Creative Crossroads: What does 'creative' look like? | CLT Blog
(L-R) Eric Caratao, Social Research Specialist at UNCC; Anthony Radich and Ryan Stubbs of WESTAF.(L-R) Eric Caratao, Social Research Specialist at UNCC; Anthony Radich and Ryan Stubbs of WESTAF.

Creative Crossroads: What does ‘creative’ look like?

Posted on 26 Jun 2009 by Rhi Bowman

This is the first in a series titled “Creative Crossroads” — where we take a look at the current state of arts and creativity in the city.

When you envision an artist, what do they look like?

I think about Carlleena Person, a Charlotte painter I’ve run into at the farmer’s market and, more recently, at Femme Fest, selling her vivid, abstract paintings.

I think of my mother and her giant marshmallow flower, seen here on display (before the ants ate it) on the campus of Auburn University at Montgomery. Today she’s excited about water painting. Last month it was print making. She, like so many, is always crafting some new masterpiece.

Students stop to inspect Debbie Summerlin's Marshmellow Flower at AUM

Students stop to inspect Debbie Summerlin’s Marshmallow Flower at AUM

I think about Grant Henry, a.k.a. Sister Louisa, scrounging around at flea markets looking for Jesus pictures and tacky portraits to paint funny, yet profound, comments on. I think about the artists on the street corner, twisting copper wire into jewelry, and the songstress on a blue-tarp covered stage, sacrificing her heart through her lyrics.

I think about Ian Reid, founder of, working hard to put art supplies in the hands of Charlotte’s underprivileged youth and elderly. I think about my friend, Kristin Vickery, who earns her living selling clay flutes — made in a kiln in her home — at festivals around the country. I think about our own CLT Blog photographers, pulling the spirit of Charlotte through their lens then offering it for all to see.

Yes, I also think about the impressive talent over at Theatre Charlotte and I get that architecture is an art at it’s core, but I don’t stop thinking about the variety of creative talent in our city when I leave their business establishments.

Unfortunately, though, when calculating the impact creative talent has on Charlotte and the surrounded area, those are the types of businesses our local government and business leaders look to when they feel the need to hold up their yardstick.

It’s by earnest belief, however, that artists of all mediums are worthy, that their contribution to our local and global economy is just as important to recognize.

It’s true that they probably won’t employ hundreds of workers, but often they employ themselves and they absolutely make our world a better place to live in.

With that, I must admit: I’m not down with the presenters who strained the creative juice right out of Charlotte’s creative community at the Chamber of Commerce’s recent Inter City Visit. The “Driving Creative Economics” presentation, held at the NC Music Factory’s new Fillmore, bored the crowd with dry statistics crunched from stale data about “bricks-and-mortar” creative businesses.

Seated (L-R): Eric Caratao, Social Research Specialist at UNCC, along with Anthony Radich and Ryan Stubbs of WESTAF, preparing to speak before the ICV crowd.

Nothing against their work, I’m sure they’re on top of their game. I’m just saying, when I think about creative types, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t what they called “brick-and-mortar” establishments or calculations you need a college class to compute.

In fact, I was so miffed that they totally ignored people like Ian, seated behind me during the presentation, Carlleena and the rest, when I sat down to write this post last week, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have anything nice to say.

That’s when I noticed the story in The Charlotte Observer stating that art funding would be cut in the Queen City, effective immediately. That news didn’t fit the number-cruncher’s announcement, the day before, that 75 percent of –Charlotteans support local government funding for the arts.

Since then, we’ve been hit with story after story after story about how the creative community’s funding is being slashed and the impact that lack of funding will have.

Sure, Robert Bush, the Arts and Science Council Sr. VP of Cultural and Community Investment, was also in attendance at the ICV’s creative economics meeting with good news: A new “creative Charlotte committee” will be forming … and, guess what?, they’ll need you to volunteer.

But, since it’s unclear what the committee will be up to, who will be on it, how they’ll fund it and, most importantly, how it will benefit Charlotte’s creative community — all of it, not just the “brick-and-mortar” businesses — I’m still pretty depressed about the whole deal. (Note: Mr. Bush hadn’t respond to an interview request by the time I hit “publish”.)*

Fortunately, CLT Blog is on the case. We’re planning to highlight different aspects of Charlotte’s creative community with our “Creative Crossroads” series, so stay tuned. Over the coming week we will give a rundown of the arts projects Uptown, review grassroots art galleries and events, and profile some of Charlotte’s creative artists.

We might not be able to tell you how one individual artist effects the bottom line of the surrounding 13 counties, but we can definitely help you gain some insight into what every day artists are doing to survive this crappy economy, how they’re staying inspired and what they’re doing to make our city great.

Now, let me ask again: What does “creative” look like to you? When you envision an artist, who — or what — do you see? How do you measure their contribution to society?


  1. Avatar of Rhi Bowman
    Rhi Bowman 26 Jun 2009 at 6:30 PM

    Thanks, Sean. We didn’t realize that (obviously). It will be interesting to compare notes. Thanks for the heads up!