival draws the kind of turnout Wells Fargo hopes for, Everette said, the shows could have as many viewers in one day as they might get in several weeks under ordinary circumstances.

When it comes to helping Bearden's hometown appreciate him, Everette said, "this has the potential to be huge."