Gastonia seeks arts residents to help drive economic development

Art can be more than just plays at Gastonia’s small theater or exhibits at the Schiele Museum, says Gastonia City Council member Jennifer Stepp, who believes cultivating space for cultivated things can also lead to economic development.

“There’s so much we could do and I want people to know that there’s a place for everyone in an art space,” said Stepp, who was re-elected to her second term in office. city ​​council in November.

Stepp will chair a citywide arts committee modeled on the one created in Charlotte and launched by her friend Julie Eiselt, that city’s interim mayor.

“I heard Julie do something similar and she shared some ideas on how to get started,” Stepp said. “The main goal is to make art more relevant in our community and more accessible.”

Stepp hopes the committee can increase public art, support nonprofit civic arts organizations in Gastonia, and provide educational opportunities for the community.

“We want to bring dollars to economic development through tourism with works of art like Charlotte’s Van Gogh exhibits,” Stepp said. “It would be nice to have art that would bring people downtown and into our restaurants.”

The committee will include seven council-appointed Gastonia residents, city advisory staff and two other city council members, Donyel Barber and Charles Odom.

There will be one resident from each ward named to the committee.

Stepp loves it murals in the city such as those found in Gaston County Administration offices and others in downtown Gastonia.

She would like to see a performing arts center built in the city with educational components including a dance studio, art exhibition space, pottery and painting rooms and a black box theatre.

“That’s where a lot of community and collaboration happens,” Stepp said. “While someone is waiting for their kids to complete an arts master class at the center, they can go downtown and grab a coffee or some food.”

Some of his other ideas include creating a green space with sculptures and using the Rotary Pavilion for performing arts like poetry readings, independent movie nights or Shakespeare in the Park.

Stepp’s mother inspired her love for art by bringing her to many symphonies, plays and letting her sing in church choirs at a young age.

She saw the same creativity flow into the hobbies and passions of her children.

“All of my kids are doing something creative, whether it’s dancing, acting, writing, or gymnastics,” Stepp said. “You never get bored at my place.”

Stepp hopes the city council will appoint the first members of the committee in February.

She says the committees will start brainstorming ideas, sharing their definitions of art, and planning projects for 2022. There are no specific requirements to join aside from being a resident of Gastonia, to have a passion for art in the city and apply. in line.

Stepp recommends submitting nominations by February for those interested in joining the committee.

Contact Janiya Winchester at 704-869-1842 or

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