Kids find their inner artists uptown

Three-year-old Rebecca Catlow searched for dogs in paintings at the Mint Museum Uptown, petted the tail of a cat sculpture at The Green and drew a picture to take home as a souvenir. She was among hundreds of kids and parents exploring uptown Charlotte's "cultural mile" Saturday at Family Fun and Education Day, hosted by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the Arts & Science Council.

Visitors got free or reduced admission to venues including the Mint, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and the Levine Museum of the New South.

They also attended performances, exhibits or hands-on workshops at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, N.C. Dance Theatre and other locations mostly along Tryon Street.

"The goal is to help introduce families to the arts and ... arts education," said Jerri Haigler, executive director of CMS's Parent University. "They may not know all that's available uptown." Wassa Catlow, 36, a New York transplant who studied art in college, appreciated the chance to show her daughter Charlotte's creative side.

"To think without boundaries, where there is no right or wrong answer," Catlow said. "To have an open mind. To know that everyone has a different interpretation of art. I want to instill that in her from a young age," Catlow said, watching her daughter touch colorful tiles on a Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture at The Green.

At the Mint Museum, Angie Campbell, 27, was happy to give her four children something educational to do that was more fun than watching TV.

Daughters Adallis, 6, and Ariel, 5, picked fabric tulips in the Mint's Family Gallery while son Elijah, 9, played with plastic pipes mounted on the wall.

"They're having a ball," Campbell said.

In the Mint's atrium, more than 60 fourth-graders from Huntersville Elementary sang John Lennon's "Imagine" while artist Jerrard Polk drew a caricature of a 5-year-old boy with strawberry blond hair.

Across the street at the Gantt Center, artist Nellie Ashford invited kids to paint themselves on a canvas sketched with Charlotte's skyline.

"Wherever you want to find your spot on here is perfectly fine," said Ashford, encouraging the young artists to find their place in the community.

That's what kids were doing all along Tryon Street Saturday - finding a place for fun in the city's arts and cultural landscape.