SPONSORED BY Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
It’s Friday evening, and Charlotte is buzzing to life after the work week. In Uptown, couples stroll between museums at the Levine Center for the Arts. In Camp North End, families kick their feet on public swings and chat with artists outside their studios. In NoDa, crowds cozy up with wine and peruse the galleries.
The city is bursting with art of every kind, in every corner, from the street level on up. Dr. Jennifer Sudul Edwards, chief curator at The Mint Museum, says we shouldn’t be a bit surprised. “After all,” she says, “to have a vibrant city, you need cultural possibilities, food for creative minds — and oh man, has Charlotte got that going on.”
From established museums to up-and-coming galleries, here are seven ways to dig into Charlotte’s thriving — and sometimes surprising — art scene.
A message from our sponsor:
Charlotte 48-Hour Getaway Guide
From modern metropolitan to historic boutique, choose your vacation vibe with Charlotte’s expansive hotel options. Peruse Uptown’s art scene and enjoy unique dining options from markets to rooftops. Take a day to explore exciting neighborhoods, complete with shopping and cocktails.
See eclectic and lively art at Mint Museum Uptown. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Playful appreciation at The Mint
Begin exploring the Queen City’s art at the eclectic Mint Museum Uptown, where the vibe has none of the buttoned-up hush you may expect from such an impressive collection. “The Mint isn’t a cloister: It engages with the news and the world,” Edwards explains. “We want visitors to feel that open-arms policy from the moment they arrive.”
Their upcoming exhibit, “Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds”, takes the same welcoming approach to showcase a lesser-known side of the beloved artist. Picasso’s landscapes served as a catalyst for his formal experimentation with Cubism. “But we want you to get the whole, immersive, expansive context for Picasso’s work,” Edwards says.
Touchpads in the exhibit offer a multi-sensory experience: See films from the time period, view photography that inspired him, and read the 1928 art-world gossip about the painter. If you’re bringing small museum-goers, don’t miss the Lewis Family Gallery, a hands-on space to create and engage the collection.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture regularly hosts lectures, concerts, and classes. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Community welcome at The Gantt
The Harvey B. Gantt Center is located in the area known as Brooklyn Village in Charlotte. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
The Gantt holds space for those collective memories and celebrates the contributions of Africans and African Americans to American culture. Renowned for its programming, this cultural epicenter regularly hosts lectures, concerts, and classes.
“With every exhibition we host, we open our doors for related events,” says Ingrid Travis James, director of marketing and communications. “That ensures we stay true to our roots as a center for community.” Visit their newest exhibition “Visions: A Study in Form,” highlighting African American artists using different media to explore the shifting ideals of society.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art offers a fresh view of mid-century European art. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Fresh perspectives at The Bechtler
Firebird stands outside of The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art photograph by Kate Magee
Outside The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Niki de Saint Phalle’s Firebird stands sentinel. But the soaring installation is more than just a great selfie opportunity: Its sparkling glass shards make a familiar cityscape unfamiliar and set the tone for The Bechtler.
The museum offers a fresh view of the mid-century European art you think you know — Warhol, Tinguely, Miro, and Calder, for example. “We hope visitors can view old works in a new light and new works in a familiar light,” Executive Director Todd Smith says.
The curators make a point of showing how their collection was enjoyed by its donors, the Bechtlers. After all, a Miro in the living room reads quite differently than it does on a museum wall! They also juxtapose their original collection with the work of living artists, turning a Euro-centric collection into a more global conversation — a fresh perspective on contemporary masters.
You’ll spot incredible art all over the Camp North End campus. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Galleries for every taste
Keep your phone ready for photo opportunities. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Art crawls are a fixture of Charlotte’s social scene, and Edwards recommends starting with the spaces at Camp North End: “The whole campus is really an art experience, with this kinetic, frenetic, creative energy,” Edwards says.
For a more targeted experience, check out Hodges Taylor in South End — a contemporary gallery that’s been woman-run since 1980. Or visit SoCo, a contemporary gallery in a charming 1920s Myers Park bungalow, with a bookstore to boot.
For something totally different, drop by NoDa’s Hot Glass Alley to browse sculptures, glassware, and fixtures, and catch a glassblowing demonstration.
Behind the scenes
If you want a peek behind the scenes of Charlotte’s art world, you’re in luck. “The more established parts of Charlotte have worked to ensure our local artists have what they need to thrive,” Edwards says. “What do artists need? You’ll find it in Goodyear Arts’ mission statement: time, space, money, and community.”
The result of this deliberate attention is an explosion of artist co-ops and collectives that welcome visitors and invite you to meet the artists behind the work you love.
In Camp North End stop by Goodyear Arts to check out its vibrant gallery and artists-in-residence, or drop by BlkMrktClt, “a safe creative environment for creators of color,” to peruse their gallery and meet artists at work. In Uptown, see photographers making magic at Light Factory or visit the expansive McColl Center, where artists create and display their work in a gallery of cathedral proportions.
See Metalmorphosis in Whitehall Technology Park. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Art for everyone
La Cascade is located in the Carillon building in Uptown. photograph by Kyo H Nam Photography
For a no-fuss public art pilgrimage, follow the Talking Walls mural series across town, noting how each painting brings its neighborhood a distinct sense of place. En route, stop by the Carillon building in Uptown to wonder at Jean Tinguely’s kinetic sculpture La Cascade. This 40-foot-tall sculpture is a slowly rotating collection of car hoods, deer antlers, light bulbs, and other assorted objects.
Venture to David Cerny’s eerie Metalmorphosis, a 14-ton, stainless steel, moving sculpture of a human head in Whitehall Technology Park. The artist called the mesmerizing work “a mental self-portrait,” and it’s certainly a conversation starter.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s Orchid Conservatory is a five-story glass house filled with tropical plants. photograph by JILLLANG/ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS
Sometimes, you’ll find art where you least expect it. In two Charlotte neighborhoods, NoDa and Camp North End, visitors encounter memorable art in everyday places, like food markets, restaurants, tattoo parlors, and coffee shops.
Finally, don’t miss mother nature’s art at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. The Orchid Conservatory and the Four Seasons Garden, in particular, provide colors, shapes, and textures for art appreciation any time of year. “It’s just as well-curated,” Smith says, “as any museum.”
Get our most popular weekly newsletter: This is NC