'Dream role' for new museum CEO
Plus: Developers outline apartment and townhome plans in August rezonings; Taking your questions for CMS candidates; Upcoming events; New contract for CATS bus drivers; Human/puppet 'birds' arrive
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Q&A: Terri White steps into the role of president and CEO of the Charlotte Museum of History to ‘tell the complete story’ of Charlotte
One of the upcoming projects for new Charlotte Museum of History president and CEO Terri White is the relocation of the Siloam School, a Rosenwald school built in 1924, to the museum’s campus on Shamrock Drive in east Charlotte. The school is pictured behind her.
By Lindsey Banks
Terri White spent her childhood dreaming of working in a museum as an adult. Two months ago, she became the president and CEO of the Charlotte Museum of History.
White has been working in the museum industry for over a decade, but her passion for museums started while attending museums as a child in her hometown of Pittsburgh. Since learning back then that she could make a career of working in museums, she hasn’t looked back.
White, 39, earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and launched her museum career at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., as a project coordinator in the Office of Sponsored Projects. She then returned to Pittsburgh to work at the Heinz History Center before transitioning to a fundraising executive role at Carnegie Science Center, also in Pittsburgh.
After hitting a glass ceiling with museums, White said, she started an MBA program at the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business. She earned her master’s degree and moved to Charlotte in 2019 for a corporate position at Lowe’s, taking a short pause from museums to work in a more lucrative role, she said.
On July 4, White started her new role at the Charlotte Museum of History and got right to work on her goal to redefine the area’s history through new exhibits and events about untold stories of Charlotte’s past — and present — residents. She’s also working toward a doctorate degree in business administration at UNC Charlotte, researching the economic impact of diversity on corporations to apply to her new position.
The Ledger sat down with White at the museum’s home on Shamrock Drive in east Charlotte to learn more about her goals, what museum visitors can expect in the near future (a potential Carolina Panthers exhibit, for example), and what parts of Charlotte’s history she admires most. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Q. You’ve been in this position for over two months now. How’s it going?
When people say they work their dream job, and that if you’re working something that you love, it doesn’t feel like work — that sounds so corny until you’re actually in that position. It’s exciting every day to wake up and say I have to hurry up and get there because I’m ready to get started. I had no idea so many people would care what I think. It has really been awesome. I end each day exhausted, but I come in each day energized and I hope that people can feel that I put that energy into the organization as well because my team has that energy, so we kind of feed off of each other, and we’re all just really excited to get the work done.
Q. What are your goals for the museum?
I want us to be the people’s museum for this region. We aren’t in the main corridor; if you’re coming here, you want to be here, and when people come, I want them to have felt that that journey was worth it. We have this eight-acre campus with all of this nature and historic things, but even within that, I want to take it a step further and make sure that we’re telling complete, inclusive stories. I don’t think we do a bad job of that currently, but there’s always more that can be done.
We live in a very Hispanic and Latinx-centered community, and we don’t really have anything that speaks to that community’s stories in this region, so I’d love to connect with them and authentically bring their history to the public. Same with the Asian and Asian American community in the area. I want to expand our African American programming, but also programming around accessibility — people who are on the neurodiversity spectrum, people with vision loss, hearing loss, that English isn’t their first language.
I want us to make sure that we’re telling the complete story, things that happened before and things that have happened long since, and one way that I think that we’re doing that is showing that history isn’t just something that happened 200 years ago. It’s happening every day, and a lot of it we take for granted. Our signs exhibit [the museum currently has an exhibit called “Charlotte: Signs of Home”] shows signs from local businesses that have impacted the area and the history and the culture of Charlotte. Things that you don’t think of as being historic really are, so getting people to rethink what a history museum is, and then, I think if you get them in the door on those sorts of stories, you can expose them to the more traditional classical history education available.
Q. What’s on the horizon for the museum? Are there any exhibitions or events coming up to fulfill these goals?
I would say as far as immediate things coming up is the Mad About Modern home tour (on Sept. 24). We’re the only organization that brings you beyond the museum campus and into Charlotte to show how there are homes and other buildings that are in this very specific architectural style and talk about the importance of conservation and preservation of structures.
We also have the history of Charlotte Pride exhibit that will be coming in early 2023. It will look at how the LGBTQ community has been a part of the Charlotte area for generations, how they have fought for their rights, how they’ve impacted, again, the things that we take for granted in the city, and what that community looks like today.
We are relocating and restoring the Siloam School, which was a Rosenwald school that was finished around 1924, and it was an African American schoolhouse back when schools were segregated. It is a part of a larger program of Rosenwald schools that was a partnership between Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington. They built around 5,000 Black schoolhouses primarily in the Southeast. Just a small percentage of those are still standing today, and we are bringing one that was in danger of being demolished.
If you see where it’s at in its natural place, it’s this dilapidated building surrounded by new construction, so it’s obviously not going to survive there much longer. We are just about finished fundraising to relocate it and it will live here on our site, and then restore it where it will also be an exhibit and education space. It will be on-site once we finish fundraising and the city clears us to move it.
Q. Where does the museum’s funding come from?
Revenues from admission and the gift shop are decent but they do not fund the museum entirely. We do have a very small endowment that we are looking to expand upon with a capital campaign at some point. But we get the majority of our money from grants and donations from people. Within Charlotte, we’ve sort of historically not gotten the same level of grants as other institutions for a variety of reasons, but it's a new day, a new sheriff’s in town. But those grants and sponsorships and individual donations are what keep us afloat.
Q. What part of Charlotte's history do you think people don't know about but should know about and need to know about?
I would say that's a two-part answer. First, because Charlotte is such a transient city, and so many people — including myself — who are not from here have moved here, I think the basic story of communities that have been displaced [in order to build] a lot of the amenities that make Charlotte the city that it is today. It’s not to make people feel guilty for moving here, but just a reminder that there are still people and businesses and histories and stories that our lives are being built on top of, and we need to pay respect to them.
Telling the story of native cultures, Hispanic, Latinx communities, and especially the Asian and Asian American history in the Carolinas, even doing a Google search, I struggled to find solid journals or stories. They didn’t just move here 10 years ago. These have been people that have contributed to the region for generations, so finding a way to connect with those communities and letting them know that “Hey, we know you’re not new. We know you’ve been a part of this city for a while. What should people know from your perspective about how your culture exists and thrives within the region?”
Q. What is your favorite exhibit at the Charlotte Museum of History?
I love the signs exhibit because I think it’s a great entryway for people to understand what a history museum can be. We’re fighting against generations of an industry that has not been inclusive and not been innovative in how they tell stories. And I think that that is an example of where we're headed.
As for the future, I’ve been talking about this exhibit but it’s not official yet. The Carolina Panthers are having their 30th anniversary in 2025. I want an exhibit that speaks to their history and their impact on the region. Now, again, I’m from Pittsburgh. I can tell you firsthand how much the Steelers have affected the culture in Pittsburgh. If you’re not a Steelers fan in Pittsburgh, I really don’t know how you survive, because it’s just a natural part of life there. The same thing has happened here. What has that impact been? What does it mean to be a Panthers fan?
They’re not answering my calls yet.
Q. What is one museum outside of Charlotte that should be on everybody’s bucket list?
I’m a big fan of quirky museums. With that said, probably the most accessible and engaging museum if you're new to touring museums, would be the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. It's a museum that focuses on music, science fiction and fantasy. When I went, they had a Nirvana exhibit and an exhibit about Jimi Hendrix. They had women of Rock and Roll. There was a Doctor Who exhibit and a whole Star Trek Enterprise thing going on and how the uniforms have changed over time.
Lindsey Banks is a staff writer for The Ledger: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The birdmen of Ballantyne
A big crowd showed up Friday for the opening night of the Charlotte International Arts Festival, at Ballantyne’s Backyard. It included roving human/puppet-like “birds,” inflatable art and aerialists. The festival runs through Oct. 2 at various spots around Charlotte. The “Birdmen” exhibit is scheduled to return to Ballantyne Sept. 21-25 and Sept. 28.
August hot rezonings 🔥: Apartments, townhouses envisioned all over town
There were plans a-plenty filed by developers with the city in August, with details of new projects in the works.
It’s no secret that Charlotte’s growth and development is a huge story — one that shapes how all of us live.
Because it’s so important, The Ledger covers that story in a variety of ways, from gleaning insights from developers about upcoming plans to examining new city regulations to talking with neighborhoods about their concerns.
One other way: by sharing, every month, the nitty-gritty details of rezoning requests. They provide an early glimpse of developers’ plans across the city.
Last month, for instance, those rezoning requests showed plans for:
Apartments on Weddington Road in south Charlotte, near Matthews and the Union County line
Townhouses in the Palisades area, near McDowell Nature Preserve
170 townhouses in Steele Creek, near the planned new YMCA
The revival of plans for a tapas and martini bar in the Enderly Park neighborhood
Do all of these developments interest you? Yeah, OK, probably not. But if you happen to live by any of the 20 spots subject to rezoning petitions, you might care intensely.
Members only: Our monthly list of rezoning petitions is available exclusively to The Ledger’s community of paying members.
You might be interested in these Charlotte events
Events submitted by readers to The Ledger’s new events board:
Sept. 29: Bundles & Bluegrass, 5-7:30 p.m., The Mint Museum. Join Baby Bundles for our annual fundraiser, Bundles & Bluegrass. In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, this year’s event will shift from a morning coffee to an evening event with a bluegrass band and live auction. Provides essential baby items to families in financial need. $100.
Oct. 13: Fall Works, 7:30 p.m., Knight Theater. Join Charlotte Ballet for the start of its 2022/2023 season for Fall Works. The night will feature three performances including Crystal Pite's “A Picture of You Falling,” Helen Pickett's “IN Cognito” and Christopher Stuart's “Under the Lights.”
Check out the full Ledger events board.
➡️ List your event on the Ledger events board.
👂What are your questions for Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board candidates?
With less than two months until voters make their picks for six open Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education seats, we’re curious to hear what education topics are on our readers’ minds.
What would you ask the candidates if you ran into them, say, at the local coffee shop or backyard barbecue?
Four incumbents — Rhonda Cheek (District 1), Thelma Byers-Bailey (District 2), Carol Sawyer (District 4) and Sean Strain (District 6) are running to keep their seats.
(Two current board members — Margaret Marshall of District 5 and Ruby Jones of District 3 — aren’t running for reelection and the board’s three at-large seats aren’t up in this election cycle.)
Email us your questions, and we’ll do our best to get as many as possible answered in a future newsletter.
New bus driver contract: The company that operates buses for the Charlotte Area Transit System has reached a tentative agreement with the bus drivers’ union, CATS CEO John Lewis said. It calls for wage increases and higher pay for working nights and weekends. (Axios Charlotte)
Scarowinds closes early after ‘unruly behavior’: Carowinds closed its seasonal Scarowinds event an hour early, at 11 p.m., on Saturday after what the park said was “unruly behavior by several groups of minors.” There were rumors of shots being fired that were apparently unfounded. (WSOC)
Rezoning votes planned: A couple of the more controversial rezoning petitions on the Charlotte City Council’s agenda tonight include plans for 260 apartments and a small office building on Colwick Road in Cotswold and plans for up to 77 townhomes by the AvidXchange Music Factory.
More food offerings from MrBeast: Famous North Carolina-based YouTuber MrBeast has a line of chocolates and cookies available at Walmart. It follows this month’s opening of his MrBeast Burger restaurant in New Jersey. (Fox 46)
Free tuition for App State posters: Three Appalachian State University students won free tuition for a year as a prize for having the best posters during ESPN’s “College GameDay” show shot Saturday in Boone. Two of the three winning posters referenced App State’s upset win last week at Texas A&M — a game for which Texas A&M had agreed to pay App State $1.5M to appear. (WBTV)
Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project