Collaborations that engage and inspire

When one envisions the creation of a great work of art, the artist is usually solitary. But when it comes to presenting art to audiences, nonprofit institutions often find that collaboration brings new strengths to each that they might not possess on their own.

The latest local example is the historic partnership between The Mint Museum and Opera Carolina, which have joined forces to bring Charlotte audiences unprecedented access to a single artist's work.

Jun Kaneko worked for decades as a sculptor and painter, but in recent years he has also become noted for designing opera sets and costumes. The Mint has mounted a boutique exhibition, "Jun Kaneko: In the Round," spotlighting a selection of Kaneko's ceramic dango sculptures and costume drawings for "Madama Butterfly." Opera Carolina's production of "Madama Butterfly" - featuring Kaneko's costume and set designs - opens Saturday.

In a lucky twist of fate, Jay Everette, Mint vice chair, and Gigi Dixon, Opera Carolina's chair, occupy nearby offices in Wells Fargo's Corporate Social Responsibility Group. They hatched the idea of this collaboration, for which both institutions quickly jumped on board.

Wells Fargo is the season underwriter for Opera Carolina's performances and has become the sponsor of the Mint's exhibition. Other community partners generously stepped in to offer two free performances to first-time operagoers: The Knight Foundation underwrote one, and the Arts & Science Council, Hearst Corp. and private donors sponsored the second.

This won't be the last time you hear about historic collaborations among Charlotte's cultural groups. As economic realities lead all of us to be better stewards of our limited resources, we'll continue to find innovative ways to maximize opportunities for Charlotte audiences. For the Mint's part, watch in March for a partnership with N.C. Dance Theatre, which is performing "Sleeping Beauty" while the Mint will showcase an exhibition titled "Fairytales, Fantasy, & Fear."

Opera Carolina is teaming with Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, NCDT and other partners to mount "Ulysses: Charlotte's New Spring Festival of the Arts," which this year will focus on the majesty of Russia and the music of Tchaikovsky.

Thanks to this deepening spirit of collaboration, there's never been a more exciting time to be a follower of the arts in Charlotte.