Arts+ Celebrates 50 Years With a New Look and a Long-Range Plan

Arts+, formally Community School of the Arts, believes in the transformative power of arts education. They have a long history of making high-quality arts education available to a diverse range of students in Mecklenburg County, serving 4,000 students annually, with more than 40 professional instructors. 

The organization celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, and as the anniversary approached, the board wanted to implement a strategic plan that would position them for ongoing leadership and success. They embarked on an ambitious planning effort that would reposition the organization to meet evolving community needs and provide access to the arts to children for years to come.

‘Arts for All’ – But How and Where?

A number of challenges were identified throughout the strategic planning process, including questions about organizational identity and values, as well as logistical questions about facilities and outreach.

Arts+ had existed as Community School of the Arts in the Charlotte area for 50 years. While the brand had strong community recognition, it had not evolved to appeal to a wider millennial market. Additionally, community level conversations around access to social capital reinforced the organization’s mission to ensure they were continuing to offer ‘arts for all,’ and to reinforce that programming could be offered to children across Mecklenburg County, regardless of socioeconomic status.

At the same time, the demolition of Spirit Square presented logistical challenges. The organization had to decide where to place facilities, whether to lease or buy and how to ensure that locations continue to be accessible for families.

Next Stage helped the organization launch a full-scale strategic planning effort designed to map a future for the organization’s next 50 years. The effort included a series of whiteboard intensives, a wide range of stakeholder interviews, research and a market assessment.


A Brand New Look, Accessible Throughout the City

Based on this data, Next Stage made several key recommendations, including renaming and rebranding the organization. This led to a full brand transformation, that took the look and feel from ‘traditional’ and ‘dated’ to ‘modern, savvy and progressive.’ The new brand was designed to provide a more accessible feel, appealing particularly to modern families and millennial parents.

Where and how to structure Arts+ facilities was the effort’s most pressing question. All options were on the table, including leasing or buying permanent space. Ultimately, the committee decided a strong, street-level headquarters facility was needed, with smaller locations throughout the city to provide easy access for families. This would ensure that access would be available throughout the city while also increasing visibility through a highly-visible headquarters facility.


A Vision for the Next 50 Years

As a result of this planning effort the organization set a vision of being a nationally-recognized arts education institution advancing learning of how to meet the needs of a successive generations of adults and children. The implementation included the launch of a capital campaign to help Arts+ find a street-level headquarters that will anchor their next 50 years, offering high-quality, accessible arts programming for generations of children to come.