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Art From The Ashes

Documentary shows rebirth of "Old Burned Out Church"


When I moved back to this area in 1992, I used to drive around the John Belk Freeway and always say the same thing: "What are they going to do with that burned-out church?" The shell of the building had been there since it burned in 1984.

Fifteen years later, there was a rebirth and a rebuilding, and a boost for local culture, and the McColl Center for Visual Art was opened as a place for artists-in-residence to add their creativity to the fabric of the city.

How that all happened is the subject of Out of the Ashes, a new documentary by WTVI airing November 19 and again on the 27th. Produced, directed and written by senior producer/director Stuart Grasberg, the program is over two years in the making and takes us inside an artists' community.

After a brief history of the church fire and the birth of this creative "crucible," Grasberg gets to the heart of the McColl Center and takes us exactly where we should be: inside, with the artists.

We learn that the luxury of "space and time" is a creative catalyst for the artists from around the world who've passed through the Center's artists-in-residence program since it opened in 1999.

An African artist describes her time in Charlotte as a "trip to the moon." Boston sculptor Judy McKee, mother of a murder victim, created a sculpture to commemorate her son here. Sherry Beatty, a West Meck High School art teacher, grows as a painter with a special program giving that "space and time" to a local teacher.

We see Willie Little's organic Southern creations, which have become nationally known, the creation of steel sculptures, the gliding curves of wooden furniture, painstaking strokes dotting a Pakistani painter's work, and the unusual "caustic art" technique that marries wax and pigment onto canvases by Charlotte artist Rebecca Jones.

If you're like me, you'll feel a bit guilty that you didn't know more about what's been happening "inside the old church," and haven't taken time to visit the McColl Center up to now. The richness of creativity is what marks this program, both in its subjects and how it was produced.

It looks as though WBTV News' Jon Robinson is leaving the station, and not under happy circumstances. Robinson, who's filled in on the 5pm news desk since anchor Bob Knowles' death in May, found out he wasn't getting the job when the station announced the hiring of Michael Scott.Reached at home, Robinson would not comment on details, but did admit he was "very disappointed." "What I do take away is the support of my co-workers during this difficult time," he said.

WBTV news director Dennis Milligan said, "because it's a personnel matter, we can't comment right now."

People inside the WBTV newsroom tell me that many there were surprised that Robinson, a Gaston County native, didn't get the 5pm job, and see his departure as a loss for the newsroom. "I think they promised him one thing, then turned around and did another," one staffer told me.

Either way, Robinson's current contract ends at the end of the year, and signs are that he won't return to the newsroom, though he will not comment on that, either. Whether his non-compete clause (typically a year in length) will be enforced or reduced in length remains to be seen.

The bride might look familiar in an upcoming A Wedding Story episode on cable's TLC. WBTV anchor Jan Jeffcoat's Charleston wedding was taped in August for the show. "It was very exciting," she tells me, "but very intrusive. There were two camera crews, two producers, the whole thing." No airdate yet for the show. . . If you missed the first of three PBS' Antiques Roadshow episodes devoted to Charlotte treasures, no worries. The second of the three shows airs November 24, and the third (at least on WTVI) runs December 8. . .That Human Kool-Pop, WFRX-FM's Wilson, emerged frosty and a bit claustrophobic November 8 after a stint inside ice to raise donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank. "(After) 32 hours in there I almost lost it, then a listener brought 100 cans of food which gave me that extra push to get through, " he reports. . .Still can't believe the "Halloween Chainsaw Massacre" at "Annoying Holiday Music 104.7 FM," where morning man Sander Walker was replaced by holiday music. The station really shows its holiday spirit with such a firing. Memo to "Christmas 104.7": people hate hearing "Holly Jolly Christmas" before they've even defrosted their holly jolly Butterball. . . Poignant pictures that have stayed with me happened a couple of weeks ago on Oprah. Rae Carruth's toddler son, Chancellor, was on camera briefly while his grandmother discussed daughter Cherica's murder, which was set up by the Carolina Panther turned jailbird. Chancellor has MS, cannot walk, and speaks very little. But you should have seen the smile on that kid's face.

Be thankful, and stay tuned. . .

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