Three Questions is a new Next Stage series. Over the coming months, we will feature social good leaders from across the region who are partnering in new and innovative ways to create big community change.

What do you most wish our community knew about those who Charlotte Is Creative serves?

While it’s well understood that creatives are vital to creative our city’s reputation, image and quality of life, they are also an integral and thriving part of our economy. Every gig economy creative, whether full or part-time, is a small business. A creative endeavor is a way to build a sustainable career and employ others. And, all of it contributes to the national conversation that Charlotte is a place with deep reserves of innovation, where people have the talent, energy and will to bring ideas into reality. The spark that started today’s large corporations is the same spark that a creative brings to their work — the desire to bring an incredible idea into reality. That energy feeds itself and incites others to follow suit. Our established business community benefits from the daring and drive of our creative community. And, our creative community benefits from collaboration and support from the greater business community, not to mention their wisdom.

We want everyone to recognize that all people have a creative spark. Creativity isn’t limited to the traditional arts like music, dance, visual arts and theater. It encompases coding and digital design, community engagement work, copywriting, architecture, DJing, event planning, photography, fiber arts and much more.

In a world where we are looking for points of intersection and places we can all come together, that creative spark … and the expression of it … is a place where we all belong and can see each other.

What opportunities exist for individuals to get involved with Charlotte Is Creative?

We are constantly finding and developing ways to get to know and promote our creative community – from writing about them in our publications to introducing them to opportunities for paid work. We are always on the hunt for people who can provide free business training and counsel for creatives working to expand their skills — everything from bookkeeping to marketing to soft skills. We have opportunities for people to help us evaluate applicants to our micro-grant programs, lend a hand on our in-person events or work with us as correspondents on creative events and endeavors throughout the city. The simplest way is to donate to our HUG (Helpful Unfettered Gift) micro-grant program in any amount. We give out 4-6 $250 micro-grants every month. That simple idea has expanded into resource-based HUGs, space-based HUGs and more.

How did participating in the CULTIVATE program most impact Charlotte Is Creative?

CULTIVATE was invaluable to our success, teaching us the merits and impact of mission-based employee engagement work within companies. This has opened the doors so many times to bring in necessary funds, but also to show large and small corporations why empowering creatives is so important to their success and their employees’ happiness and satisfaction in Charlotte. Our work within CULTIVATE showed us how to make our very intangible mission real for the community at large and business leaders. That, in turn, led us to embrace a model of earned revenue that results in our work being perceived as a win-win and not as a donation to charity. That simple concept has fueled our work to help community and business leaders understand that the arts and creativity are another powerful facet of our economic strength in Charlotte — one that powers careers, brings us together and contributes mightily to our quality of life.