Generosity lets art sparkle for Charlotte

Isaac Luski's art collection is a melting pot of the world - abstract structures from Czechoslovakia and iridescent vases from Italy and Cuba.

On Saturday, the Luski family shared the collection with the community at the Foundation For The Carolinas' free open house. The artwork was one highlight at the foundation's new facility at 220 N. Tryon St. in uptown Charlotte, and the open house marked the first time the public could check out the new location.

"It's for philanthropy," Isaac Luski said about donating his art. Luski moved from Cuba to Charlotte in the '60s. He says his love affair with art didn't begin overseas: It began closer to home on a visit to the Penland School of Crafts, just outside Spruce Pine. Now, he wants to share his collection with the foundation.

Foundation For The Carolinas is a nonprofit corporation that aims to serve individuals, families, nonprofit groups and corporations as they make a positive impact on their communities. The organization is one of the largest community foundations in the Southeast and is also in the top 10 community foundations in the United States.

Once headquartered at 217 S. Tryon St., the foundation was "busting at the seams" in its 36,000-square-foot center and needed to expand, said Leslie McCray, director of communications for the center.

In January 2008, the foundation celebrated 50 years in operation and decided to campaign to raise money for a new headquarters. Bank of America donated the North Tryon Street building that was at the time occupied by the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

The new 80,000-square-foot building, named the Luski-Gorelick Center for Philanthropy, features artwork donated by Sonia and Isaac Luski, who contributed a significant portion of their mostly glass art collection to the organization.

"Glass is healing," Isaac Luski said. "You look at it and it makes you feel better."

Funds were also provided by Carol and Shelton Gorelick, Patricia and William Gorelick, and Rose and Abraham Luski.

"I believe that art inspires action," said Michael Marsicano, CEO of Foundation For The Carolinas. "To have a space with creativity all around you and that's free of charge to use will benefit the community."

Visitors were able to see the stories of more than 60 local philanthropists who are honored at the facility.

A mobile tour and touchscreen kiosks helped guide guests through conference rooms, four floors of displayed art, two rooftop terraces with views of uptown and a legacy hall that featured donors.

Guests on the first floor were mesmerized by the Luski art collection, which featured a number of rotating glass prisms and spheres that reflected rainbow colors onto the white walls as light passed through.

"I'm just overwhelmed," said Sandy Roork, a neighbor of the Luski family. "This is just too special."

Robin Cochran, who lives uptown, echoed Roork's comments, saying she was thrilled to see the donated collection. "These are phenomenal in the way they move and have light shining through."

While Cochran said it is inspiring to look around the building and see the names of philanthropists and other individuals in the community who have donated art, she worries about the future.

"This generation of donors is going away, and now there have to be young people willing to come in and do the same," she said.