Throughout the year, we are highlighting notable women in our community. We want to spotlight those who are shaping where we live and giving back to our neighborhood. Do you know someone you think we should feature? Let us know in the comments!


Creation, creativity, and connection are more important than ever with social distancing. In that spirit, our Notable Woman for this month, Alli Celebron-Brown of McColl Center for Art + Innovation, has fully embraced one of the McColl Center’s key principles, innovation, to find new ways to continue to support artists and bring art to the Queen City throughout a challenging 2020. 


Tell us a little bit about your background and path to McColl Center.

I had plans to be a professor in Portuguese literature, but started grad school and realized that wasn’t the path for me. I tried on a lot of hats and began volunteering at a museum in Baltimore. I’ve worked for a bunch of different organizations since then, but haven’t left the nonprofit sector.


McColl Center is much more than an art space. What makes McColl Center unique?

Definitely the artists. There is no other place in the region where you can connect with artists from around the corner to around the globe and learn from them. They share what they are making, experimenting with and researching while in residence. It’s a one-of-a-kind space where creativity thrives.

How many contemporary artists does McColl Center support through your residency program?

We’ve had almost 450 artists in our 21 years—from 36 states and 25 countries. The residencies usually last 3-4 months and we host a total of 12 artists each year.


A big part of what McColl Center does so well is creating experiences that connect artists with the community. How are you keeping that spirit alive and thriving during a time of social distancing?

We’re taking a page from artists and developing new approaches. Thanks to grant funding, we were able to launch virtual artist talks and youth workshops this summer. It’s humbling to see how many people are engaging with us digitally.


Celebrating your 20th anniversary last year was a big milestone. What’s next for McColl Center?

We are recommitting to putting artists first in everything we do. In 2021, you’ll hear about studios for local artists, an artist co-op and programs to provide the business tools artists need to be successful entrepreneurs. It’s a big shift for us, but we couldn’t be more excited about the future.


What is the best part of your job?

It’s exhilarating to meet and partner with local artists and creative workers. If people don’t take time to learn about and support Charlotte artists, they are definitely missing out. Let go of the intimidation factor—art is for and by people from all walks of life.


What are some of your favorite things to do outside of the office?

Pre-COVID, I went to a lot of live music and performing arts events. Regardless of what I do outside of work, my amazing husband and daughters are there. I work a lot and prioritize my “off hours” to be with them. They are my reason for being.

Any favorite Charlotte spots you can share?

I love my neighborhood and think it is important to support small businesses. I can’t get enough of Villani’s, Common Market, The Diamond, Moxie Mercantile…and I still miss Dairy Queen.


What is one piece of advice or lesson you have learned that you can share with other aspiring female leaders in our community?

Build a network of women mentors and lend your network to future leaders. My mentors are the most important group for me, professionally speaking. I wouldn’t be the leader I am without the benefit of their guidance and support along the way and I always look to find ways to pay it forward.


To learn more about McColl Center, visit their website or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.