ImaginOn is a gem in the heart of Charlotte when it comes to finding educational fun and free activities for your children all year.
by Karen Cimino
ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center, opened in 2005. It was the brainchild of Bob Cannon, the former Executive Director of the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, and Bruce LaRowe, Executive Director of Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. Both programs were so successful that they needed more space. They came up with the idea for a shared facility that has both a library and a theater combined in one building.
Charlotte’s Children’s Theatre was founded in 1948 and annually serves more than 320,000 young people from preschool age to their late teens with four programs that include MainStage productions, Tarradiddle Players, the Community Involvement Program and classes for the community and schools. Now many of those shows are produced at ImaginOn.
The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County was founded in 1903 as a Carnegie Free Library. It received the 2006 National Award for Museum and Library Service for its long-term commitment to public service. The Library sponsors a variety of programs including the award-winning Novello Festival of Reading, which brings authors to the area to discuss their books with local readers. This year the Novello Festival will be from Oct. 2-30.
ImaginOn has something for every age with programing for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and teenagers throughout the year.
Some examples include The Loft, an area of the library reserved exclusively for youth ages 12 to 18. Activities in The Loft include scavenger hunts, theater classes and Free Friday Flicks, a summer activity. Since its a public library, its FREE!
ImaginOn entertained my 7-year-old with an hour of storytelling on “The Death of King Arthur” while my 12-year-old stepdaughter enjoyed a class on making tasty treats. My 6-month-old loves to look up at the massive, three-story mobile and play with the touch screen computers. When a child touches the screen, he or she can color illustrations from some of their favorite stories such as Peter Pan. The computers also contain interactive games.
The Spangler Library portion of ImaginOn features story time for children from birth to age 5. Luke’s sister enjoyed dressing him up and checking out the giant book with pages that actually turn in that portion of ImaginOn. They also boarded a play trolley that children pretend to drive and ride.
ImaginOn also features an animation and movie-making station, which uses Macintosh software including iMovie, I Can Animate, and GarageBand3. Youth and teens can use the station to make videos and music tracks.
Getting There: ImaginOn’s location is an added bonus. ImaginOn is located next to the Charlotte BobCats Arena, sandwiched between 6th and 7th streets near the 7th Street Station parking deck. ImaginOn also has its own (FREE) parking underneath the facility. And for those who like to avoid driving in uptown Charlotte, there’s a light rail stop next to the ImaginOn entrance. A sculpture honoring the written word sits near the entrance and the light rail stop.
For more information about ImaginOn, visit www.imaginon.org/index.asp. Its Free Every Day- enter free parking on 6th Street.
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