UNC Charlotte Experts Plan Community Oz Event, With North Carolina Humanities Support

In fall 2024, the city of Charlotte will continue America’s tradition of embracing the adaptable, celebrated fairy tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz through a community-oriented Oz festival, organized by two UNC Charlotte experts and supported by seed money from North Carolina Humanities

CharlOz, slated for Sept. 27 to 29, 2024, will be centered around the book L. Frank Baum wrote in 1900, but which has been interpreted and adapted in ways that continue to reflect America, its values and its diversity.

Oz Intrigues Through The Years

“There is something about this story that captures the imagination and that has kept it relevant through the generations,” said Professor of English Mark West, a children’s literature expert who was appointed Bonnie E. Cone Professor in Civic Engagement in 2019. West and nationally noted Oz expert Dina Massachi ’15, a lecturer in the Department of English and the American Studies Program, are planning the three-day festival. Massachi earned a master’s degree in English from Charlotte.

The $20,000 award from North Carolina Humanities, one of its large grants, is enabling Massachi and West to host a variety of Oz speakers to delve into aspects of the Oz world. Plans are underway for talks at the Charlotte main campus, the Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City and at ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center, a one-of-a-kind destination described by Livability.com as the number one children’s library in the United States. There will be other events and activities, which also are currently being planned.

Additionally, the initial external funding is helping Massachi and West partner with The Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain, N.C. and the UNC Charlotte Projective Eye Gallery to explore U.S. South connections to Oz.

Students in a College of Liberal Arts & Sciences LEADS class, taught by Dina Massachi, find Oz-related art in one of the galleries in the Rowe Arts Building. The LEADS initiative provides real-world and entrepreneurial opportunities for students to develop transferable competencies.

All Roads Lead To Oz

“It’s amazing how many roads lead back to Oz,” Massachi said. “Oz represents a haven for misfits. This world ends up representing anyone who has been marginalized within America. Oz has roots in first-wave feminism, connections to the beginnings of Hollywood and all of the marginalized people who built that industry. Various adaptations have connected to movements throughout history and to efforts to ensure people’s voices and views are heard and represented. Oz has tons to teach us about acceptance, self-reliance, and about enjoying the journey, and finding your power. There’s something for everybody.”

Words and Image: Lynn Roberson | Illustration: Courtesy of Atkins Library