June 18, 2008 Arts » Cover story

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Women Who Rock 

Presenting six ladies who make Charlotte a cooler place to live

Page 3 of 4

Reyes, who started her career in New Mexico, isn't like your typical TV journalist who talks about sitting in Katie Couric's chair on the evening news. She says she plans to ride this wave wherever it takes her.

"I've been able to cover some amazing things," she says. "Before I came here, I'd never been to a NASCAR race before. I recently covered the Pope in Washington, D.C. and that was amazing both personally and professionally. I saw the Pillowtex smoke stacks go down. I've seen the community come together in light of tragedy, and it's exciting to see the mayor [Pat McCrory] running for governor."

The art of storytelling

Forget the Brothers Grimm, Kali Ferguson knows how spin yarns that get the imagination flowing. Since the age of 4, Ferguson – a storyteller and poet – has been performing and says the only reason she had a career in education was because she didn't think she'd make money telling tales. "I had always dreamed of being a storyteller," she admits, "but I thought it was just so far off."

She was wrong.

While in graduate school in Miami, Ferguson -- a native Charlottean -- says that she decided that she was going to come "out the closet" about her role as a storyteller.

"I remembered that I always loved children's books. So, I said I was just going to tell people that I was a storyteller. Within a month, I was hired for the Broward County African-American book fair. So that began my career."

Now back living in the Q.C., she specializes in telling folk stories. While all of the stories she tells aren't ones that she's written, she says that she has recently tried her hand at writing stories as well.

"I come up with stories when I'm doing teaching-artist work," she says. "Usually when I'm in the schools, and I can't find a folk story that matches a specific topic, then I come up with something."

Storytelling, she says, isn't just for children. "It frees up the imagination because, you know, in this modern world of media, everything is spoon-fed to us on TV or on a movie screen. So, we no longer work the part of our imagination that can envision a scene. It makes for [numb] people. Imagination is really what changes anything -- in business, politics or what have you."

Storytelling is a strong teaching tool, she says. Through telling stories to children, they learn how to write a scene, how to build up to a climax and how to make characters come alive.

Ferguson says some of her favorite stories can't be found in books, but from family members. "I come from a family of storytellers," she says. "The stories I love are the ones my dad swears are true."

From medical school to art cool

Owning an art gallery wasn't in Allison Wolf Hertzler's plans while she was a student at North Carolina State University. "I was too much of a practical mind to think that I could make a living at art," she says. "At that time I didn't know anything about graphic design and computer design. It wasn't part of the daily language when it came to art."

But Hertzler, the owner of Green Rice Art Gallery in NoDa, had a change of mind after a trip the Sri Lanka.

"Everything I did always had a creative twist," she says. Three days after graduating from NCSU, Hertzler went into the Peace Corps for two years and worked in public health. "In any project that we did, I always added an art element and that sort of thing. I came back from that experience very different. I was not going to go to medical school, was not going to go into public health."

Instead, she went into the nonprofit realm. She worked with the mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in marketing. There, she put her design skills to use.

"That's when I got in the art world again and, to me, in a more practical sense," she says. "I moved out of there and worked at [the University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. I was the first woman art director at UNC-G." After a year, Hertzler decided that she wanted to strike out on her own and do design work.

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