If you listen to NPR, you have probably heard of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, if only in the underwriting acknowledgements that are delivered in the dulcet tones of Frank Tavares. One of the programs of the Knight Foundation is KnightArts. From the website:
Knight Foundation invests in artistic excellence, funding arts projects that engage the Knight resident communities in collective cultural experiences. We look for innovative, high-quality ideas. Our grantees represent both emerging artists and organizations and the oldest and most venerable institutions. The projects all have one thing in common: they enrich and engage the communities that produce them.
The program is in its first year, and emerging areas of interest include digitization of museum collections, development of arts incubator spaces, arts contests in which all community members are eligible for funding and a Random Acts of Culture program that brings fine art to the population and breaks down barriers that prevent consistent engagement in the arts.
Charlotte, NC is one of the eight resident Knight communities that receive funding for these efforts. And multiple arts organizations in the city, under the umbrella of the Arts and Science Council, have been involved in executing the goal of Random Acts of Culture, including Opera Carolina, the Charlotte Symphony, and North Carolina Dance Theatre.
I have been singing with Opera Carolina since 1998, both in the chorus and in roles in productions like Macbeth, Amahl & the Night Visitors, Susannah, and Tosca (check out those costumes). And the chorus has contributed to the Random Acts this year, though I was not able to participate. This past weekend, it was my turn.
On Saturday, Melinda Whittington, John Kaneklides and I were asked to go to SouthPark Mall, and give a Random Act in the Belk department store. Melinda performed “O mio babbino” from La boheme by Puccini, John sang “Una furtiva lagrima” from The Elixir of Love by Donizetti, and I sang “Votre toast” from Carmen by Bizet. I don’t know why none of Melinda’s performance did not make the video (it should have), but here are John and I.
This was not as easy to do as you would think: singing with a recording is tough enough since it will not adjust to your tempos, but it’s even harder when you can’t always hear the music. Still, it was a fun time, I think we entertained, and I was especially glad that my daughters were there to see it (you see both of them as the camera pans by them a couple of times).
Random Acts of Culture is a good program, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I hope you all get a chance to experience one sometime.