CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Over the years funding for the arts has seemed to unfortunately get cut out of schools and communities across the country.
Back in 2019, voters in Mecklenburg County voted down a sales tax that would have brought in millions of dollars to the county's art sector.
Watching this happen and knowing the value of art has been disheartening for Michelle “Bunny” Gregory.
Art has been infused in Gregory since she was a kid.
“I would redo the furniture and just whatever,” she said.
Gregory grew up on Charlotte’s west side, and while she loved art, she admits she stuck out from the rest.
“I was the weird kid,” she said. “Even my friends and family, that’s how they referred to me as, 'Oh she’s so weird or she’s just different.'”
She didn’t want other Black and brown kids who enjoyed art to feel that way, so 12 years ago she created The Underground.
The Underground works to support young Black artists along with bringing art and music programming to underserved communities in Charlotte.
“I have found after starting The Underground that there is a crazy amount of Black and brown kids who want to do to this,” Gregory said. “ They don’t know where to go. It’s not in our community.”
So Gregory took things one step further and recently purchased a bus.
“The plan is to create a mobile art and music studio,” she said.
She spent three years raising money to make this dream a reality, and soon it will become a space for kids to explore their artistic talents.
“The kids that we want to target, they can’t get to it,” Gregory said. “ They can’t come to the camps, they can’t afford the camps. They can’t come out to different venues and a lot of these kids have parents that work all day.”
That’s why this mobile art studio is so important to her.
This dream has been years in the making, but spreading art to those who might not otherwise receive it makes everything worth it for Gregory.
“Three years raising money I was like, 'Ah, maybe I should give up,'” she said. “There was a lot of times I was like, 'I don’t know, is it worth it?' It’s so worth it.”
Gregory plans to have the bus finished and out on the road by this summer.
She’s still raising money to finish funding her mobile art studio. You can click here to learn more about the mobile art studio or make a donation.