Stories in Charlotte Observer

He wrote his first love song in third grade. Now 25, he’s teaching others to love singing.

Vocal performer Jonathan “Jay” Smith wrote his first song, “Only Once,” when he was in the third grade. It was heavily influenced by singer-songwriter Ray J’s “One Wish.”

PHOTO: Daniel Coston

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Charlotte Ballet returns to the stage amid COVID with a twist on a popular program

When the coronavirus pandemic threatened to cancel Charlotte Ballet’s annual Innovative Works program, artistic director Hope Muir came up with a new concept that highlights in-house talent.

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Spoken word artist creates poetry by drawing from pain — to help others cope with theirs

Spoken word artist Jah Smalls texted poems to his teenage daughter to help her cope with depression last year. Smalls had experienced depression just months before and a poem he wrote changed his outlook, he said. PHOTO: Tyrone Combs

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Charlotte artists aim to break boundaries in new nontraditional gallery exhibit

More than two years ago, Charlotte artist Kyle Mosher gave a lecture about fine art and commercial art at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art. He explained how traditional exhibits limited the viewers’ experience. PHOTO: Christian Duprez

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Women in recovery find creativity and healing in a Charlotte author’s class

Dove’s Nest resident Sabrina Jones wrote “live by faith not by fear” in response to her teacher’s writing prompt. Dove’s Nest is part of Charlotte Rescue Mission, a nonprofit organization for addiction recovery.

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Empty Stocking Fund Series

She helps fill a big need for volunteers at holiday gift program that once helped her

Patricia Williams knows what it’s like to ask for assistance during the holidays. When her daughter was in elementary school more than 25 years ago, Williams applied for The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte’s angel tree program. Her daughter received toys, shoes and an Easy-Bake Oven courtesy of the program.

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Christmas program helps reduce holiday stress for grandmom helping raise 3 grandsons

Brenda Struble credits her western New York upbringing for her love of Christmas. “Every time one of us kids were born, (our parents) planted a Colorado Blue Spruce,” said Struble, 57. “We had seven big Blue Spruces and dad always put blue lights on them. We always had more than we needed when we were kids, but we just didn’t realize it.”

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‘Blessing’ of a program helps mom struggling with bills get kids Christmas presents

Iyashia Davis makes Christmas feel special with family traditions. The single mom and her children bake sugar cookies for Santa, open a gift at midnight and watch movies on Christmas day. Davis serves candied yams, collard greens, ham, macaroni and cheese, potato salad and dressing with gravy.

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CMS math teacher praises angel tree program helping her daughter at Christmas

Siddiqah Cooper didn’t have to rush out on Christmas morning to head to her retail job this year. That’s because she started work as a middle school math teacher at Renaissance West STEAM Academy in August.

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Pregnant mom grateful for help again from Salvation Army’s Christmas program

Guadalupe Ortiz remembers how she felt when her nearly 2-year-old son received diapers, shoes and a Radio Flyer tricycle on Christmas Day last year.

PHOTO: The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte

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‘The Saxman’ who plays on uptown street corners channels his setbacks into his music

Will “Saxman” Smith wears a three-piece black suit with a bright white button-down shirt, red leather Stacy Adams shoes and two earrings, each in the shape of a phoenix. 

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Dr. Ray Feaster helped to convert the Michael Jordan Clinic to a COVID testing site

Dr. Ray Feaster starts Monday mornings with a staff huddle at the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic, a COVID-19 testing site in West Charlotte. Most days, patients are already waiting to be seen.

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The Charlotte Art League wants to be more inclusive. Its new director will lead the way.

On June 1, Jim Dukes became the second executive director of Charlotte Art League. His goal: to make CAL into one of the most diverse and engaged creative studio spaces in Charlotte. PHOTO CREDIT: Chandler Snipe

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These uptown museums welcome your crying babies and fussy toddlers. For free.

Moms and dads hesitate before bringing little ones to a museum. Photo: TYRUS ORTEGA GAINES 2017, Gantt Center

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‘City within a city’

Learning about our city’s history doesn’t have to be boring. Visitors to Levine Museum of the New South can uncover Charlotte’s past and current issues through interactive discussions with authors, augmented reality apps, artifacts and photographs.

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This ASU professor combines technology and design to create 3D works of art

Richard Elaver’s interest in design started in his twenties while following the Grateful Dead in the mid-1990s. 

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The latest Mint Museum show pairs old and new to showcase ‘Classic Black’ sculptures

During his first year as curator of decorative arts at The Mint Museum, Brian Gallagher stumbled upon a couple of items while searching the museum’s storage area...

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At age 26, this Charlotte artist is trying to set herself up for long-term success

Katherine Boxall isn’t waiting for someone to tell her she’s an artist. Outside validation doesn’t fuel her practice, and she’s not interested in fitting into other people’s definition of art.

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This program uses art to inspire teens to stay in school, graduate – and chase dreams

Shelley Reed-Wallace found the Arts & Science Council’s Studio 345 when she realized her daughter, Savaan Wallace, needed a place to connect with other art-minded teens.

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A new Mint exhibit uses light and technology to explore links between man and nature

Art and tech collide in the latest exhibit at the Mint Museum Uptown and it may change your mind about experimental art.

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A banker turned his passion for Latin American art into an NC ‘cultural institution’

LaCa Projects owner Walter Dolhare still has the Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miró posters he purchased for $8 each in 1986.

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This Charlotte artist is about to head to the Arctic. ‘My life is going to be changed’

For almost a month now Charlotte artist Ruth Ava Lyons has been taking cold showers to prepare for her trip to the Arctic.

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KNOW: At reopening Mint, ‘I like to call myself a “type A” artist’


Is there a specific career moment that makes you proud? I recall creating my first site-based work, when I was about 20. I was very shy about sharing my work and almost didn’t go through with it but entered the piece in an all-student show.

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She’s used a special tool for decades to lift her students: It’s a farm.


The sound of the brass meditation singing bowl is the signal for 18 students and five staffers to gather for meditation at the morning’s writing circle at Airy Knoll Farm Art Class.

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What’s improv comedy doing in Charlotte? We test-drive five troupes: Take a look

Senior Architect

If you haven’t dug into Charlotte’s improv comedy scene yet, now’s a great time to do it.

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