Tom Gabbard’s Journey Has Shaped Charlotte’s Creative Scene
Tom Gabbard on stage at Belk Theater
“Artists don’t always understand the worth of what they do. We have to help them understand, put a price on it. So often, artists aren’t paid for their work. We have a policy to pay everyone. We’ve had some artists who haven’t cashed their checks, and when we ask why, they say they framed it – that getting paid is so unusual, they had to commemorate it rather than cash it.” – Tom Gabbard, Blumenthal Performing Arts
We wanted to start 2021 on a high note. And in the Charlotte arts scene, it doesn’t get much higher than Tom Gabbard, the CEO of Blumenthal Performing Arts. We got to spend some time with one of the city’s biggest arts advocates to find out about his creative journey (it started with the French horn) and how Charlotte can nurture the creatives who live here.
PHOTO CREDIT (Above): Joshua Komer
Different Days: A meeting of CreativeMornings/Charlotte at Camp North End in 2017
New Year. Same Four Walls. Creating Connections in 2021
“I speak often to performing artists, whose very passion and livelihood is hinged upon connecting with others through their craft. They are persisting, but they’re hurting. They miss us. We miss them. And, we all miss each other.” – Matt Olin
It’s a scientific fact that humans crave connection. From our earliest moments, we reach out for one another.
After nearly 10 months of quiet stages, remote meetings and Zooming around our co-workers, family and friends, Matt Olin is encouraged by the ingenuity he’s seen from the creative community but is wondering what’s ahead for community engagement and live performance in the year ahead.
Read what Matt’s got on his mind.
PHOTO CREDIT (Above): Heather Liebler
Charlotte Creatives Share Their 2021 Performance Plans
“Our top priority is the safety of our artists and patrons, so it is unlikely that we will be gathering in person for indoor theater in the first half of the year. But that’s not going to stop us from telling great stories!” – Becky Schultz, Three Bone Theatre
“While 2020 has been a struggle for musicians and the arts community, we also see a leap in technology and innovation that will take music to the next level even when our live programming resumes.” – Rebecka Nelli, JazzArts Charlotte
“… when you see a pop-up concert, stop and listen. Smile, nod and applaud. If you like what you hear (and you will!), leave a tip, give a follow and buy the music. Appreciation means the world to these artists, and cash pays the bills.” – Rick Thurmond, Music Everywhere
As Matt Olin said in his editorial above, the new year has started, but live performers — musicians, actors, dancers, etc. — are still dealing with 2020 challenges. We have our own opinions, but what about other creative minds?
We reached out to individuals and organizations across the Queen City and asked them. The statements above are just an opening number. We’ll be sharing their insights and their plans with you in a special batch of The Biscuit the week of Jan. 18.
In the meantime, if you’re in the business of putting on shows and concerts, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, let us know here.
Artist Irisol Gonzalez paints a new mural during Talking Walls 2020
EVENT: Irisol Gonzalez Paints a Picture of “Promise” Tomorrow
We’re willing to bet you’ve seen mural artist Irisol Gonzalez’s work around town. But do you know the artist behind the art? When Gonzalez takes the (virtual) stage at the monthly gathering of CreativeMornings/Charlotte tomorrow, you’ll have a chance to hear her speak about the passion behind her paint.
Gonzalez was busy in 2020. Very busy — painting new murals with the Talking Walls team, donating her work to a Latinx business to help attract customers, creating a #CountOnMeCLT window mural and much more. Addressing the global topic of “Promise” at Friday’s online event, Gonzales will share the story of the art teacher who helped her realize her own promise … and the promises she’s made to herself that drive her creative life.
Hear Gonzalez speak at CreativeMornings/Charlotte Online:
- Friday, Jan. 8
- 8:15-8:30 a.m. – Live Music from Harvey Cummings II
- 8:30-9:45 a.m. – CreativeMornings/Charlotte Program
PHOTO CREDIT (Above): Ernesto Moreno
Charlotte stages can make us laugh, cry, sing and dream … sometimes simultaneously. They often make us confront uncomfortable truths about life. Even now, quieted by COVID-19, stages have the power to inspire us to change.
Stages — and the people who perform on them — can engage hearts and minds to confront and address social justice. And, that’s what our new best friends at Diversity On & Off Stage are all about. Formed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the group is a collective of Charlotte-area artists and arts leaders dedicated to providing resources and a network to help leaders build equitable, just, inclusive practices for their organizations.
To help creatives hold each other accountable, Diversity On & Off Stage is encouraging individuals and organizations to take their Pledge to be an advocate for a better community for all.
The group has also embraced a new kind of stage … Zoom. Each month, the group plays host to a Zoom event that focus on fostering diversity and inclusion in a different area of the arts. Meetings are open to the public. Upcoming topics include:
- Jan. 25: Dancers and the Dance Community
- Feb. 22: Comedy Scene
- Mar. 22: Film and Video
- Apr. 26: Fashion Focus
Ovens Auditorium in October 2019
“Charlotte will grow with these buildings, and grow into them.”
Charlottean David Ovens led the committee that built the original Charlotte Coliseum and the auditorium that still bears his name on Independence Blvd. He shared the words above with the Charlotte Observer on Sept. 8, 1955. That evening saw more than 400 of Charlotte’s civic leaders attend a red carpet unveiling of Ovens Auditorium, which hosted its first public event, a performance by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, less than a month later.
According to Ovens, naysayers told him Charlotte had “built greater than the times called for” with the construction of the auditorium and the coliseum. His response to them was, “They’ll take that back later.”
In the end, history has been on Ovens’ side. Generations of Charlotteans have enjoyed plays, musicals and performances by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Diana Ross, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Jerry Seinfeld and Aziz Ansari in the auditorium. (Not to mention hundreds of thousands of Charlotte students who have attended graduation ceremonies there.)
According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), the auditorium has played host to more than 7,000 events over its 65 years. It’s stood the test of time. Ovens Auditorium and the Coliseum outlasted the “new” Coliseum that opened off Tyvola Road in 1988 … and was demolished in 2007. With a new addition connecting the auditorium to the Coliseum completed in 2020, it looks like Ovens’ retirement is still years away.
While live performances aren’t happening now, the auditorium stands as a reminder that Charlotte can rise to the challenge and that culture and the arts will always give us reasons to gather, celebrate and connect with one another.
See photos of the 1955 red carpet gala originally published in “The Charlotte News.”
DIRECTIONS: 2700 E. Independence Blvd., Charlotte, N.C. 28205
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 podcast featuring 2020 lessons and 2021 resolutions voiced by creatives across the city
- A retrospective on our favorite creative stories from 2020
Click here to dig in, y‘all.
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