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Connect with Culture Day Opens Things Up in the Charlotte Arts Scene

Making the connection

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We all need a good connect, and the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte is hooking everyone up with a free day of arts fun in venues around Mecklenburg County.

We've picked eight diverse ideas ranging from history to music to photography, but the list below is just a brushstroke in the mural that will be Connect with Culture Day. Visit ASC's website for a complete list of events.

Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture

Not only will the Harvey B. Gantt Center unveil four exhibitions on Jan. 28, but visitors can take in gallery talks and guided tours all for a grand total of zero dollars. What you'll see are massive sculptures, a variety of paintings, mixed-media pieces — all created by contemporary African-American artists in their prime.

Jordan Casteel: Harlem Notes.
  • Jordan Casteel: Harlem Notes.

The exhibitions include Alison Saar's "The Nature of Us," Jordan Casteel's "Harlem Notes," Zun Lee's "Father Figure," and an overview called "The Future is Abstract."

One of the more celebrated artists among the four is Los Angeles-based Saar, whose work reaches back to African cultural traditions, the natural world and her

African-American ancestors to bring to life the experiences of African-American women living today.

Saar's works often center on the meaning and importance of hair in African-American culture. For example, a drawing from 1997 features butterflies, flowers, mushrooms, cobwebs, skulls and other items trapped in a woman's head of hair.

"It's about the complexity of women's lives and about how there's all this stuff that becomes entangled in your hair," Saar once said of the piece, adding that hair is "a spirit catcher in a way. . . it catches your fears and it catches your dreams."

When: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Where: The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, 551 South Tryon St.

Levine Museum of the New South

This award-winning museum's current exhibits, "Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers," "Nowhere | Now Here," and "Looking at Appalachia" will be open to the public during Connect with Culture.

Looking at Appalachia
  • Looking at Appalachia

The Levine's main exhibit, "Cotton Fields," offers the most in-depth look at post-Civil War Southern history (and in particular, Charlotte-area history) in the nation, featuring more than 1,000 images and other artifacts, videos and oral histories. A more recent addition is "Nowhere | Now Here," created by Victoria Byers and 15 Mexican- and Honduran-descended students; it explores the 1990s Latino influx through photos of immigrants who have made homes in North Carolina's small towns.

The Levine's newest exhibit is "Looking at Appalachia" — images from regional photographers of an Appalachia that looks markedly different from the one branded into American minds by the "War of Poverty" legislation of the 1960s. Those images showed only a slice of Appalachia, leading to stereotypes of its people that live on today. "Looking at Appalachia" blasts those stereotypes with a more comprensive view.

"We will also host the Long Overdue Bluegrass Band, presented by the Charlotte Folk Society, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.," says Levine spokesperson Mandy Drakeford.

When: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Where:Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. 7th St.

Symphony Guild of Charlotte

The Symphony Guild of Charlotte is hosting one of its Musical Petting Zoo events at ImaginOn for free on Connect with Culture Day. The guild experience is part of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's Lollipop Concert Series, a series aimed at engaging children in all their senses.

Musical Petting Zoo
  • Musical Petting Zoo

At the Musical Petting Zoo, children get a hands-on introduction to the instruments of the orchestra. Teach your kids to toot their own horn a bit by letting them see what it's like to try on someone else's. The press release states that "the cacophony of laughter, shrieks of delight and clarinet squawks are not to be missed," but it may be wise for parents to bring a couple earplugs along just in case.

The orchestra includes string instruments (violins, cellos, etc.), woodwind (flutes, oboes, piccolos), brass (trumpets and trombones) and every kid's favorite: percussion. There's no musical experience needed, so come let out some anxiety by banging on some drums or blowing down the house on a tuba, you know you've always wanted to.

Volunteers are still wanted, so visit the website listed below to sign up.

When: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Where: ImaginOn, 300 E. 7th St.

The Charlotte Museum of History

The Hezekiah Alexander House, Mecklenburg County's oldest surviving structure, dates back to 1774. On Connect with Culture Day the home site will be providing free, guided tours every half hour from 1 – 4 p.m.

Attendees will get insight into the lives of settlers from almost two–and-a-half centuries ago.

Also at the Charlotte Museum of History, get an appreciation for the diversity of east Charlotte as 10 east Charlotte restaurants will be on hand serving international food samples, including Vietnamese, Chinese, classic Southern, Italian, African, Israeli, Caribbean and more.

Burn off all those calories with some drumming and dancing afterward. Carolinas Latin Dance starts things off with two Bomba dances from Puerto Rico, followed by Dr. Maha Gingrich and Dances of India performing 3,000-year-old dances that tell the story of ancient India through costumes, dance dramas and music.

Drumming at the Charlotte Museum of History.
  • Drumming at the Charlotte Museum of History.

Last but not least, get in on the fun with an interactive drum circle. According to a release, "The circle is a symbol of wholeness and integration, with the center of a circle understood to symbolize Spirit – the Source. Because a circle has no beginning and no end, the agreement to connect in a circle allows energy to circulate from one person to the next."

When: 1 – 5 p.m.

Where: Charlotte Museum of History, 3500 Shamrock Drive

The Light Factory

The Light Factory, housed within the Midwood International Cultural Center, is hosting a Darkroom and Cyanotype experience and open gallery for Connect with Culture Day.

In a world where everyone is taking Snapchat selfies that can immediately be filtered to make you look like any number of different animals, this event will give you a whole new appreciation for photographic work.

Guests will be taught how to make a photogram, which is a photographic image made without a camera. All we ask is that at least one person yell "Do it for the 'Gram" while in the process of making a photogram and then let us know later how that was received.

An example of a photogram.
  • An example of a photogram.

Attendees will also learn how to properly execute the cyanotype process, one of the very first photographic processes, discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842. The cyanotype process was mainly used as a way to copy blueprints and other notes and diagrams. It involves applying a photosensitive solution to a receptive surface and allowing it to dry in a darkroom.

The 40-year-old Light Factory is the best place in Charlotte to learn about photography, so it's a must for photographers of all experience levels to take advantage of this free event.

When: 2 – 3 p.m.

Where: The Light Factory, 1817 Central Avenue

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Everybody knows about the Bechtler Firebird, the massive, shiny sculpture that sits outside the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Now is your chance to go inside and appreciate the beautiful art indoors for free, like you do with the Firebird every time you walk by.

The Bechtler will be open with no cover between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, and offering docent-led tours of the museum between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. These in-depth tours can last up to an hour, so be ready to learn.

As is often the case in The Bechtler, there will be interactive, kid-friendly art activities to participate in stationed throughout the museum. These stations will include Model Magic Maquettes, in which kids can sculpt their own art pieces using the Crayola modeling compound. Also, kids will have a chance to make their own colorful keychains or create watercolor paintings, as inspired by the art hanging around them.

Playing Bechtler BINGO.
  • Playing Bechtler BINGO.

Museum staff will also be supplying attendees with Bechtler BINGO cards, so you can make a competition out of it with your friends.

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, 420 S. Tryon St.

Discovery Place Experience: Crazy Catapults

Are you about to hurl? As in hurl some heavy objects great distances?

When most of us think, "catapult," we envision a giant siege engine battering down the battlements on an episode of Game of Thrones. Discovery Place Science's educators take a much more family-friendly approach to these remarkable devices, first invented around 400 B.C. in the Greek town of Syracuse.

Crazy Catapults is a hands-on learning event at the Free Range Brewery in NoDa, where families can master Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion, the concept of simple machines, and the physics of trajectory while building their own miniature catapult to take home.

After testing your practical application of Newtonian physics by playing a friendly game of catapult cornhole, you can put your newfound knowledge to use the next time you storm your neighbor's castle.

But don't forget Newton's third law: "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

When: Saturday, January 28, 2-5 pm

Where: Free Range Brewing, 2320 N. Davidson St.

Charlotte Ballet

The Charlotte Ballet will be connecting with culture all throughout the greater Charlotte area on Saturday, so we'll list a few events here and let you decide the coolest (or closest) event to you.

At First Baptist Church-West in west Charlotte, learn the beauty, rhythms and music of West African dance. Artist Javonne Spearman, originally of Liberia, will take dancers through a series of movements based in traditional dance. Students of all ages are welcomed to take part in the sharing. No previous experience is required.

In east Charlotte, ballerina Candace Ricketts will lead storytime at Independence Regional Library. Ricketts will be reading some of her favorite children's stories to kids, who are encouraged to dress up as their favorite children's story characters — or as whatever they want.

Ballerinas from the Charlotte Ballet will be hosting children's story times throughout the city. - CHARLOTTE BALLET
  • Charlotte Ballet
  • Ballerinas from the Charlotte Ballet will be hosting children's story times throughout the city.

Ballerina Paige Hinkley will be hosting a similar event at South County Regional Library in south Charlotte, or catch Cara Kanswick leading storytime at University City Regional Library.

When: 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Where: First Baptist Church-West Family Life Center, 1801 Oakland Ave.

When: 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

Where: Independence Regional Library, 6000 Conference Drive

When: 2-3 p.m.

Where: South County Regional Library, 5801 Rea Road

When: 10:15-11:15 a.m.

Where: University City Regional Library, 301 East W.T. Harris Blvd.

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