South Charlotte

Ballantyne arts scene is growing

The Morrison Family YMCA, along with York Development Group, has assembled music, theater, dance and education partners to create the Ballantyne Arts Center.

The center, which opened in May, is in a 9,000-square-foot second-floor space at the corner of Ballantyne Commons Parkway and North Community House Road, approximately one mile from the Morrison YMCA.

"The Ballantyne Arts Center is a collaboration of different partners coming together from different organizations, some for profit and some not-for-profit, to deliver arts to the Ballantyne community," said Laura Smith, associate executive director of the Morrison YMCA.

The Ballantyne Arts Center was developed to fill an art void the YMCA and York Development Group experienced in the local community.

"We've known for a time now in the Ballantyne area that there is a void in arts-based programming for all ages," said Smith. "There's a lot that goes on in Matthews, Pineville and uptown but that skipped Ballantyne. This is a true partnership between consortium members working together and meeting needs for programs and performances.

"It has been almost a two-year process making the vision of this center actually come to reality."

The Morrison YMCA will open the Ballantyne Preschool of the Arts on Sept. 6 in the center.

High-quality preschool education is in demand in Ballantyne, evidenced by the large number of preschool-age children in the area and on the waiting lists of the Morrison YMCA's traditional preschool over the past six years, said Smith.

The new preschool's curriculum combines traditional education with the arts. Children will be taught math, science, reading, writing and social skills in a creative environment that integrates visual arts and the performing arts of dance, drama and music.

The curriculum was designed by Meghan Nance, arts coordinator for Morrison YMCA, and Loren Meyer, program director for Children's Academy, the Morrison YMCA's traditional preschool.

The Ballantyne Preschool of the Arts will offer three classes to children age 3-5, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The classes can accommodate 45 children. Depending on YMCA membership, member or program fees apply.

"I'm excited about being an even bigger part of the Ballantyne community, outside of the YMCA campus, and to have interaction with more members of the community who might not even be members of the YMCA," said Amanda Watkins, who will be the director of the Ballantyne Preschool of the Arts when classes start in September.

Until classes begin, the YMCA is hosting a parent's-morning-out program three days a week in the new preschool's space.

The Morrison YMCA has also worked with theater producers Chip Caldwell and Marika Metting to launch the Ballantyne School of Theatre and the Ballantyne Theatre Company, located in three instructional classrooms and a black box theater at the center.

"This is a small, intimate theater where performers will learn how to hold an audience," said Caldwell, director of the Ballantyne School of Theatre. Caldwell also is a technical theater teacher at Northwest School of the Arts.

The Ballantyne School of Theatre is the education component. During the summer, it is offering seven weeklong theater camps between June 27 and Aug. 12 for third- through 12th-graders, with a performance at the end of each week's camp. Camp themes include comedy, improvisation, classical theater, cabaret, drama and more.

"The experience of performing in front of an audience makes an actor better in ways that cannot be taught," said Caldwell. "We are selecting shows that are flexible and making the scripts fit the kids who are involved."

Caldwell is working on developing fall theater classes for preschoolers, school-age children and adults.

For Caldwell, the Ballantyne School of Theatre is a family affair. His wife, Marika Metting, who is on the executive board of the Metrolina Theatre Association, is the production manager for the Ballantyne School of Theatre. Their daughter, Martina, is a recent graduate of Greensboro College with a degree in theater, and she will be teaching at the Ballantyne School of Theatre.

In the fall, the Ballantyne Theatre Company will hold auditions for a holiday show involving performers age 17 and older.

The Ballantyne Arts Center also includes additional consortium partners separate from the YMCA team.

Streetwise Music offers instrumental instruction for youths and adults in six lesson rooms and onstage. Kindermusik offers music exposure for children as young as 6 months.

The Ballantyne Orchestra will provide youth instruction and practice space, with performances out in the community.

The YMCA and York Development Group, which specializes in development of retail and mixed use properties, also are looking for an upper-level dance component to join the consortium.