I am new (and part Yankee). And, I come in peace.
Kellee Stall is a creative who recently moved to Charlotte. We asked her to tell us about her experience and, in her opinion if, indeed, #CharlotteIsCreative. This is the first of series of stories about her explorations — and insights — into the Queen City creative community.
We were writing a musical. It was over the top ambitious. It was a comedy or a drama or a documentary — depending on who showed up to our weekly meeting. Me and my creative wolf pack.
But, after 25 years of living in Crystal Lake, Illinois, I was moving to Charlotte in less than a week.
I suppose creating with no intention of finishing was the best way to say goodbye. I love the process of tinkering and creating.
I own and operate a pop-up immersive theater company called Inhabit Theater. We inhabit original stories in unique spaces. I collect actors, dancers, musicians and artists and create plays with their personalities and talent in mind. Plays are tailored and performed in site specific locations like an empty house for sale, a coffee shop, a sober non-bar, an art studio …
At home in Charlotte’s Creative Web
I’ve lived in Charlotte for a year now, renting in Chantilly. We tried to buy a house. Lord knows we tried. I wrote letters to sellers and bought them flowers for crying out loud, but apparently they prefer all cash. A peach pie from Carolina Pie Company secured our lease. (Which only adds rich content to a comedic play I’m writing called “Open House” starring every Realtor personality I’ve encountered in Charlotte.)
For my writing, I collect stories and dialogue. So, I talk to everyone.
The best conversations in Charlotte happen in Lyfts and in coffee shops. These chats have led me to my people – people like Eva Crawford, a resident artist at C3Labs. I make Eva laugh because she thinks my house decor is funny. Collecting sets, costumes and props over time has led me to attics, antique shops and garage sales where I discover characters and story in abandoned objects. Although most of Eva’s art isn’t funny, it’s all pretty inspiring. Eva has an ongoing portrait series called “S.E.E.N.” Her paintings capture the unseen souls of others like you and not like you.
Eva introduced me to Bryn Gillette. Brynn’s a passionate artist who painted door-sized scenes of Haiti post 2010 earthquake. These scenes are called “Beyond the Ruins” and they are absolutely stunning. Brynn tours this show to raise funds for Haiti. Brynn is also a high school art teacher and let me tag along with his J-term Charlotte gallery crawl. This week-long art crawl introduced me to hundreds of Charlotte artists and the unique Charlotte spaces they inhabit.
It was Brakeman’s coffee where I met singer/songwriter Emily Sage. At the time, I had no clue that Emily is one of Charlotte’s brightest and coolest. The coffee shop was packed, so she shared her table with me. I had every intention of being a quiet table guest. Emily was in deep contemplative songwriting mode which only provoked me to ask her a lot of questions. This serendipitous meetup with kindreds in Charlotte has happened for me about a dozen times.
Last October, Savona Mill hosted Creative Mornings. Thanks to an invite from Eva Crawford, it was my first Creative Morning experience. When the leadership and the audience together evangelized that #CharlotteIsCreative and to go out and notice it, I did. When I heard from the Creative Morning pulpit that I belong here, I believed them.
So, is Charlotte creative? Yes.
I spy the ArtPop billboards, the murals and poetry on buildings in Plaza Midwood, the wrapped art on electric boxes in South End. I’ve attended a Tosco sing along in NODA, went to a cool storytellers meet up in Elizabeth and listened to live music and spoken word at BOOM. My heart beats strong for theatre though. I’ve seen some low to no budget plays performed in a park, inside The Frock Shop, in a pub, in a tent and many shows at Duke Energy Building at Spirit Square.
Are these experiences creative? Yes. However, does creative mean excellent in craft and skill? Not always. I see limits and flaws and obstacles and want to join the conversation on how to advance the quality.
Although I am new (and part Yankee), I come in peace.
I’m hitting my word limit and I didn’t get to tell you about the fascinating Lyft drivers of Charlotte. We’ll save that for the next installment. They led me to underground culture. like the film and music scenes. and gave me their vibrant opinions about the Queen City.
Perhaps a ten-minute play series about Lyft rides from Inhabit Theatre/Charlotte is in order?
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