If Carlos Evans has a New Year’s Resolution, it's probably just to keep on doing what he's already doing. And occasionally catch his breath. An outgoing, generous spirit, Evans is well known for his community and philanthropic work. Described by one of his best friends as "a good soul," Evans, executive vice president of regional commercial banking for Wells Fargo, has played a pivotal role leading the bank's corporate giving efforts in both North Carolina and South Carolina, and he had a similar function at Wachovia.
He was chairman of the board for the Charlotte region United Way in 2008 and 2009, chaired the Wachovia United Way Employee Campaign in 2006, is a former board chair of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Education Association, and is or has been on the board of Discovery Place, the Medical University of South Carolina Foundation and the Winthrop University Foundation. With homes in Myers Park in Charlotte and Charleston, S.C., Evans and his wife, Lisa, have also contributed time, money (or both) to the Symphony League, Queens University, Loaves and Fishes, and the Friends of the Library. Both have also served as elders at historic First Presbyterian Church in uptown Charlotte.
Now, after serving eight years on the board of Spoleto Festival USA, Evans has been named chairman of the board of directors of the internationally acclaimed performing arts festival. A Charleston institution for 35 years, Spoleto attracts an estimated $55 million in tourist income to South Carolina during its three-week run every spring, according to research by University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business.
Tourism accounts for $1 billion annually in income and tax revenue to the three-county Charleston metro region, according to a recent report from the office of tourism at The College of Charleston, and Spoleto is a major force, selling an estimated 52,000 tickets annually. Many of those tickets are sold to visitors from out of town, who – in addition to enjoying a night at the theater – go to restaurants, stay in hotels, go shopping and buy tickets to other regional attractions. Once smitten by the beautiful city during the magic of Spoleto, many return to Charleston for other events. In his new role as Spoleto board chair, Evans says he has no plans "to change the recipe" of the renowned performing arts festival, but he does hope to "break the code" with regard to using social media and other forms of Internet-based marketing to reach new fans in new markets and expand the festival's audience.
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Evans is following in the broad footsteps established by other well-known Charlotte bankers including Bank of America patriarch, Hugh McColl, whose contributions to the city's arts programs have been substantial. This includes endowing the Charlotte Children’s Theatre (and the McColl Family Theatre at ImaginOn) and funding Charlotte's uptown McColl Center for Visual Art.
As with McColl, Evans has strong opinions on the role banks and corporations should play in supporting schools and health and human services programs in addition to the arts.
He says the need for bank and corporate philanthropy is greater than ever before as the country struggles to recover from "the worst recession since the Great Depression."
At the same time, banks give much more than people realize. "I don’t think the public fully understands the role banks are playing in the community. Very little is said of the good they are doing. I am not sure that philanthropy (by banks) is a story that people want to hear, but it is a very important story," he says.
Evans says arts programs like Spoleto, which has helped transform Charleston into a major international tourist destination, "would not exist without the (philanthropic) help of banks." Wells Fargo, for example, sponsors the festival's jazz series and Bank of America supports the festival's popular chamber music series.
"People lose sight of the fact that banks are at the forefront of supporting everything going on in the community. (This) is both practical and the right thing to do. This has always been a part of banking. What makes it difficult right now," he adds, "is the fact that the need has never been greater. In the arts, you have fewer people now who can contribute.” And in health and human services, "we have so many people who need help."
That said, this year Evans will be placing a special focus on Spoleto as it enters its 36th year: a drive to raise over $100 million to replace Charleston's 1970's era Gaillard Auditorium with a newer, grander, modern, major performing arts center.
"Spoleto is not just about selling tickets," says Evans. "It's also about introducing cutting-edge, unknown, or lesser known artists and art forms, which may represent major trends of tomorrow." The 2011 festival included avant-garde dance and theater productions and the 2012 season – which is being announced this month – includes the premiere of a new opera by a major contemporary composer and the return of the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performing for the festival's opening weekend.
Evans is quick to point out that programs such as Spoleto bring vibrancy to a region. This, he says, adds to quality of life. That, in turn, attracts additional employers. Thus, philanthropic seed funds given to arts organizations have the potential to grow into major economic drivers.
Evans adds that banks and corporate America need to support health and human services programs as well as the arts. "Both are important. You can't have a great community if you have one but don’t have the other."