Windwalker Underground Gallery used to be the best-kept secret in Charlotte. To some residents within the city, it still may be. However, the secret is out among those in the Lansing region’s thriving arts community.
It’s hard not to know much about the local non-profit these days. Its weekly open mic nights have drawn hundreds to downtown Charlotte in the past two years. Its collaboration with local organizations earned the gallery the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Impact Award in 2017 and its board members are seemingly everywhere there is something cool taking place in Charlotte. The organization has established itself as a driving force in Charlotte’s revitalization efforts.
“You have something really special here in Windwalker,” said Debbie Mikula, director of the Greater Lansing Arts Council this past week at a CanDo! meeting on the arts. “It’s really pushing to be an anchor in your community.”
Amazingly, all of this is accomplished on a shoestring budget. Most of the organization’s revenue comes from private donations, and in fact, Windwalker offers many of its programs free of charge.
“Windwalker is going into our third operating year with no grant funding,” said Kalli Dempsey, Windwalker Board treasurer. “The community support of ticketed events, donations, art purchases, and workshop registrations helps us to keep doing what we do.”
Windwalker’s lone annual fundraising event takes place Saturday, April 7, from 5 to 10 p.m. and will showcase the artwork of Detroit artist Chazz Miller, who was connected to Windwalker in Charlotte through MiArtShare. The organization has partnered with Windwalker to showcase Michigan artists on a quarterly basis. In addition to the unveiling of an original Chazz Miller mural, the event will feature live music from Detroir R&B artist Kev E. Kev and a special appearance from Tia Imani Hanna.
“As Chazz and I have met, I feel a comradery connection with him, we have similar goals and I really like Chazz’ excitement for what we’re doing here,” Windwalker found Richard Turbin told MiArtShare last week. “A driving force in me wants the connection of what Chazz is doing in Detroit, at the level he’s working, for Charlotte. I want to impact my community with that energy and with an actual connection to Detroit’s creative world of visual artists and musicians. I want to co-mingle our like interests.”
By purchasing a ticket to the fundraiser, community members will help support the continued growth of the organization whose sole mission is to provide a venue for professional artists to live, create, perform, exhibit, and sell their work; to educate and mentor young artists; and to provide networking and collaboration opportunities for members of our community.
“Our board has big dreams for the future of Windwalker programming,” Dempsey said. “The first quarter of this year we have scheduled our youth music workshop that provides six weeks of free guitar lessons to teens, a songwriting workshop, kids hula hoop workshops, and paint parties. In addition to those programs, we have a weekly open mic, a monthly poetry night, and a weekly Saturday night concert/event series.”
In 2017 alone, Windwalker hosted 53 free community events, drawing 751 attendees and 185 performers. Twelve local students took part in free guitar lessons, and six students from Crosswalk Teen Center worked with Windwalker artists to paint a piano that was displayed in the community as part of the Keys in the City arts program.
“Windwalker attempts to set an example within the community on the importance of supporting local arts and culture for the overall health of our downtown,” Dempsey said. “Richard’s vision of creating a place for creative minds to gather and collaborate is the heart of Windwalker, and now we are able to watch his vision come to life. We welcome those who are drawn to the space with creative ideas, and are always looking to try new things.”
Tickets for the annual fundraiser are available online at brownpapertickets.com/event/3357064 or at the gallery, located at 125 S. Cochran Avenue in downtown Charlotte. For more information, including Windwalker’s annual report, visit windwalkerundergound.com.