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  • Helms Jarrell

Charlotte Invest in Creatives Grant


I didn't realize how many financial and art related losses I have had this year until I was asked to fill out the Charlotte Invest in Creatives grant. A few weeks ago, I did begin to notice a few losses and so I sent out a note to a few colleagues asking for any connections to contract work. The note read:

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you are doing well.  I am reaching out to you to ask for connection to potential part time contract work in the areas of artist, facilitator, or cultural organizing.  

Here's the background:  For the past several years, I have worked on a contract basis as a mentor and  workshop facilitator with a nonprofit that incubates social entrepreneurs in their beginning stages.  Serving  in this role has helped to financially supplement my work as an artist, cultural organizer, and director of QC Family Tree.  Recently, I have come to learn that my contract has been cut short and will not be renewed due to lack of the nonprofit's capacity.  I am leaving my role at the nonprofit on good terms and with gratitude for the time I had with them.

Now, I am looking to find other contract work so that I might continue to supplement my income as I continue to serve QC Family Tree and practice as an artist.

I think, because you know me, you know what my gifts and strengths are.  If you come across part time contract work that seems like a good fit for me, please send it on. 

Unfortunately and also fortunately, to add a little complication to the mix, I am taking a sabbatical in January and February, so my time will be limited during those months.

I'm really grateful to you and appreciate your time and consideration.  Thank you for any and all connections you can help me to make.


Once I started to fill out the Invest in Creatives grant, I begin to realize just how much the Corona year has effected my art practice.


Invest in Creatives question #1: Describe your creative practice or area of arts-based work? How do you contribute to Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Creative Economy?



Here's my answer: I am an interdisciplinary social practice artist, cultural organizer, and mixed media artist. My primary art practice centers around neighborhood based cultural organizing as Director of QC Family Tree. Cultural organizing is an artistic and community engaged discipline that blends practices of faith, culture, art, and community organizing. My work intentionally integrates arts and culture into organizing strategies to build people power and make social change. Using the language of culture- art, story, ritual, celebration- I aim to cultivate folks’ sense of belonging, connection, and interdependence. This is long term, rooted, work that involves strategy. Though integral to our work, I am not focused solely on creating opportunities for individuals to express themselves and learn. Collective aims- mutuality, community, shared, cooperative- are my focus.

My personal art practice, outside of organizational leadership, is emerging. It involves creating visual art pieces, social practice, and facilitating workshops around community issues such as housing justice, shedding light on racial and economic disparities, and asking questions of faith and spirituality as they relate to these issues.

I contribute to Charlotte Mecklenburg’s Creative Economy by drawing on local resources: stories, voices, perspectives, and art forms of our community. The process of creating together builds relationships and helps us to learn more about each other so that we can better organize, collaborate, and resource one another. I also actively connect artists, community members, and organizers. These connections cultivate a sense of gifts, imagination, possibility, and fulfillment. They also provide paid artistic opportunities to other Charlotte creatives.



Invest in Creatives Question #2: Briefly describe and quantify how your organization has experienced financial hardship because of the crisis caused by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, between March 1 and October 30, 2020. Impact may include loss of revenues; losses incurred due to canceled arts and cultural programming; unanticipated expenses related to complying with governmental restrictions or evolving your programming; ongoing payment obligations such as payroll, mortgage, rent, utilities (excluding Charlotte Water bill payments); or other business interruption costs. All hardship must be tied to a pandemic-related reason (i.e. mandated restrictions imposed by the state or local government, cancellations, closures, etc.) 500 word limit Here's my answer: In January 2020, I completed a 6 week Charlotte Resident Residency at the McColl Center. After the show at the McColl Center, I had scheduled for my art pieces to be displayed in several public art spaces in Charlotte. The pieces made it to their first location just in time for the buildings to close due to government mandates related to COVID19. I was unable to show the pieces in the other locations. I submitted two pieces to the Mint Hill Arts Showcase, but due to safety concerns, the show was not broadly publicized or attended. Janelle Dunlap curated the H2O show at Alchemy and asked me to participate in April. Though the dates were moved back several weeks to June, we were able to install the pieces at Alchemy and open the show. The show had a limited number of participants, due to government mandates. We had planned on hosting an in person performance centered around the piece that I made for H2O, but due to safety concerns, we were unable to host the performance. The lack of exposure and networking opportunities I experienced equals an estimated $5,000 loss. When we had to make quick pivots in order to support the education of my children, my time as an artist was greatly reduced. My work hours as an artist were reduced by 8 hours a week. Additionally, my art studio was transformed into a pod-school to support neighborhood children in their school work. My ability to make art was greatly reduced at this time. The loss of studio space and practice hours equals an estimated loss of $5,500. I am an Executive Committee member of Alternate ROOTS which supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. Alternate ROOTS is a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere. As an ExComm member, I was financially sponsored and scheduled to travel three times to attend continuing education, enrichment, and networking events in Washington DC, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Due to safety concerns and government mandates, all three continuing ed events were cancelled. The loss of enrichment and continuing ed travel equals an estimated loss of $3000. In order to financially supplement and support my work as a creative, I have served on a part time basis as a contract worker for an organization that supports start up entrepreneurs. Due to lack of capacity from the effects of COVID, my contract with the organization ended two months early. Additionally, the travel pay promised to me for three trainings was not paid. Instead, the organization transitioned to online trainings without the increased travel pay. Additionally, the organization promised a minimum of 8 hours per week but was unable to provide work demands to fit the amount of minimum hours. The loss of the supplemental income equals an estimated loss of $6000.



It was helpful to think through these questions. Now onto finding new pathways to grow my practice even in the midst of these unusual times and also as I approach Sabbatical.






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