Plans for ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center, began in 1997 when two colleagues had an idea.
Bob Cannon, the former Executive Director of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (then named Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County), and Bruce LaRowe, Executive Director of Children's Theatre of Charlotte each led organizations with great programs for young people. And those programs were growing...
Bob and Bruce collaborated on how they might work together to meet the expanding needs of both organizations. Together, they imagined a new and innovative space, a shared facility. But not just a combination library/theatre - they imagined a new type of facility, and an original approach to education, learning and the arts. The more they thought about the possibilities, the more they realized Charlotte Mecklenburg Library & Children's Theatre of Charlotte shared much more than a need for more space - they also shared a powerful mission: bringing stories to life.
What came next was a unique partnership that features two state-of-the-art theatre spaces, a dedicated library space for youth 11 and under, four multi-use classrooms, a teen-only library, a multimedia production studio and an interactive exhibit space. Together, under one roof, the Library's Executive Leadership, including Charles Brown, Vic Phillips, and now CEO Lee Keesler have worked together with Bruce and dozens of library and theatre staff members to ensure ImaginOn's success.
Since its opening in 2005, ImaginOn has received numerous accolades and awards from its neighbors in the community and gained national exposure during the 2012 Democratic National Convention when it was the site of filming for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
At ImaginOn, young people learn in many ways, through all five senses and "from the page to the stage." It is the launching pad for remarkable journeys and endless possibilities.
ImaginOn brings stories to life through extraordinary experiences that challenge, inspire and excite young minds.
August 1997: Children’s Theatre and the Public Library create the ImaginOn concept
- November 1999: Voters approve bond funds for construction
- October 2000: Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer of NY (now Holzman Moss) and Gantt Huberman of Charlotte selected as architects
- December 2000: Launch of Programming Endowment Campaign led by Ken Lewis and Ed Shelton
- March 2003: Groundbreaking
- October 2005: Grand Opening!
Founded in 1948, Children’s Theatre has been opening young minds to the wonders of live theater for over half a century. Today, it continues to be one of the most technically imaginative and resourceful theatres in the country. Annually, it reaches more than 320,000 young people and families from preschool to late teens, with four strong program areas: MainStage productions; Tarradiddle Players, the professional touring company; Community Involvement Program, and a full scope of education classes for both community and schools. Children's Theatre also works in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, with programs that address important issues in the lives of young people.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library began more than a century ago as a treasured repository of knowledge. Although humankind has evolved to read, explore and acquire knowledge in many new ways since then, one important feature has endured: Our services remain free to all who come to us with a desire to research, learn and experience. Today, libraries must remain nimble and responsive to the changing needs of our customers. Through the evolution of communication technology, there has never been more information available to more people in human history. We act as a guide through that universe of information, providing access for those who don't have it, and collaboration for those who do. We also provide the building blocks for understanding that information, through the development of literacy, skills for success, and community connections.
Joe and Joan Martin have been two of Charlotte 's most passionately committed and inspirational residents, individuals who personify everything ImaginOn strives to be. Through the generosity of Bank of America, their support of the arts and education in Charlotte and beyond is recognized and honored in the facility’s formal name – ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center.
Joe, a champion of racial and gender equity, enjoyed a heralded career with Bank of America, retiring in 2001. He is author of two books: Fire in the Rock, a novel about growing up in the segregated South, and On Any Given Day, his personal and touching account of living with ALS. Joe touched many lives – as a father, a mentor, a grandfather, brother, confidant, civic and church leader, and husband. Joe passed away on July 1, 2006 . He remains an inspiration to us all, in our work and in our lives.
Joan’s commitment to our community has touched many lives as well, through her involvement in PTA, scouting, non-profit organizations, and learning programs in public schools. For 25 years, Joan has been a devoted leader of the Learning Center and a teacher at Christ Church kindergarten. She carries many titles: mother, educator, grandmother, tutor, leader, and wife.
ImaginOn is proud to be associated with Joe and Joan Martin, and our mission will always be to uphold their ideals of service and commitment to young people and to the community.
“Green” building projects are designed for both high performance and sustainability, resulting in environmental, economic, health, and community benefits. ImaginOn is the first public building in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County certified by the US Green Building Council.
In spring, 2005 our facility was recognized by the Mecklenburg County Recycling Program for its outstanding commitment to keeping green throughout the construction process. RodgersHardin, the general contractor for ImaginOn, recycled 100% of the waste generated during the demolition phase and 82% of the construction waste. Concrete, wood, drywall, metal, and paper were all sorted onsite and recycled locally. Construction and demolition debris accounts for an estimated 1/3 of the overall waste stream in Mecklenburg County . For more information about “green” buildings, go to the U.S. Green Building Council’s web site.
In 2006, ImaginOn was awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at the silver level. We scored LEED points by documenting our construction process, making the building energy-efficient, using recycled or environmentally sustainable materials, and educating the public about our efforts.
Can you find some of ImaginOn’s green parts? Go on an ImaginOn Green Hunt
To find out more about green materials used in the building, download the Architectural Fact Form
For media inquires about the Public Library, please contact:
Cordelia Anderson by email or call 704-416-0712
Angela Haigler by email or call 704-416-0704
Read the latest Press Releases
Children's Theatre of Charlotte
For media inquires about Children's Theatre of Charlotte, please contact:
Tim Hager by email or call 704-973-2826
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