In a sign of how Charlotte’s oldest arts institution is shifting focus to support more local and diverse artists, The Mint Museum-Randolph in June opened an expansive exhibit featuring work from local indie artist collectives Goodyear Arts, BLKMRKTCLT, and Brand the Moth, featuring more than 40 artists from the Charlotte area. Each collective claims a room at the museum to display their respective works.
The exhibit, titled It Takes a Village, follows the lead of a recent three-day pop-up exhibit at the museum’s original location on Randolph Road that also showed the works of around 40 local artists, with a focus on artists of color and underground street artists. While the LOCAL/STREET pop-up lasted just three days, It Takes a Village will last three months, and while the art isn’t quite as packed in as it was during LOCAL/STREET, the more spread out nature of the exhibit allows the viewer to zero in on what has been included.
Running from June 12 to Sept. 12, It Takes a Village features artists that overlap with the LOCAL/STREET exhibit, as well as some who worked on the Black Lives Matter mural painted between East 3rd and East 4th streets in June 2020 during nationwide protests that followed the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The local artists featured in the new exhibit have roots all over, representing the transplant nature of the city and its reliance on immigrants. The artists also work in a multitude of mediums, from ceramics to metal to fibers, representing a diverse array of backgrounds and cultures through art.
Jen Edwards, curator at Mint Museum, worked as a go-between for centering local artists in Charlotte’s oldest arts museum.
“One of the reasons why I find Charlotte so extraordinary is that the artist collective community here is so strong and dynamic, and supporting such a diverse range of work that’s being made,” Edwards told Queen City Nerve. “I genuinely lived and traveled through a lot of places, and that network of artist collectives in Charlotte is quite extraordinary. And so, it is a great opportunity to highlight the work being done here.”
The exhibit will bring together three of Charlotte’s most innovative artist collectives, combining into a celebration of the Charlotte art scene.
‘For us, by us’
BLKMRKTCLT is based in Camp North End and made for people of color by people of color, said co-founder and studio manager Will Jenkins. With events focused to introduce Charlotte to the next big artist, BLKMRKTCLT also serves as a safe space for artists of color to create.
“BLKMRKT as a collective came into fruition mainly because there was no safe creative space for African Americans to just authentically make the art that represents them,” Jenkins told Queen City Nerve. “The mission of BLKMRKT is not only creating that space, but pushing the idea of what is authentic Black artistry.”
BLKMRKTCLT co-founder Carla Aaron-Lopez served as lead organizer and curator of the LOCAL/STREET pop-up in late March. She cites the lack of Black voices within the Charlotte art scene as inspiration for her work.
“If you really want to know, BLKMRKT is the ‘now’ version of a Black arts collective in Charlotte, the only other one that we can trace back to is God City in the early 2000s,” Aaron-Lopez told Queen City Nerve. “And there may have been more prior to that, but that is because coverage of the arts in Charlotte has lacked so much. It Takes a Village I believe is going to be a powerful exhibition.”
The BLKMRKTCLT room includes an empowering collaborative wall mural-turned-collage, photos by Carey King Jr., multimedia pieces by Dammit Wesley and video content in which local Black creatives define how they view the term “Black Southern royalty,” among other works.
During LOCAL/STREET, the works of Black and brown creatives were featured over a weekend, during which Aaron-Lopez wanted those viewing the art in that specific building — the foundation for which was built by enslaved people in Charlotte to serve as the country’s first branch mint — to fully view the history of Black creatives in Charlotte.
“There are so many people in Charlotte who have not visited the Mint Museum on Randolph or Uptown,” she continued. “And a lot of those people are Black and brown people, because when spaces are created to exclude groups of people, they do not feel comfortable returning to those spaces, and that can stay that way for generations.”
Aaron-Lopez saw great success over just three days of LOCAL/STREET at the same location, and hopes to see that popularity extend through the months that the new exhibit is on display.
“The highlight of being in It Takes a Village proves and seals that we are a part of Charlotte’s art history, because we’re doing the hard work of supporting Black and brown artists of color here in the city, whether they are from here or not,” she said.
The Goodyear platform
Goodyear Arts, another collective in the exhibit, is a nonprofit artist residency and events program focused on visual, performing, and literary arts.
The Goodyear Arts collective is made up of more than 40 artist-in-residence alumni and current leadership, and with each year it expands as they support more artists. Amy Herman, co-founder and co-director of Goodyear Arts, emphasizes the importance of retaining artistic talent in Charlotte.
“To really give artists an opportunity by working together to sort of find them and create them is a big part of what we do,” she said. “Part of being a collective is that we do have the use of the facilities that get your art. You know, for me, having the use of those facilities has been important in my practice. And I know that the other active members cite Goodyear as being a reason that they have stuck around Charlotte instead of seeking out a bigger city. Just retaining that talent that we have in the city; it’s very important.”
Goodyear’s room at It Takes a Village features perhaps the widest range of mediums, from fabric art to installations to wall paintings to an incredibly detailed drawing done on a skateboard with pen.
Herman said Goodyear fits well into the new collaborative exhibit, as the collective prioritizes diversity in a similar way to BLKMRKTCLT and Brand the Moth, if operating in a different way.
“Goodyear is extremely diverse in its residents, as well as its art forms, and this builds community over competition, and that helps further our personal pursuits as well as the art in Charlotte,” Herman said.
The Brand is strong
Rounding out the exhibit, Brand the Moth is another nonprofit dedicated to building a stronger community by lifting up unheard voices in Charlotte’s arts community. With a strong focus on local history and community, Brand the Moth pushes to uplift artists in Charlotte through public art with residency mural programs, workshops and the like.
Like moths, the nonprofit claims to work “in the background” to create installations that not only make Charlotte a beautiful place, but also bring together artists from around the city in collaborative efforts.
“As a nonprofit organization, Brand the Moth is a bit different from your traditional collective,” the collective’s curation director Hannah Fairweather wrote to Queen City Nerve in an email. “We are a group of artists who, simply put, believe in our artist community here in Charlotte. Alongside our own personal work, on display in this exhibit, we put to practice the art of collaboration and seek to share this practice with as many artists as we can reach, to uplift the arts by and for our communities to make them sustainable and accessible”
Brand the Moth’s room at the exhibit heavily features three artists, with popular street artists Arko and Owl taking up nearly an entire wall each, and founder Sam Guzzie displaying a large-scale art piece that includes visuals and a poem. Brand the Moth’s work also includes a collaborative installation, an intimidatingly spooky physical piece by Jay Watson and other works.
“At the root of it all, we believe that it is through collaboration that community rises,” said Fairweather, who serves as partner as well as director of curation at Brand the Moth. “We do not need the same background, the same interests or even the same beliefs; in fact, it is through our differences that we thrive. As artists we all share the same goal, to inspire those around us through art and allow voices to be heard. Brand the Moth serves our artist community to do just that.”
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