Arts & Culture

New Charlotte International Arts Festival Kicks off Fall Arts Season

A large crowd stands around a giant, inflatable man sitting cross-legged as part of an installation
Amanda Parer’s ‘Man’ will be on display during the Charlotte International Arts Festival. (Photo courtesy of Blumenthal Arts)

You’ve met the bunnies, now meet the Man. From Amanda Parer, the same Australian artist who has brought her giant inflatable bunnies to Charlotte in the past two years as part of the SHOUT! festival, comes Man — a large-scale, inflatable, contemporized version of Auguste Rodin’s “Thinker.” 

Slightly crouching forward with legs criss-crossed to incite curiosity and self-reflection with its audience, the installation is part of the inaugural Charlotte International Arts Festival (CIAF), which is scheduled to run from Sept. 16-Oct. 2.

Presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts, the two-week festival is a celebration of imaginative visual and performing arts from the most creative international and local minds with over 200 exhibitions, events and programming around Uptown and south Charlotte’s Ballantyne neighborhood.

Two people walk through a colorful and illuminated tunnel
Luminarium – Architects of Air by Alan Parkison. (Photo byJason Nakrani)

From the Guggenheim in Spain to the Sydney Opera House in Australia, Luminarium – Architects of Air by Alan Parkison is described as an immersive walk-through experience of light, color and sound. Luminarium invites visitors to explore labyrinthian tunnels and soaring domes inspired by Islamic architecture, Archimedean solids, and Gothic cathedrals. 

Along with Man, the Luminarium installation will be located at Ballantyne’s Backyard, a former golf course turned green space located at 11611 N. Community House Road that, for the 17-day duration of CIAF, will be home to a number of visual and immersive art installations by international and local artists. Tickets to view the Ballantyne Backyard installations start at $5.

An art installation made to look like a giant red squid sits on the grass at a park
“Lotty” at Romare Bearden Park. (Photo by Rebecca Bereiter)

“Lotty” by Moradavaga, a participatory art installation, is out of Portugal and Italy. The installation features a giant squid influenced by the best-known writings of Herman Melville and Jules Verne. The tube-like, orange creature allows visitors to look through the squid’s eyes and walk over its lengthy tentacles. 

Visitors can see Lotty at Romare Bearden Park in Uptown throughout the festival’s run.

Human faces on large, illuminated round balloons at a park
An example of Mentalgassi’s work. (Courtesy of Blumenthal Arts)

German street-artist trio Mentalgassi combines photography, sculpture, image manipulation, and street art for audiences to enjoy for free. Their artwork has been seen in many cities around the world, including London, Berlin, Brazil and Finland. 

Mentalgassi creates large-scale photographs, which they tape on outdoor objects. The photographs are comprised of people’s faces that take on an unexpected form. You can find Mentalgassi’s work at Ballantyne’s Backyard.

The Charlotte International Arts Festival will also offer performances, including a slam poetry tournament. The CIAF will host the International Slam Invitational on Sept. 24 at noon and 2:30 p.m. for the preliminary rounds, and 8 p.m. that same night for the final. Poets from around the world will be at the Knight Theater for the ultimate slam competition. 

Boris “Bluz” Rogers, director of creative engagement at Blumenthal Performing Arts, is excited about so many things that the competition brings to Charlotte.

“This competition will bring poets who are international world poetry slam champions, as well as national champions,” he told Queen City Nerve.

Bluz pointed out that the competition will include renowned poets who have been on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and become viral sensations. Tickets start at $10, or $30 for an all-day package.

The week before the International Slam Invitational, the Knight Theater will also host We Are Hip Hop, a continuation of an event that Bluz helped launch last year at Camp North End. The idea is to host a celebration of Charlotte’s hip-hop culture and artists with freestyle, b-boy and DJ performances all in a block party atmosphere on Sept. 17-18 at the Knight Theater

Break dancers battle it out on the Water Tower Stage during Camp North End’s We Are Hip Hop: The Reveal in 2020. (Photo by Kate Galindo)

CIAF will also include installations by over a dozen artists from Blumenthal’s Fellows Class of 2021, and hundreds of other performances and showcases big and small over the two weeks it’s here.

Destiny Wilson is known locally for turning sneakers into wearable art. Her hand-painted shoes have paid homage to history, social justice movements and breast cancer awareness, among other things.

Wilson’s exhibit Heart and Sole CLT preserves the city’s soul and history and combines it with the present by using the Air Jordan 1 High OG — the iconic shoe of one of the city’s most famous residents, Michael Jordan — as the canvas. The exhibit will be on display at The Brooklyn Collective throughout the festival’s run.

Artist and Charlotte native David Butler, known by the moniker DavehasWingz, documents the city and its people with limited edition Polaroids. He will be snapping and distributing pictures to visitors at Ballantyne’s Backyard during the festival.

For more information about the events happening at Charlotte International Arts Festival and the participating artists, visit Also, check out more arts events scheduled for the coming autumn in our 2022 Fall Arts Guide

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