Local Arts

How to keep Charlotte artists fresh? ASC’s trying, with $10K checks

ASC Creative Renewal Fellows: Baran, Manning, Salpietra, Talley
ASC Creative Renewal Fellows: Baran, Manning, Salpietra, Talley

Take a look at artists who’ve worked in Charlotte for at least a decade. If you want to keep them – and help them stay fresh – you need to invest: That’s the idea behind the first $10,000 “Creative Renewal Fellowships” ever given by the Arts & Science Council. Take a look at the winners:

Audrey Baran portrait
Audrey Baran: “I’m into the words ‘dance making.’ Choreography is setting something that has been set, but ‘dance making’ is always evolving, it’s alive.” Nancy Pierce

Audrey Baran

Baran, 35 and working on an MFA, founded Baran Dance in 2012, and plans to go to a workshop in Austin with postmodern dance artist Deborah Hay.

Q. What is contemporary dance?

A. It is the leftover, when you go beyond jazz, and ballet, and musical theater – which is enormous. It’s really valuable and juicy, and it is only defined by the maker. Contemporary includes improvisation, and breaking open the possibilities of what dance is.

Q. How did you choose your renewal project?

A. Deborah Hay is a postmodern choreographer, who came out of the Judson Church and Merce Cunningham tradition. Her approach is “What are the possibilities of dance? What if there are no boundaries?” She asks a lot of questions and prompts, and lets the dancers take it from there.

Q. What does Baran Dance add to the Charlotte community?

A. We bring a bridge between the entertainment field and the arts field. I’ve wanted to bring dance that is acceptable and exciting and appealing. We want people to feel it is an option, like going to see a band, or a wine tasting... and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Annabel Manning portrait
Annabel Manning: “There are two sides of me. One produces work in these groups. And then I depart from that and reflect on it and create art by myself. My paintings for installation are reflections on the relationships I have in these communities.” Nancy Pierce

Annabel Manning

At 58, she’s a social practice artist who works outside of formal studio space, in the margins of society. She conceived and orchestrated the exhibition “Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid,” shown at the Levine Museum of the New South in 2014.

Q. Tell me about your work with inmates at the Mecklenburg County jails.

A. I’m creating a “Ladder of Escape.” The bottom is the real world, and at the top of the ladder is something more imaginary and visionary. Going up the ladder is through the activity of art. Art is taking them up those steps to help them reflect on their world, and imagine a better world for themselves.

Q. Describe your work with the Grier Heights and Montclaire South Communities.

A. “Get Ready with Words” is a project where we teach families how to teach their preschoolers literacy through art, science, literature and music. This is a collaboration with Discovery Place, ImaginOn and Community School of the Arts, and it’s PNC funded.

Q. What is your relationship with Charlotte?

A. I got a residency at the McColl Center and I saw the potential to work with the Latino community with art. I work with them as a way of expressing their predicament in this town. My work involves making art with underserved communities to give them visibility in their state of comparative invisibility.

Q. What motivates you?

A. I was born in Mexico, and my stepmother is black so I have a black family. A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania [the Social Impact of the Arts Project] shows that arts have an impact on the social well-being of neighborhoods. I believe art can have an impact and improve the problem of social mobility.

Melissa Salpietra portrait
Melissa Salpietra: “I’ve found the amount of film production is way more than people think... I’ve been lucky enough to fall in with a group of people who are working professionals in the film business, and we are working together to support each other and keep it going.” Nancy Pierce

Melissa Salpietra

Salpietra, 36, is an animator and producer of science-based documentaries. She and David Huppert won a 2017 Midsouth Region Emmy Award in the informational series category for UNC-TV’s “Seasonal Science.”

Q. How did “Seasonal Science” come to be?

A. I met with UNC-TV right when they were starting this short, off-air, online digital initiative. “Seasonal Science” is a way to engage people on the digital platform in a timely way that is evergreen. Take a show about hurricanes. It is timely now, and when it is hurricane season every year, people who haven’t seen it before can watch it and it doesn’t go out of date.

Q. What will you do with the fellowship?

A. I come from a factual, science-based background. Lately I have been getting into the narrative film community, which is Hollywood-type film. I am going to create a character from scratch, and develop a story with an arc of suspense.

Q. Is there a future for the film industry in Charlotte?

A. There is a thriving community here that is creating art. At some point if we don’t foster it and get people paid, it will dry up and go away. It’s my adoptive town. We’re raising our kids and we’ve bought a house. It’s part of my responsibility to foster that community.

Quentin Talley portrait
Quentin Talley: “Charlotte has been a love/hate relationship. It is a wonderfully frustrating town to be an artist in. It teaches you a lot of life lessons about how to communicate as an artist in a town that doesn’t necessarily support independent artists as they should.” Nancy Pierce

Quentin Talley

Talley, 37, is an actor, producer and poet, and founder of On Q Performing Arts, a Charlotte theater company that reflects the black experience. He’s also a collaborator: One example is the spoken-word ballet “Transformation,” with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux.

Q. What was your elevator speech to the ASC?

A. Since it was an individual fellowship, I decided to work with Warren Smith, a renowned jazz percussionist, and he has an archive that is out of this world, of the past 50 years of his life, of him gigging, recording, all the famous jazz musicians of the day. I’m going to go to New York and help him organize his archives... It’s the past 50 years of the best of the best of jazz, R&B and soul music (so this will be) to gain that knowledge of the timeline of these great artists, and the sound of the time, and how it progressed.

Q. What is your artistic relationship with Charlotte?

A. Charlotte has been a love/hate relationship. It is a wonderfully frustrating town to be an artist in. It teaches you a lot of life lessons about how to communicate as an artist in a town that doesn’t necessarily support independent artists as they should. But I love it, because it is a challenge, and I’m always up for a challenge.

Q. Describe a moment in which your art surprised you emotionally.

A. When I directed “For Colored Girls…” at the Mint Museum (in 2008) it was a very therapeutic show for a lot of folks in the audience. The talk-back after the show was tremendous. Theater for me is kind of like church, where you have this relationship between the artists and the audience, and there is a reverence for the work going on, and that was the first time that the emotion came through for (my) work in Charlotte.

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