Faculty and Alumni Recognized in “Best in the Nest” Awards

Best of the Nest 2023 logo
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Annual awards are presented by Queen City Nerve independent newspaper.

Several faculty and alumni in the College of Arts + Architecture have been recognized in the 2023 “Best in the Nest” Awards presented by Charlotte independent weekly newspaper Queen City Nerve. Covering a wide range of categories, the annual awards include both Critics’ and Readers’ Picks.

In the “City Life” Category, professors Heather Freeman and Jonathan Dessi-Olive received Critics’ Picks awards. CoA+A Distinguished Alumna in Theatre Stacey Rose '08 received a Critics’ Picks award in the Arts and Entertainment category. And the Independent Picture House, whose programming director is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Jay Morong, received a Critics’ Pick Award in the “Night Life” category.

BEST PODCAST: ‘Magic in the United States: 400 Years of Magical Beliefs, Practices, and Cultural Conflicts’

“Heather Freeman, a professor of digital media at UNC Charlotte, launched her new podcast Magic in the United States on Oct. 24. With plenty of spooky folklore making it the perfect drop for Halloween, the podcast is about far more than witches and spells. Freeman is using the medium to explore certain ideas that may not have always been considered magical but were rather rooted in tradition.”


“About six years ago, Jonathan Dessi-Olive, assistant professor of architecture at UNC Charlotte, began working with mushroom-based construction materials, called “myco-materials,” which are made out of a mushroom’s root. The live mushroom root acts as a glue that binds hemp wood chips together, forming the material he uses for his building projects. Myco-material is completely compostable and allows Dessi-Olive to build prototypes for projects and do hands-on teaching without the guilt of contributing to the 800 million tons of construction waste created every year.”


Rose’s Queen City New Play Initiative “is not a producing org. They don’t (necessarily) put on shows. What they do is direct resources toward the development of new plays. Much like The Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis, where Rose spent time, QCNPI is an incubator for new work. This is very important if Charlotte wants to be a place where culture is created and from where culture can be exported.”

BEST WAY TO SPEND A SOBER NIGHT: Independent Picture House (Jay Morong, programming director)

“Since opening in June 2022, the community arthouse cinema has transcended genre and audience classifications, running film series featuring anime, underground cult gems, 1970’s existential road movies and unexpected holiday favorites. IPH frequently hosts filmmakers to engage audiences in Q&A talkback sessions and screens films for local activists and causes.”

Among the Readers’ Picks, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance and Distinguished Alumna Audrey Baran '03 was named best contemporary dancer, and the Independent Picture House was named Best Movie Theater.

November was a banner month for the IPH. On November 27, it was named one of eight “Charlotteans of the Year” by Charlotte Magazine, the lone awardee in the “Culture” category. “This is a city that has a hunger and a need for diverse films and diverse storytelling,” Morong told the magazine.