Artist opinion: Why you should support Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s move

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I hate the term “support” in reference to art. Artists aren’t toddlers struggling to stand, we’re a key to cultural growth. Years from now, when people have forgotten who won the 2016 Super Bowl, people will still turn to Shakespeare to grapple with corruption or woo their beloved. This is the power of an investment in the arts.

In Charlotte, we have historically failed to recognize this fact. Over the past 11 years, we have lost a number of arts organizations due to a lack of financial investment from the city’s inhabitants. We have watched some of our most talented artists leave after years of trying unsuccessfully to build a solid financial foundation that would allow for them to use their skills to develop the cultural landscape.

While there are always many elements that factor into the closing down of an artistic company, lack of funds played a role in the end of Bare Bones Theatre Group, Charlotte Repertory Theatre, Carolina Actors Studio Theatre and Collaborative Arts. Since Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the United States, we know it isn’t for lack of money.

This brings us to what is potentially one of the best or worst things that could happen to the Charlotte performance community. After 12 years at 650 E Stonewall St., Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, which is the fiscal sponsor for my performance ensemble TAPROOT’s summer project, is losing its home. With a new space already in the works, ATC staff is being very candid about the move. If adequate funds are not found, ATC could disappear completely.

The loss of ATC would be the proverbial sucker punch to the performance community. ATC is the only theatre company in town where actors are paid to create theatre for adults. In comparison, Detroit, while smaller and less financially stable than Charlotte, boasts over a dozen professional theatres.

ATC closing its doors would mean any actor in town would have to choose between working for free (or very little) while the directors, designers, choreographers and musicians around them get paid, performing in plays for children, or relocating. How can we justify investing so much money into arts organizations like Blumenthal that spend large portions of their budgets every year to import artistic projects from out of town, if we aren’t investing in an organization that values local talent and immediately reinvests resources into the local economy by hiring local actors, designers and directors?

ATC’s new space isn’t just a step up for them. ATC is working to ensure that their move into the old Kellogg factory on Louise Avenue (beside Advent Coworking) translates into greater accessibility to resources and performance space for these companies, passing on the financial investment as profoundly as possible.

Whether you make it out to one of the last two shows at 650 E Stonewall or wait to see the season opener, Green Day’s “American Idiot,” in the new space, take a few minutes to invest in ATC. Make a donation. Even small donations make a big statement about the importance of paying artists for the work they do.

A city of over 800,000 people without a single professional theatre company creating work for adults, a city that fails to invest in local culture, is a city doomed to lose itself to a generic corporate culture. We’re not asking for your support. We’re asking you to have the foresight to see a good investment when it comes along.

Photo: Charlotte Observer file

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