Every month, and even more often on our website, we try our best to help you get the most out of living here by displaying the elements that make up Charlotte. This issue is a good example.
Associate editor Sarah Crosland spent a school year keeping up with Stephanie Pickering, a star corps member for Teach for America. Pickering teaches at Garinger High School, which was troubled by several violent incidents this year. Sarah’s story, “Great Expectations,” which starts on page 70, offers a revealing glimpse inside one of the city’s toughest high schools and the sometimes-controversial Teach for America program. This is the first of a three-part series in which we’ll go deep inside our public schools.
Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman, a freelance journalist, spent months learning the history of the Catawba Lands Conservancy, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, so she could write the story that starts on page 62. “This Land” not only profiles a little-known nonprofit that is doing what it can to preserve our rapidly disappearing greenspace, it explains what land conservation means to a fast-growing city like Charlotte.
There’s also our drool-worthy cover package on Southern food (page 52), a look at the food truck trend (page 94), and a story about a group of young freelancers aiming to create a hub for independent media during the Democratic National Convention (page 20).
And I had a lot of fun researching and reporting a piece that tells the interwoven story behind the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the immediately iconic Firebird sculpture in front of it, and Cascade, another major piece of public art just down the street (page 44). Here’s one thing I learned that didn’t make it into the story:
There has been some pontificating on the subject of Niki de Saint Phalle’s Firebird and its popularity in Charlotte. The myth of the firebird comes up a lot. The idea of the phoenix, reinventing itself out of its own ashes, seems uncannily appropriate for a city that found itself looking for a new identity after the banking crash of 2008.
But that may not be the right myth. As I explain in the story, Niki (as she was called) made the first Firebird (there was more than one version over the years) to represent a work by the composer Igor Stravinsky. His ballet of the same name was about the Russian fable of the firebird. In that myth, the firebird was the subject of a quest, often launched when a child found a single shiny feather. Eventually, the firebird becomes both blessing and curse—the same concept as the ring in Lord of the Rings. It’s a myth that deals in shades of gray, where things are not always as they seem. Your protector can become your antagonist, and then back again. Today, we smile at Niki’s Firebird, pose with it for pictures. It is our friend. But will it always be this way?
We’ll be watching this story.