Many people only connect the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture to its tall upscale building uptown, its home for the past eight years. But the museum goes back to 1974, well before it was named for Gantt, a former Charlotte mayor and longtime community leader.
For 25 years, the museum was located in the basement of the old Little Rock AME Zion Church. As the museum's home has evolved, so has its mission, says CEO David Taylor.
Listen to an interview with Taylor by WFAE’s Gwendolyn Glenn, about the museum's past and its plans for the future. A few highlights are below.
ON THE MUSEUM’S COMMUNITY ROLE
“Our role is to have staying power,” Taylor says. “As the social unrest happened (in Charlotte) last year, we did not want to be a knee-jerk reaction to something as important as the issues that people were rising up against. So we think it’s important that we become more active in that area about providing solutions and highlighting issues (in our exhibitions). But be prepared to do it for the long term. … This is a long-haul ride.”
ON PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
The Gantt has raised about $6.2 million toward a goal of $10 million, money that will build its endowment. Interest would give the museum an estimated $500,000 more every year to expand programs and exhibits, as well as outreach.
Taylor says: “We want to continue to do world class exhibitions. We’ve built a national reputation around our exhibitions. By being able to have predictable income stream allows us to identify things two, three, four years in advance of being able to have confidence that we can secure those things without saying we’d love to have it but we don’t have the resources to book it at the time.”
The museum currently has just under 1,000 members. It wants to grow that number. “Through membership you create advocacy,” Taylor says. “And the advocacy of members is extremely important to our cultural institutions such as the Gantt Center.
About 45,000 people a year visit the museum. “A little over 20 percent of our visitorship is not African American. We want to grow that. So it’s about marketing, and it’s about reaching out to those audiences and inviting them in.”
Museum website, GanttCenter.org