Lucy Martin discovered Clayworks at her local library and a new hobby — working with clay. Matthew Charity found a passion for drumming at a Drums 4 Life event at Albemarle Road Rec Center. Culture Blocks partners with local arts organizations to provide free workshops and other events at neighborhood venues.

Matthew Charity, 67, is hooked on Drums 4 Life. “Everywhere they go, I go.”

Charity attended his first drum circle about a year and a half ago at the Albemarle Road Recreation Center and attends every Saturday unless he’s out of town or has a prior commitment, he said. He’s traveled to drumming events in parks and at libraries in other parts of town.

Drums 4 Life is one of many local arts organizations that partner with ASC’s Culture Blocks program to provide free arts and cultural events at libraries, parks, recreation centers, and other relevant community spaces in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by reducing transportation and parking barriers.

Charity recalls receiving an email about the drum circle event and thought it would be a fun outing for his grandsons, 11 and 5, who stay over on the weekends. “We stuck our heads in the door,” said Charity, and he was hooked. “Now I drum every chance I get.”  He purchased his own drum after a few months of attending classes.

A veteran, Charity says he suffers from post-traumatic stress, and drumming has helped him stay off medication. Drumming is “soothing and healing to me. There’s something about the energy — it’s hard to be preoccupied with anything else,” he said.

A family affair

Lucy Martin attends free Clayworks classes at her local library. (Photo courtesy of Martin)

Lucy Martin also discovered a new passion about a year ago when she dropped by her local library. Hickory Grove Librarian Letitia Cunningham-Jordan told her about Clayworks classes for seniors on Thursdays.

“I took advantage of the experience and loved it,” said Martin, who finds working with clay “calming.”

Martin, 62, tries to attend every session and has made it a family hobby, attending weekend sessions with her son, daughter and 3 grandchildren — Jaylen, 9; Janiya, 6; and Isaiah, 5.  “We just make it a family affair and enjoy fellowshipping and making stuff.”

Working with Clayworks instructors Martin describes as patient and helpful, they craft vases, animal masks and other pieces that are taken back to Clayworks to be glazed and fired. Seeing the finished products creates a sense of wonder and pride.

“I put my whole spirit into the feel of the clay,” Martin said.

Her family are regulars at Hickory Grove library and having arts programming so close to home makes it easier for them to take advantage of classes and other Culture Blocks events. The family also participated in a community-arts project based on the history of Charlotte that was displayed in the library, and, inspired by a visit from Charlotte Ballet, Martin’s granddaughter is now taking dance classes.

Spreading the word

Charity and Martin value the experiences they’ve cultivated through Culture Blocks programs and they spread the word.

Martin says she regularly updates teachers at Janiya’s school, KIPP Change Academy, where she volunteers, about events at Hickory Grove library, and on a recent trip to University City library, she touted the Clayworks classes to the staff there.

Charity tries to recruit family and friends to come to Drum 4 Life sessions, telling them “there are some benefits to this.” He’s convinced that if they just stick their heads in the door, they’ll be hooked, too.

Join the Circle

Matthew Charity and grandson, Carter, at a drum circle event.

An African Drum Circle is a group of people experiencing the spontaneous creation of music on a variety of drums and percussion instruments. Because a circle has no beginning and no end, the agreement to connect in a circle allows energy to circulate from one person to the next. No prior experience or instruments are necessary; Drums 4 Life will provide instructions and instruments.

When: Usually Saturdays from 11 a.m –1 p.m. Check the Culture Blocks calendar for sessions in your area.
Current venues: Beatties Ford Road Regional Library, Sugar Creek Library, Albemarle Road Recreation Center, West Boulevard Library.

Enjoy some Muddy Fun

Clayworks artists teach different clay techniques to create your own pottery that will last a lifetime. Each workshop is a different project, so you can come back again and again. Projects range from pitchers to mugs to wall hangings. Classes are free but you must pre-register by calling 980-314-1114. Space is limited; reserve your spot today.

Muddy Fun Saturdays at Clayworks. (Culture Blocks photo)

When: Various workshops for adults, seniors, youth/teens, and families are held on weekdays and Saturdays. Check the Culture Blocks calendar for sessions in your area.
Current venues: West Charlotte Recreation Center,  Independence Regional Library, Wallace Pruitt Recreation Center, Hickory Grove Library, Grier Heights Community Center, Southview Recreation Center, Scaleybark Library, Mallard Creek Recreation Center.

See what’s happening in your neighborhood

There are nine geographical pockets of the county where Culture Blocks programming takes place — North, East, Northwest and Southwest Charlotte, Mallard Creek/University City North, Pineville, Steele Creek, Mint Hill, and the West Boulevard Corridor. Activities include live music, songwriting, dance, theater productions, visual arts workshops,  science-based projects such as soap-making, and more.

Check out the FULL calendar of Culture Blocks events around Mecklenburg County. Some activities have limited space and may require pre-registration.

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