By Larry Miller
If Raleigh has The Research Triangle, south Charlotte can have The Culture Triangle.
Powerful ideas have their own energy and emerge when the need exists. I have no specific training or overt competence in booking artists, organizing space or promoting cultural events. I am about to suggest we find a solution through that maze within six months to solve the current culture deficiency as I see it:
Matthews, Pineville and Ballantyne are cultural wastelands. The three ought to combine organically into The Culture Triangle.
If you want to see fine contemporary theater, you have to go to Uptown Charlotte. A few years ago, Matthews presented “Our Town,” a safe, inoffensive, family-oriented play. But for heavy or avant-garde theatrical works of such as Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, Jean Genet, August Wilson, or of unknowns, you have to go Uptown.
If you want to see modern dance or ballet, ditto, Uptown downtown. Symphonic music or chamber music, ditto. Small group or chamber jazz, same thing. Foreign or “art house” movies – the ones without somersaulting cars, maybe not even be in Uptown. Cultural activities if they exist at all are almost always downtown, annoyingly far away, time-consuming to get to and costly.
A vast cultural wasteland? A problem? No – an opportunity!
The city’s always up for finding more money and venues for sports. Are we residents only bench warmers in a sports stadium? Or can we become The Cultural Nexus of the Southeast?
There is a market.
There is a need.
Wouldn’t it be nice to drive just a few blocks or a mile or two locally in Matthews, Pineville or Ballantyne to see a reasonably priced play or concert, dress-up or dress-down? With proper planning, those local venues could not only thrive for their own benefit, but could raise home values because of the benefits they provide the community.
First thing to find out is, “Is there really a market?”
Next thing to find out is, “Are there potential existing venues?” This requires some creative thinking and persuasive salesmanship.
Next thing to find out is, “Do local booking agents think there are acts and performance artists who would put projects and events on the boards here? Local artists? National artists? International artists?”
We have the cultural vacuum.
If Charlotte is growing as much as “Charlotte Talks” tells us, then the market, the urban and urbane arts consumer market, is probably here. A market starving for serious cultural choices of all kinds.
And let’s see if we can begin to turn this “cultural wasteland” into a dynamic Cultural Nexus of the Southeast.
One with roots, with teeth, one unafraid to provide culture that might challenge ideas and that will attract the kind of young educated workforce that companies like Amazon crave.
If New York can support hundreds of Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theaters and venues, we can support maybe a dozen or so nearby. And if it has not been as a clear as I’d like, none of them need be big and splendid like the Belk. Small, artsy, pleasant, even intimate, with creaking seats if need be, will mostly do the job.