Just before 6 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, a group of about 40 people began to gather at Romare Bearden Park. There was perhaps no more fitting beginning point for the first meeting of the newly formed Charlotte Artsy Folks organization, as the group prepared for a day trip to the Hampton University Museum, America’s oldest African-American art museum.
On the way to Hampton, the group watched a documentary about the Harlem Renaissance before Charlotte-area artists like Arthur Rogers Jr., Barbara Ellis, Ani Todd and Gil Thorne Jr. were invited to stand at the front of the bus and address the crowd through the sound system, sharing their stories with the group of fellow artists, collectors and enthusiasts.
Formed by eight African-American art collectors and enthusiasts in the Charlotte area (pictured below), Charlotte Artsy Folks aims to connect local artists with collectors and others who may be interested in buying or showing their work.
“Our vision was to bridge the gap between art collectors and local artists and also bring in those that have never collected art that want to understand how to collect art,” said Katrina Pride, co-founder of Charlotte Artsy Folks. “So it’s kind of an education for those who want to collect, but then also having that education for the local artists about how they can be collected and what collectors are looking for. So it’s a two-way street, making sure there’s a benefit for the local artist and also a benefit for those who are trying to collect.”
For cofounder and local collector Christy Lee, Charlotte Artsy Folks is about letting people know that art collecting isn’t just for the bourgeois.
“It’s about making it accessible,” Lee said. “A lot of times when people think about art collection, they think it’s so far out of their range — whether it be financially or even mentally sometimes — but just making it so that you as a person can also buy this, and maybe the painting that you think is beautiful or you know some history about it, it’s bringing it down so that people know they all can be collectors.”
When the group arrived on Hampton University’s campus that Saturday, they first went to the Harvey Library, where they checked viewed two large murals done by the late John Bigger. The next stop was the Hampton University Museum, where they were able to view many historic pieces of African-American art, including many from the Harmon Foundation, the subject of the documentary shown on the bus.
Before touring the museum, Hampton alum Pride presented the director there with a $1,000 check on behalf of CLT Artsy Folks.
Quincy Lee — Christy’s husband, fellow collector and cofounder of Charlotte Artsy Folks — said philanthropy will be a major part of Charlotte Artsy Folks’ mission moving forward, especially when it comes to supporting black artists.
“Today, we had an opportunity to see one of the best collections of black art in the country, and there are amazing works all in one location where we can engage the work, see works that we may have seen on TV, magazines, articles — see them live, see the energy and feel the works,” Quincy said. “So we want to make sure that we continue to support that and support the efforts of the universities and institutions that are specifically focusing on and building those works of African-American black artists.”
On the way home to Charlotte, Quincy addressed the group, giving tips about collecting and how artists should reach out to collectors.
I remembered Quincy from a Let’s Talk Dammit event held at BlkMrktClt at Camp North End in 2017, during which he had given similar advice to artists. When I asked if he’s seen the Charlotte arts community become more connected since that time, Quincy quickly agreed that it has.
“It used to be very fragmented, and there were different pockets of artists of different genres and races, and now I see more artists coming together and having more conversations amongst each other,” Quincy said. “I think it’s because of some common spaces, the C3 Labs and some of the other spaces that I see around the area.
“I think where we come into play, is how do we take the collector and art lover, and connect them to the creative energy that’s going around the creative community, because I think it’s great that they’re connecting, but in the end, as an end user, how do we help engage that?” he continued. “Whether it’s from working from a public arts standpoint or working with some of the institutions locally, or just getting their work into different homes in the area, in the region. I think that we’re starting to see a little bit more energy as far as the two communities talking and coming together.”