Charlotte eats its Phil



Evolution is slow on the Charlotte arts scene, and developments at the Arts & Science Council are encouraging. At an ASC briefing last Friday, President & CEO Lee Keesler observed that Charlotte does a good job from the top down of funding and fueling arts groups that have reached maturity but that we're weak in developing and nurturing new or struggling groups from the bottom up. Good Charlotte diagnosis: Robust corporations but scraggly grassroots.

The ASC has also been involved in mentoring prospective recruits from local business firms before they become entrenched on the boards of local arts organizations. Enlightened boards would prevent future reruns of the spectacle at Charlotte Rep, where a hubristic board of directors seized control from its founding artists, drove the regional Equity company into the ground, stubbornly refused to reverse its course, and when all hope of survival was lost — as it would be when you don't cry out to your subscribers for support — assured themselves there was nothing more to be done and tossed in the towel.

As enlightened ASC grads who genuinely care about the artists, artforms, and audiences they serve matriculate onto local boards, the Rep scenario will become less and less likely in the future. That's no comfort in the present to loyal Charlotte Philharmonic Orchestra members and subscribers who saw their beloved 18-year-old organization implode this past winter as CPO's clueless board repeated Rep's blunders before tossing in the towel — without even the courtesy of a goodbye.

You can lock the doors to the artists and audiences of a Rep or a Phil overnight, but it will take long years before they're replaced. Surely a mechanism can be created that will respond to the distress calls of local arts organizations more swiftly than the glacial pace of ASC/Charlotte Community evolution. To be realistic, this community — which really does include artists, theatergoers, and concert series subscribers — needs a response mechanism that's quicker than even the ASC's lumbering annual cycle of basic operating grants. That mechanism would bypass the beancounters and discover from the artists themselves what it would take to get up and running again.

Until the right to life of local artists and arts organizations is strongly affirmed, Charlotte will continue to eat its Phil.

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