I think it’s safe to say that the recent controversy surrounding the quarter-cent sales tax left the city of Charlotte feeling a bit divided. Since a large portion of the tax was intended to fund the development of arts initiatives, some artists in the Queen City were left feeling neglected and underrepresented when it didn’t pass. However, people like Arlethia Hailstock still value the arts and want to make sure Charlotte experiences them on a large scale.
Arlethia works in community outreach at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, which is responsible for some amazing theatrical works like “Mary Poppins,” “Peter Pan,” and “The Invisible Boy.” While Children’s Theatre is putting its all into producing credible and all-inclusive work, there are still communities that do not get the chance to experience the wealth of creativity within the walls of the theater. Arlethia’s main concern is finding out which communities are not accessing the arts and why.
“My title is Community Initiatives Leader, but really my work is community engagement at its core. Very often, the arts are thought of as elitist – not something that is created for or available to all people. I work to introduce CTC to all children and families in Charlotte, but particularly to underrepresented young people and those in financial need. My time on the job is nearly 100% in, with, or for the community,” she said.
This was especially refreshing to hear because, while Charlotte is continuously growing with artists and talent, we can never have too many advocates present to bridge the gap between the arts and communities that wouldn’t normally have access to them.
One thing I particularly respect about Arlethia’s work is that it is geared toward young people. As an adolescent and young adult, having access to the arts community in my city was not a major priority in my household. I think having a liaison like Arlethia would have aided in my creative journey as an artist.
Studies have shown time and time again that young people need an outlet for creative expression, whether it be theater, music, dance, visual art, or any medium in between. Arlethia has found an interesting way to showcase her passion for giving young people a platform for creative expression and truly make their voices heard.
“Back in the summer, I started our Teen Advisory Council where I recruited eight teens to provide perspective to help shape and shift the footprint of our work for their age group,” she said. “We also started partnerships with high schools in CMS to assist schools with theater programs that have limited resources. These partnerships offer new and expanded experiences to theater arts programs in high schools with high populations of students who are socio-economically challenged, those who have historically not been involved with the work of CTC, and schools with significant racial or ethnic diversity. This is truly some of my most fulfilling work because I get to see young people, some of whom would have never dreamed of doing work outside of their school, get to perform on our stage.”
The city of Charlotte is constantly changing in many ways, but it seems that the arts and the public’s investment in artists have made a marginal difference. Arlethia wishes to increase engagement with the Charlotte art scene, in the same way that we, as a community, invest in our sports teams.
“Charlotte is an awesome place to live whether you’re a young singleton, a couple with kids or a retiree, but I feel that what many people know and love about Charlotte is very limited,” she said. “We all love our Panthers, Hornets, Checkers, Knights, Niners, and Golden Bulls, but when it comes to art, I would love to see people really digging the local art scene – art made by our people.”
We really appreciate people like Arlethia lending their voice and resources to the city of Charlotte. Her efforts definitely do not go unnoticed. If you have any questions regarding how to get better connected to the Charlotte art scene, you can reach Arlethia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-973-2848. Thank you again, Arlethia, for all you do for the city of Charlotte!