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New Gantt Center Initiative Uses Art To Break Down Barriers, Activate Change

Initiative for Equity + Innovation to be a resource for business, residents, educators and leaders

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture announced today its newly launched Initiative for Equity + Innovation (IEI), in partnership with Bank of America and former Bank of America Chairman and CEO Hugh McColl. Through the arts, the initiative addresses unconscious bias, discrimination and social injustice. It is a bold and direct response to the findings in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force’s 2015-16 study on intergenerational poverty and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) “Breaking the Link” study on poverty and educational outcomes. Both reports illuminate longstanding issues of economic mobility, educational inequity and racial divides and issue calls to action from organizations in the community.

The Gantt Center’s Initiative for Equity + Innovation (IEI) leverages the Gantt’s art exhibitions, its programs and its relationships with the community and business leaders to help close the cultural divide and to develop sustainable ways to promote diversity, inclusion and equity across the community.

IEI consists of six pillars which will be reflected in the Gantt’s visual art and program this year and demonstrate

How We Live, How We Learn and How We Relate as a society:

  1. Leverage the arts to explore social issues, diffuse tensions and introduce creative responses;
  2. Heighten public awareness on issues of opportunity, fairness and justice;
  3. Engage the public in regular discourse on timely topics and community concerns;
  4. Deepen capacity for understanding and navigating difference throughout the community;
  5. Equip the next generation with knowledge and tools that can serve as a blueprint for future torchbearers;
  6. Empower a broad range of partners, across disciplines, to function effectively as allies in promoting equity.

Download The Initiative for Equity + Innovation Fact Sheet

“The Gantt Center has transformed as an institution over the past four decades, since we first opened as the Afro-American Cultural Center in 1974; however, what has remained constant is our commitment to addressing matters of importance to the African-American community. Through this initiative, we have the ability to embrace the full power of arts to close the cultural divide and to provide opportunities for experiential learning that accelerate progress toward an equitable society, and significantly strengthen and enhance our community,” said Gantt Center President & CEO David R. Taylor.

Retired Bank of America Chairman and CEO Hugh McColl is a key supporter of the initiative and of the work of the Gantt Center. “The launch of this initiative is exactly what I have envisioned for the Gantt Center for many years. This institution should be at the heart of Charlotte’s multicultural evolution, and the programs and art that emerge from this focus on equity and inclusion will help us learn to live more harmoniously with one another,” said McColl.

His words speak to the core of IEI as well as the Gantt Center’s mission and vision. “IEI uses the arts to enhance the work already being done around inclusion. Most importantly, it builds upon our legacy and deep community connections to effect lasting change in Charlotte, particularly around issues of equity,” Taylor said. “There has never been a more relevant time for artists to use their creative voices to speak out against injustice and discrimination. It is our goal to educate, empower and inspire all who engage with us to reveal the greatness of this city.”

An important element of IEI is the programming that will serve as a resource for the business sector, particularly those that provide training in diversity and inclusion for its employees. Bank of America has joined the Gantt Center as a legacy sponsor of this ground-breaking initiative. “There was a natural inclination to be a part of this initiative because of our own commitment to diversity and inclusion and our belief that the arts play an integral role in expanding our humanity,” said Charles Bowman, Bank of America’s market president for North Carolina and Charlotte.

The Initiative for Equity + Innovation will use the arts and enlist the creative community to build cultural competencies that help identify the root causes of our social divide. In particular, the Gantt Center’s newly opened exhibitions — Welcome to Brookhill, a photo documentary on the human side of Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis; Question Bridge: Black Males a multi-media presentation that speaks to unconscious bias towards black men; Hank Willis Thomas: What We Ask Is Simple, a photographic collection on loan from the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York about struggle for equality through 20th Century protests and For Freedoms, a national, collaborative effort among the creative community that is designed to inspire broad civic participation through artistic forms — highlight our basic human right to have freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom of speech. The exhibitions will be on view through next year. Also, beginning in September, the Gantt Center will introduce programs specific to IEI for various audiences including educators, corporations, residents, and the law enforcement community. Upcoming programs include: Community Town Hall: Nurturing Diverse Schools & Creating Opportunity on September 10; The Look of Freedom sign making workshops on September 15; and a Community Conversation on the History of Redlining and the Impact of the Current Data Trends on October 9.

Visit for details and to register.

About Harvey B. Gantt Center

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is a multi-disciplinary arts institution located in the heart of Charlotte, North Carolina. Founded in 1974, the Gantt Center’s mission is to present, preserve and celebrate excellence in the art, history and culture of African-Americans and those of African descent through visual and literary arts, dance, music, film, educational programs, theatre productions and community outreach. The Gantt Center features fine art exhibitions from around the world and is home to the nationally celebrated John and Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American Art, which was generously donated by Bank of America, and is accessible online.

Named for Charlotte civic leader and former mayor Harvey Bernard Gantt, the Gantt Center is housed in an inspired and distinguished award-winning structure designed by architect Philip Freelon, co-designer of the new Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Bank of America

At Bank of America, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is critical to fulfilling our core purpose of making people’s financial lives better. An important part of that commitment is forming strong partnerships across sectors, including art and nonprofit organizations serving community needs, bringing our collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. As one of the world's leading supporters of the arts, we recognize that beyond intrinsic beauty, the arts can spur urban renewal, attract new businesses, draw tourism and spark innovation. It's a powerful industry that promotes self-expression, elevates our cultural understanding and generates $166.2 billion a year in the U.S. alone. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter at @BofA_News.

Posted on Thursday, September 06, 2018

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