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The arts live on with South End vision and initiative
South End Arts expands outreach
 
Published Tuesday, November 26, 2019 10:16 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

COURTESY SOUTH END ARTS
Artist Nikki Eason is an advocate for the work and outreach of South End Arts, which includes juried exhibits and speaker series.

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South End Arts is trying to leave a mark on a changing community.


Founder K. Liles lost her studio space when Charlotte Art League’s Camden Road location closed as part of the neighborhood’s gentrification, but she wasn’t ready to give up on South End. Instead she created a nonprofit arts organization on Feb. 3, 2018, combining juried art exhibits and a social justice speaker series at the Charlotte Trolley Powerhouse (1507 Camden Road) approached Center City Partners with an idea.


“The long term vision is kind of the short term vision right now,” Liles said. “We want to offer opportunity to Charlotte artists who are not represented.”


Local artists Sloane Siobhan and Bryan Wilson advised Liles to have every decision relate back to two things: “equity and strong art.”


The series format takes place on two separate days, with the next show scheduled for Dec. 5 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Charlotte Trolley Powerhouse. Eleven juried artists will compete for four cash prizes. South End Arts Director and inspirational performance artist Nikki Eason will host the event. Leading on Opportunity Director Stephanie Cooper-Lewter will speak on “Justice or Just Us.” Admission is free. At 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 5-6 artist workshops will take place: Artists Critiquing Artists led by Tamery Stafford on Dec. 5 and a workshop exploring art and social media on Dec. 6. South End Arts will also participate in a longtime South End tradition of the First Friday South End Gallery Crawl the evening of Dec. 6 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.


Eason and Liles met at Creative Mornings, where Liles heard Eason speak. What happened as a chance meeting would change Eason’s outlook on her work.


“The way that I came into my artistry was something that K. helped me define,” Eason said. “I was like, ‘I’m just up here speaking and talking about what’s in my head,’ and she was like, ‘no, it’s a performance artistry—you’re an inspirational performance artist.’ Immediately that made me feel like she saw me. She saw what I was good at, and was able to mold and transform it into something that makes sense, and that’s what art is about.”


Eason noted how she enjoyed interacting with participating artists in various shows. She explained that the format of South End Arts allowed her to ask the artist what he or she was going through while creating a body of work.


What does the future of South End Arts look like after their grant for the space at Charlotte Trolley ends in June 2020? While they are in discussions with Center City Partners, time will tell.


“The one thing that you do get to control is the moment that you’re in,” Eason said. “Being intentional with the moment of what we want to happen in the future is what is going to take us there. If we stick to our mission and our value of what we stand for and continue to provide those opportunities, and give voice to artists with different speakers coming in, bringing speakers in, I think that it will speak for itself. The right people will be attracted to it. Other people will see it, and want to get in and help more. They’re going to want to take it to the next level. In the meantime, it’s just doing what we’ve already been doing, and that’s creating opportunity, building cultural bridges, and empowering artists in their communities.”


Whatever the future holds, their mission to empower, engage and connect remains the same.


“Everybody has a gift and a talent,” Eason said. “I was thinking about the word art, and different acronyms—a raw talent. Everybody has some type of talent. What’s going to give people the push is if they realize that nobody will really believe in you, until you believe in you—until you really sit in the fact that, ‘who I am, the way that I am is enough. No one is me, and that’s my power, and whatever it is that I’m creating deserves to be shared, and it’s part of your responsibility, why you’re here, to share your gifts.’


“The world is not really changed by people’s opinion. It’s about your example. How can you take your gifts and your talents to serve other people? Once I found my gift and my talent, it was created and understood as an art, I was like, ‘I have to give this to everybody. I have to serve it to people, because I will feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, and what I’m called to do.’”


For more information: https://southendarts.net

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