“Since I came to Charlotte, I decided I was going to work on something I love.”
Halah Z. Kheldoon (@hellasketchz) is a 34-year-old cartoonist born and raised in Baghdad. Kheldoon came to Charlotte in 2016 to reunite with her family who immigrated from Iraq to America in 2014.
“Since I came to Charlotte, I decided I was going to work on something I love,” she said. “Being an artist is my way of living.”
We asked Kheldoon to share the three biggest challenges she’s currently facing today as a working creative in Charlotte. Her answers, like her art, are succinct and stirring. Here is one of them:
Adapting To a New Community
Being here from a different background, I’m trying to fit in a new culture and make new art that will attract people. But, at the same time, I want to keep my identity clear and not lose touch with who I am.
A Moving Mural for Mary Collins
Mary Collins was murdered in the NoDa area during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. Three suspects have been charged with her kidnapping and murder.
Spencer Lanning, a senior at Salem College, heard about the tragedy from a friend of the Collins family. At the time, Lanning was preparing for her senior art project, but was uncertain what to paint. She’d considered creating a piece about exploring the importance of public art, but had not completed her plan.
After hearing about Collins’ murder, she knew what to do. She would build a mobile mural wall on which she would paint a nearly six-foot-tall portrait of Collins.
Although they didn’t know one another, Lanning felt a kinship with Collins, who was also passionate about the arts. Diagnosed with 22q Deletion Syndrome (DiGeorge Syndrome) — a cognitive disability that caused her to have a severe speech impediment — Collins used her love for makeup and photography to express herself.
Lanning’s mural is currently on display in front of the Johnston YMCA in NoDa and will remain there through July 6, which would have been Collins’ 22nd birthday. Later this summer, Lanning hopes to move the mural to different locations around Charlotte.
City Council’s Next Steps on Arts and Culture Plan
At the June 28 city council meeting, the last before a July recess, Councilmember Ed Driggs reported on plans to “get the ball rolling” on the use of public arts funding recommended on June 22 by the arts and culture ad hoc committee appointed by Mayor Vi Lyles.
Hiring an Arts & Culture Officer
The City of Charlotte has posted a job listing for an Arts & Culture Officer, a full-time, three-year position to be appointed by City Manager Marcus Jones.
While this position has not been filled, Driggs recommended “starting to work out how we come up with a funding allocation process that is equitable and serves all the needs that we’ve identified for the community.” Jones said a panel including individuals from outside the City would help interview candidates for the position. He noted that he has been in discussions with members of Charlotte’s arts and cultural ecosystem regarding recommendations for candidates.
Assembling an Arts and Culture Advisory board
One step would be the formation of an arts and culture advisory board of 18 individuals – nine selected by the private sector (one of whom will be from the Arts & Science Council) and nine appointed by the City — three by the Mayor and six by the City Council). No appointments have been made to date. Members would serve one, three-year term. The board chair would be mayor-appointed.
As described by Driggs, this board will be working with the arts and culture officer to create a comprehensive, 10-year arts and culture plan for Charlotte. The group will also allocate $4.4 million in undesignated public arts funds in the city’s FY 2022 budget and $12 million in FY 2023 and 2024 arts funding.
Councilmember Matt Newton suggested that groups such as Art Future and Charlotte Is Creative, parent of The Biscuit, be part of the process to ensure “their input is included in the process of selecting the commissioner.” City Manager Jones indicated that he was already getting input from artists and artist groups.
The City Council voted in favor of advancing the process described by Driggs. The Biscuit will continue to report on this as new information develops.
Fourth Round of Small Business Innovation Fund Opens
With new investments by Honeywell, Duke Energy and the Knight Foundation of nearly $1 million, Charlotte Center City Partners reopened the City Small Business Innovation Fund for a fourth round of grantmaking. Applications open Friday, July 9 at 5 p.m. Grants of up to $40,000 will be awarded.
This current spate of funding focuses on innovative projects related to projects and businesses addressing, according to the fund’s web page, “new patterns of work and commuting, and a community with pent-up demand for gathering, traveling and engaging in cultural and urban experiences.”
The fund is open to small businesses currently open within a 2-mile radius of the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets or in the process of relocating/expanding there. Eligible businesses must have had 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees as of March 1, 2021 and can demonstrate adverse business impacts of COVID-19.
“Fearful Symmetry” Meets Charcoal and Pencils
Illustrating the Art of the Human Body
The human body is a work of art. But, for many of us, it can be hard to see it that way, let alone understand how it works.
That’s something Jamie Decker, founder of Experience Anatomy, has dedicated her life to doing. She studied under Dr. Gunther von Hagens, world-renowned for the Body Worlds exhibition (which was on view at Discovery Place a few years back).
Like her mentor, Decker uses a proprietary soft-embalming technique that creates high-quality, plastinated specimens that retain their natural color, weight and size indefinitely. For example, you can hold a brain in your hands without fear of damaging it. Think about that (pun intended).
This month, Decker and OrthoCarolina focused on the brachial plexus — a network of nerves in each shoulder carrying messages from the spinal cord to arms and hands — in a new video.
To add another level of art to their art, we paired her with local illustrator, Craig Stevens, to share his vision of the brachial plexus (above).
This is the first installment of a new series, Partnership Pairings, in which a local creative uses art to bring a new perspective to an organization sponsored by OrthoCarolina.
Don’t go ’round hungry. If you missed the last batch of The Biscuit, don’t worry. We’ve kept it warm for you. This batch featured a story about the Poets’ Cabin, a log cabin that lies at the very heart of the Charlotte art community.
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