COPY-New uptown Gantt Center hosts its first event

By Tom Roussey - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Saturday night the new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture threw open its doors for its first public event. The Young Democrats of North Carolina hosted its second annual "Gantt-Watt Reception" in the Center.

"It is fabulous," marveled Democratic mayor pro-tem Susan Burgess.

Burgess was of the council members who voted to team up with Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) to bring the Gantt Center uptown as part of a new "cultural campus" that includes the Knight Theater, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the new Mint Museum.

All those buildings are centered around College and Church Streets, and all accept the Gantt Center will have their grand openings next year. Although the Gantt Center played host to Saturday night's reception, its official grand opening will be October 24th.

The Gantt Center will house art and history displays. The long, thin, 4-story building will be the permanent home of the Hewitt Collection, a well-known collection of art by African-Americans.

There are also lots of spaces for community events and meetings.

Young Democrats of North Carolina president Conen Morgan is excited about the possibilities for the Gantt Center.

"Being able to do outreach among school children, especially for arts and crafts as well as musical entertainment," Morgan said. "But also being a hub for culture."

The Gantt Center and cultural campus were not built without controversy. Although Wachovia footed much of the bill, there was a lot of tax money involved, and many critics don't think cultural facilities should be a spending priority for the city.

But in the end a majority of the city council voted in favor of the cultural campus.

Although Saturday night's dinner was partially in honor of Gantt, he was unable to attend due to another commitment. But the event was a virtual who's who of local Democrats, with everyone from Burgess to mayoral candidate Anthony Foxx to county commission chair Jennifer Roberts.