Behind the scenes in the world of the arts

Thirty-two years ago, when I came to Charlotte for my job interview, this was the complete list of public performance spaces and museums near the uptown heart of the city:


When I asked the concierge at the Radisson to name the dinner spots within walking distance, he replied, "The restaurant in this hotel. Unless Bojangles' stays open past 6."

When I stepped outside to stroll down Tryon Street after supper, the only thing moving past me was a plastic bag tormented by the winter wind. A police officer, perhaps hunting for jaywalkers, rolled by in a lonely car five minutes later.

So we didn't need a weekly section like ArtsAlive then. Today, thank heaven, we do.

More than a dozen museums and performance spaces line Tryon Street alone. Galleries have opened all over. Theater companies have their own homes or whirl through other spaces, from Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square to neighborhood bars.

To paraphrase the lead-in to the old TV show, there are three-quarters of a million stories in the naked city, not to mention the cities and counties surrounding it. Each week, we're going to tell some of those stories.

Our mission statement is simple: ArtsAlive will cover every aspect of cultural activity, with a special focus on people who create art. Stories will deal with the process of making it, the finished works, the places they're made or displayed and audiences who absorb them.

While you'll still find cultural coverage in the Observer's other daily and Sunday pages, ArtsAlive will be less concerned with day-to-day news or the big concert of the week. It's aimed more at taking you behind the scenes to see how and why people keep this area full of vivid cultural life.

And though we know there's artistry in everything from a well-baked croissant to a well-done coiffure, we'll look at movies, theater, music, dance, spoken word and visual arts in these two pages every Thursday.

The content and format may change from time to time, but the desire to investigate new cultural corners will not.

So naturally, we welcome your comments and ideas. Because even after 32 years in Charlotte, I'm still learning about everything it has to offer.

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