We’re Huggers (and Our Hugs Just Got Bigger)
“Many creative people are finding that creativity doesn’t grow in abundance; it grows from scarcity. The more Lego bricks you have doesn’t mean you’re going to be more creative; you can be very creative with very few Lego bricks.” – Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, executive chairman of the LEGO Group
Sometimes, all it takes to get a great idea moving is a little nudge. That was the guiding principle when Charlotte Is Creative, publisher of The Biscuit, established the HUG (Helpful Unfettered Gift) program in 2017. HUGS are $250 microgrants designed to help remove small obstacles that may be holding creative Charlotteans back from pursuing an idea or starting a new initiative. HUGs are funded by private businesses and individuals.
Graduating to the “Bear HUG.”
The first HUG was given in 2017 to Shakespeare In A Chair, a unique program teaching Shakespearean oratory to schoolchildren in local barbershops. Since then, more than 250 other projects have been given a HUG.
These relatively small donations have fueled a wide array of innovation. Now, thanks to a donation to the program from the COVID-19 Relief Fund, Charlotte Is Creative wants to see what success for previous HUG grantees can do with a $1,000 “Bear HUG.”
Charles Thomas, Knight Foundation’s Charlotte program director, has watched the HUG program grow from humble beginnings and is excited to see what successful creatives can do with a bigger financial gift.
“I’m a big fan of Charlotte Is Creative’s HUG grants,” said Thomas. “They continue to showcase Charlotte’s creativity and innovation by providing artists and creatives the fuel they needed to go to the next level. I look forward to seeing how Charlotte creates when the funding is quadrupled.”
Previous HUG grantees were encouraged to apply for the first round of “Bear HUGs” at the end of 2020. William McNeely, Bree Stallings and Demi Clark have won the first three. Here’s how they plan to use them.
Do Greater Foundation
Led by native Charlottean and retired Apple executive, William McNeely, the Do Greater Foundation provides high-quality technology and equipment and instruction to students living in underserved and under-resourced communities.
Do Greater received its first $250 HUG micro-grant in 2019. They used it to buy the first iPad for the CRTV (Creative) Lab, a mobile classroom built inside a truck, allowing them to bring technology and tools directly to students in need.
The city’s west side is a special focus of Do Greater’s work, as is the establishment of a welcoming space dedicated to encouraging students on Charlotte’s west side to pursue their passions and learn about possible careers in technology.
How Do Greater Will Use Its $1,000 HUG
The organization will use its enhanced HUG to purchase a wireless broadband modem that can reach up to 300 feet in any direction. This will allow them to teach socially distanced training sessions inside and out.
“Due to COVID, we’ve had to reconfigure some of our programming to be offered online,” said McNeely. “This has limited the impact of our mobile CRTV Lab. Now we’ll have the capability to continue our sessions and reach students who may not have access to Wi-Fi in their homes or neighborhoods.”
This router can also be used in the 5,000-square-foot co-working/co-learning spaces Do Greater is in the process of converting former Sunday school space at Shiloh Institutional Baptist Church. Located in the Camp Greene neighborhood, the CRTV(Creative) Lab at Shiloh is slated for completion later this year.
How to Get Involved
Do Greater is raising funds for the new facility at Shiloh through their website. They are also seeking mentors and coaches for in-person programs and online work with students.
Website & Social Media:
Bree Stallings is a multimedia artist, illustrator, writer, art instructor and community activist. Last summer, she was a supporting artist on the Black Lives Matter mural painted on Tryon Street. In the fall, she worked with Blumenthal Performing Arts to organize the “Charlotte” mural at Camp North End to herald the We Are Hip Hop festival.
Stallings has received two HUG micro-grants. In 2018, she used her HUG to create an interactive tic-tac-toe game that invites viewers to confront historic facts about how Southern cities and states profit from continued segregation. It is currently on display at the Harvey B. Gantt Museum for African Americans Arts + Culture.
In 2019, the HUG helped Stallings purchase supplies for her exhibition “Where I’m From” about family narratives, body image and housing insecurity at C3 Lab. The installation drew over 400 attendees and won best exhibition of the year from QC Nerve.
How Stallings Will Use Her $1,000 HUG
Last August, Stallings was awarded a $5,500 Cultural Vision Grant to create a public art project with students and volunteers at Time Out Youth. Called “Holding Space,” this creative initiative focused on developing identity-based workshops.
Stories and insights gathered during these experiences will serve as inspiration for a mural the students will paint with Stallings. Stallings will use her $1,000 HUG as part of matching funds she’s raising for this project.
“I use data visualization and genuine, non-exploitative storytelling to create compelling public art projects that hold marginalized communities in light,” said Stallings. “For ‘Holding Space,’ we are specifically illuminating the stories of LGBTQIA+ youth.”
How Can You Get Involved
As she builds the project, Stallings continues to raise funds to match her Cultural Vision Grant through PayPal (@breestallings), Venmo (@Bree-Stallings) and CashApp ($breestallingsart).
Website & Social Media:
She Built This City
She Built This City’s (SBTC) mission is as simple to understand as it is ambitious — to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the construction industry. That’s a need founder Demi Clark, who has been a residential construction industry executive for over 20 years, sees clearly.
SBTC develops hands-on educational programming. Their work is designed to “ignite the creative spark” in kids, particularly young girls, by giving them fun (and practical) experiences with tools and technology.
Much like Do Greater, SBTC unveiled POWHer, a mobile tool lab, in 2020. SBTC received a HUG grant to assist them in securing the assistance of Charlotte artist Sharon Dowell to paint the exterior of POWher, effectively making it a “mobile mural.” Being able to bring their mobile classroom directly to local nonprofits helped SBTC establish relationships with the YMCA, A Place for Hope, Charlotte Lab School, Girl Scouts of America and Habitat for Humanity.
How She Built This City Will Use Its $1,000 HUG
SBTC will use their $1,000 HUG to establish a new adaptive reuse/landfill diversion project for students.
“We’d like to create an adaptive reuse/landfill diversion project with other creatives in town – using pallets, reusable donated wood products and materials that would otherwise end up in dumpsters,” said Clark.
The group will repurpose discarded materials to form the infrastructure of sustainable gardens and inform students about the need to create “new life” in the community: growing new foods, trapping litter on our waterways and utilizing the power of the sun and wind for food products.
SBTC will hold student training and construction sessions in the coming months and deliver the final products to local farmers before summer.
How To Get Involved
Website and Social Media:
Give a HUG.
If you’re interested in making a donation, in any amount, to be used as a HUG micro-grant for a Charlotte creative, please donate here.
Get a HUG.
Charlotteans with a creative project, service or product (nonprofit or for-profit) open to the public may apply for a HUG here. HUG recipients who got their HUG before August 1, 2020, may apply for a $1,000 HUG here.
Watch a segment about the $1000 HUG grants on WBTV’s QC Life.
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