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In search of the soul of Charlotte

It's everywhere, you just have to look for it

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Scythe (above). Zenas Fewell, known to friends as Scythe, has dreams. Lots of them. But he won't be found working 70-hour weeks in a corner office to get them. Scythe puts his ambition on paper. The homeless 20-year-old has been writing poetry since he was 13 and has plans for a book, Scythe the Rhyme Warrior: Self-Duality. He's been in Charlotte only since May and has scrambled for places to stay since then. He also has a hearing disability, but it hasn't quieted his voice. "God gave me the ability to do all the talking through the rhymes," he says. "I tell the truth." (Karen Shugart)

McColl Center for Visual Art (right). Former high finance Czar Hugh McColl turned soul man when he wangled the purchase and resurrection of this old burned-out church on North Tryon Street. The McColl Center is a former stoic sanctuary of faith turned crucible for creativity, the new central nerve center for Charlotte's visual arts. The center formalized McColl's position as our own Medici, patron of potential brilliance and shaman financier of the visual, intellectual and spiritual banquet laid across our table. Fired with fearless wisdom and cash, the cauldron burbles with soul food for the culturally famished. Grab a ladle and feed your head. Soup's on. (Scott Lucas)

Joie Lassiter Gallery (above). Lassiter has re-created herself for a third time. Her newest body is a new loft in Southend, perfect digs for the reincarnation of wandering vagabond spirit of the New Charlotte. Within the high arching barrel vault roof and concrete cocoon are walls ripe with visual art signposts. This part of town, this gallery and this art all are allegories of what Charlotte both shuns and yearns to become -- sophisticated, informed and urbane. We have shucked our corn silk husk off the soul of our city all by ourselves. Lassiter has offered to don us with raiment of tomorrow. (Scott Lucas)

Teresa Hernandez' Pura Vida Worldly Art (above). Born in Mexico, Hernandez arrived in Charlotte by way of Austin, TX, in 1998, armed with an MBA and a comfortable corporate job. But in 2001, she traveled to Chiapas and lived in a Zapatista camp for several weeks as a reporter for the human rights group Global Exchange. Upon returning to Charlotte, Hernandez was motivated to begin saving her money to realize her longtime dream of opening an art gallery. "In Chiapas, I saw a lot of crafts and arts and saw how these people truly do live off of their art," she says. "I wanted to figure out how to get it exposed to more people. I had always felt there was something missing in Charlotte, so I opened Pura Vida." Located on Central Avenue, the gallery offers beautiful and exotic art from countries including Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Morocco, Turkey, India and Nepal. Pura Vida also presents performances ranging from poetry readings to music to belly dancing. "I love supporting creativity and uniting people," Hernandez says, "and now I get to do that every day." (Sam Boykin)

Nancy Pierce Shaver (below). To Shaver, greenways are much more than just places to walk, ride a bike and get back to nature. They're a catalyst to connect neighborhoods, cultures and people of different incomes whose paths wouldn't otherwise cross. More than a decade ago, Shaver noticed that in other areas, greenways with bike paths that ran for hundreds of miles were beginning to connect communities, cities and even entire regions. She was determined that the people who live along her stretch of the Central Avenue corridor between Eastway Drive and Plaza-Midwood would have one, too. For 16 years, she rallied neighbors and smoothed the political bumps that are inevitable when very different neighborhoods are connected for the first time. Though she rarely gets headlines, or even credit, Shaver has for years led her neighbors in reshaping the Briar Creek area along Central. Her greenway, and her efforts, are helping to bring the soul back to Central Avenue. (Tara Servatius)

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